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Michel Dückers: Crucial to pay more attention to the problems of those affected in crisis situations

18 November 2022

The approach to threats and disasters needs to change, regardless of whether they are acute or dormant. For example, more attention should be paid to the consequences for those affected after a threat has been dealt with. This is what Professor by special appointment Michel Dückers will state in his inaugural speech.

Climate change, pollution, population growth, polarization, international tensions, threats of war, the refugee crisis, economic stagnation, unrest, and uncertainty. These are just a few examples of impending problems that reinforce each other and, together, can lead to large crises. How can these crises be addressed in a way that minimizes the consequences for the victims as much as possible? This is the central question of the research conducted by crisis expert Michel Dückers.

Michel Dückers
Michel Dückers

Lurking disasters

In his inaugural speech on 18 November, the Professor by special appointment will claim that a traditional crisis approach focuses too strongly on acute threats—situations in which human lives are directly under threat and in which there is destruction and direct disruption. Dückers advocates for more attention to lurking disasters. These are situations in which something is clearly at play, but governments and institutions are insufficiently undertaking action, such as the gas extraction issue and the child benefits affair.

Attention for those affected

In his speech, Dückers will mention six elements that determine whether the management of both acute and dormant disasters will be successful. According to him, crisis management has historically not only focused on the severity and duration of threat, in other words the ‘primary exposure’, but also on, for example, adequately settling ‘damages and losses’. When doing so, it is crucial that there is as little institutional and procedural hassle—or 'procedural burden’—as possible, and that victims are taken seriously and are involved in the processes: 'recognition'. It is also important that ‘hope and perspective’ are offered: will the situation improve in the future?

Context

As the last factor of influence on the success of crisis management, Dückers mentions the ‘context’ within which the disaster takes place: disasters do not happen within a vacuum, he explains, but are influenced by the personal circumstances of people, the timeline on which the disaster takes place, and the broader time and place in which it all happens. According to Dückers, our current ‘crisis society’ is a context in which expectations are highly strung and possibilities are put under pressure.

Chair by special appointment

In the coming years, Michel Dückers will continue his research on crises. His chair group, Crises, Safety, and Health, has been established by the ARQ National Psychotrauma Centre, the Dutch Institute for Public Safety (NIPV), the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL), and the Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). He is currently mostly involved with research and advice aimed at the health dimensions of disasters and crises, such as the gas extraction issue, the COVID-19 pandemic, and climate change.

‚óŹ More information: Michel Duckers - m.l.a.duckers@rug.nl

Last modified:18 November 2022 5.04 p.m.
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