Chapter 8: Political mobilisation for change
As the previous chapters have shown, the impact of a disaster may be felt very much as, and by, individuals but the response usually involves collective action. Thus far this has been considered at the local or community level and in terms of practical actions for relief and reconstruction. However, collective action also occurs at the national level and actions may combine practical with more strategic or political elements. Not only do governments design and implement national reconstruction plans and lobby international governments and agencies to fund these, but other actors also work at the national and international level. Most notably civil society organisations advocate for certain ideas or perspectives to be taken into account. The importance of exogenous shocks to the political system in bringing change to it has been noted in the literature (Barrientos and Hulme 2008) and disasters are ‘catalytic events’ that can lead to collective action for change, with new actors becoming involved and new demands which can result in new and novel issues emerging onto the political agenda (Kreps 1998; Olson and Gawronski 2003). This chapter uses the case study of Hurricane Mitch in Central America to explore the engagement of civil society in national level reconstruction and mitigation activities, and to consider the role of women within this. Mitch offers a good case study. The event provoked the formation of civil society coordinating bodies to respond to the crisis in each of the countries of the region so it is an example of widespread collective response.
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