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Disaster Studies is emerging globally as a full-fledged academic discipline. As a field of practice it demands specialisation to meet with the ever-dynamic challenges posed by disasters. Recognising that academic education and training in the field of disaster management requires a multidisciplinary approach, the Centre for Disaster Management was established in TISS in 2006, with a generous grant from the Jamsetji Tata Trust. The Centre consolidated nearly sixty years of TISS's committed work in disaster situations and introduced a full-time, taught Masters' programme in Disaster Management in 2007 and during the last decade has conducted research and trainings in various areas.
As scientific evidence linking climate change to the intensity and frequency of natural disasters mounts, countries face several developmental, financial and humanitarian challenges. The unequal burden of disaster mortality and economic losses on regions of low development highlights the need to examine cycles of resource degradation, poverty and conflict. These affect human well-being in complex ways. Stresses on water availability, agriculture and ecosystems, the potential for conflict over natural resources, population displacement and migration as the result of sea-level rise, natural hazards or other large-scale biophysical, ecological or social disruptions- are issues that the School is concerned about. The course work, research and field projects conducted by students and faculty members reflect these concerns. The School's work upholds principles of social and environmental justice and is concerned with human and ecological security. It aims at generating critical discourse around the way disasters and their management are conceptualised and theorised.
Currently the School offers several programmes, including an MPhil and PhD, although the Masters' programme MA/Msc in Disaster Management remains the flagship programme with 40 students enrolled each year. The global online Certificate course on Disaster Management in partnership with IFRC, Geneva was introduced in 2013 and each year 2 cohorts of about 30 practitioners from across continents, register for this progamme.
The School demonstrates synergies across natural sciences, social sciences and humanities with a focus on building people-centered and participatory approaches towards disaster risk reduction and disaster response. It has carried out systematic work in areas of disaster governance, poverty and exclusion, food security, conflict, human security, public health, pyscho-social care, GIS and logistics in relation to disasters. The School has 3 Centres that have a dynamic and iterative relationship, each leveraging the strength of the other two in collaborative partnership. These are:
There is an increasing need to review, adapt and innovate, in working with communities at risk and those affected by disasters. The School has established The Disaster Response and Technical Support Facility (DTSF) with the aim of addressing the growing demand for capacity building and other extension services needed in building a disaster resilient nation. Currently ithe DTSF houses two projects: One Disaster Resilience Leadership Gap, a research study with funding support from Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy in the US and the Drought Assessment and Mitigation, a Field Action Project with funding support from India Value Fund.
The School over the last decade has worked in partnership with both international and national bodies such as the IFRC, UNISDR, Geneva, the UNDP, the NDMA, state governments and civil society organsiations and have signed several MOUs with many international universities through which research and academic exchanges are carried out. Academic and applied work include issues of development, vulnerability and disasters, exploring practices that contribute to dynamic decision making and effective policy formulation and implementation. Disasters, are not simply dramatic events, but also are socially constructed and the discourse around it is embedded within the larger social and political context. For example, the politics of humanitarian aid has implications for geo-political assertion of power. The School aims at fostering critical thinking in the field of disaster studies and disaster management and promotes multidisciplinary approaches
While the concerns of disaster management are focused, the idea of disaster studies is consistently expanding the boundaries of the emergent discipline which is engaged with newer challenges - at both theoretical and temporal levels.
The decade long journey exemplies the the vision of the School which is to emerge as an interdisciplinary entity engaged in disaster studies offering quality educational programmes, research and extension services, that seeks to influence disaster discourse, policy and practice through critical thinking based on values of social and environmental justice and equity.
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