Most people in Northern and Western Europe do not have confidence in their national government to deal with a disaster, according to a new report from a global safety charity.
Data published in a new Lloyd’s Register Foundation report – Focus On: Critical infrastructure resilience and perceptions of disaster preparedness – shows that the region has one of the largest percentage point gaps in favour of local government being perceived as more prepared than national (4 percentage points) – a stark contrast with the rest of the world.
The data comes from the Lloyd’s Register Foundation World Risk Poll, powered by Gallup, which features responses from 125,000 individuals in 121 countries. Globally, when asked if they feel their national or local government is well prepared to deal with a disaster, most respondents favour their national by 40% to 37% – a 3 percentage point difference on average.
The report also analyses the responses from people who have both experienced a disaster and lost access to one of five key critical infrastructure services (electricity, clean water, food, medicine or medicinal care, and telephone) when asked how prepared they felt their national and local government were. Again, globally, respondents showed higher levels of trust in their national government (a 5 percentage point difference).
According to the data, all regions surveyed across Africa believed their national government was better prepared to deal with a disaster than local government. Gaps in confidence in favour of national government range from 7 to 12 percentage points among African respondents who had experienced a disaster and lost access to critical infrastructure. East African residents retained the highest confidence in their national government compared to local government, by 12 percentage points, and as high as 18 percentage points in Tanzania and Zambia.
Data showed that 91% of people in Eastern Africa have lost access to at least one type of critical infrastructure for more than one day in the past year, which rises to 93% among those who have also experienced a disaster in the past five years. This includes loss of access to clean drinking water (experienced by 49% of the general population, and 55% of those who had experienced a disaster), food (47% and 57%), medicine/medical help (54% and 64%), telephone access (58% and 63%), and electricity (68% and 66%).
However, significant differences are apparent when comparing with some more developed global regions. In Northern and Western Europe, the gap in confidence goes even further against the trend when speaking with people who have experienced a disaster and lost access to critical infrastructure, from 4 to 12 percentage points in favour of local government – the largest globally. The report suggests respondents may perceive a relative weakness in their national government preparedness, or that the findings could also be the result of governments’ decentralisation policies.
Jan Przydatek, Director of Technologies at Lloyd’s Register Foundation explained: “There are several possible reasons why countries in Northern and Western Europe defy the trend when it comes to placing greater confidence in their local governments’ disaster preparedness than that of national government, particularly among those who have lost access to critical infrastructure.
“It could lie with the structure of government itself, with more responsibility being devolved to local governments to maintain these services. Cultural norms may also come into play with some areas expecting their local government to be more attuned to residents’ needs… The figures show how maintaining reliable access to critical infrastructure even outside of disaster scenarios is challenging in regions such as Eastern Africa. Improving this situation is a key challenge for international partners to support local governments with, and this may in turn lead to greater confidence in government disaster preparedness.”
Savina Carluccio, Executive Director at International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure commented: “Results from this recent analysis of the World Risk Poll data shine a light on the need for national, regional, and local governments to work together to tackle resilience challenges. Due to their multifaceted and complex nature, disaster risk reduction and resilience implementation requires multilevel governance structures and buy-in from all levels. Establishing multi-functional departments with the remit to centrally coordinate resilience interventions would be one way to encourage this type of horizontal collaboration.
“Education could enhance understanding of the importance of disaster risk reduction and resilience and, in turn, improve the confidence of the public in the government’s plans and actions. Educating and building capacity of policymakers is a priority, since they are responsible for developing regulations and incentives to increase the uptake of disaster risk reduction and resilience. Enhancing capacity of practitioners at local level is urgently needed, and educational settings and civil society have a key role to play here. In parallel, improving public education would result in increased public buy-in for resilience projects, increase public understanding of disaster risks, and may contribute to a culture of risk awareness and resilience.”
In 2022, the UK Government published its Resilience Framework, under which local leaders are empowered to strengthen Local Resilience Forums and work to prevent disasters ‘rather than cure wherever possible’. Its three pillars – leadership, accountability, and integration – aim to give elected leaders an enhanced role in the space. With a reformed plan by 2030, pilot trials have already begun.
In Germany, which has a federal government, leaders have adopted the German Strategy to Strengthen Resilience to Disasters. Following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, catastrophic flooding in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia which killed over 180 people, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the programme aims to create a ‘fresh start in the area of civil protection’. It aims to ensure local communities and key areas such as utility services and resources are resilient if a disaster occurs.
Jan added: “While our data shows that the public have greater confidence in local government disaster preparedness, confidence in both layers of government is relatively low in Northern and Western Europe compared to many other global regions. Enhanced collaboration between levels of government and private sector actors can help improve the resilience of key infrastructure in the face of disasters, which may in turn improve public confidence.”
The report recommends that national governments work more collaboratively with local governments and other actors to improved disaster preparedness and response, working within the context of international agreements such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Reduction.
For more information, see the full report: Focus On: Critical infrastructure resilience and perceptions of disaster preparedness.
About the World Risk Poll
The Lloyd’s Register Foundation World Risk Poll is the first global study of worry about, and harm from, risks to people’s safety.
This data is from the second edition of the Poll, based on around 125,000 interviews conducted by Gallup in 121 countries during 2021.
The data includes places where little or no official data on safety and risk exists, and so constitutes a unique resource for defining the nature and scale of safety challenges across the world, as reported first-hand by those who experience them.
This intelligence can and should be used by governments, regulators, businesses, NGOs and international bodies to inform and target policies and interventions that make people safer, working in partnership with and empowering communities.
About Lloyd’s Register Foundation
Lloyd’s Register Foundation is an independent global safety charity that supports research, innovation, and education to make the world a safer place. Its mission is to use the best evidence and insight, such as the World Risk Poll, to help the global community focus on tackling the world’s most pressing safety and risk challenges.