The program on Complex Emergencies and Political Stability in Asia (CEPSA) explores the confluence of insecurities that impact vulnerability in Asia and potential strategies for response. In doing so, the program investigates the following questions: What are the diverse forces that contribute to climate-related disaster vulnerability and complex emergencies in Asia? What are the implications of such events for local and regional security? How can investments in preparedness, supported by international donors, minimize impacts and build resilience? CEPSA explores the impacts and potential responses related to climate-related hazards in Southern and Southeast Asia.

The program focuses on six countries in South Asia (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) and five countries in the Mekong region of Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam). By exploring the confluence of insecurities that impact vulnerability in Asia and strategies for response, CEPSA will address the following questions:

  • What are the relationships between climate change-related disaster vulnerabilities and complex emergencies in Asia?
  • What are the implications of these relationships for local, national, cross-border, and regional security?
  • What kinds of investments in preparedness and prevention can lessen these vulnerabilities and the incidence of complex emergencies, and strengthen resilience and climate change adaptation?
  • Where are investments in preparedness and prevention going, and how are they being targeted?

The CEPSA program’s qualitative and quantitative methods include: (1) modeling climate-related disaster vulnerability using Geographic Information Systems, (2) coding and mapping conflict events in real-time by extending the Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset (ACLED) to high-risk Asian states, (3) conducting risk assessments and forecasting using geospatial analytics, (4) mapping aid flows to identify disaster response capacity, (5) conducting consultations and fieldwork to collect primary data, ground-truth conceptual tools and models, and implement case studies, and (6) designing mapping and analytical tools to facilitate the use of Program research in policy planning and response.

The program applies these methods in two core research areas: assessing the relationship between insecurities and complex emergencies in Asia, and identifying strategies to build government response capacity and societal resilience. In this first research area, the program investigates how various insecurities converge to impact vulnerability in South and Southeast Asia, and where and how these insecurities could develop into complex emergencies. This is sought by examining the disaster, conflict, and governance components of complex emergencies, assessing the dynamics of each individual component and how they interact through feedback loops that form complex emergencies. In the second research area, the program explores the capacity of national governments and international actors to respond to climate-related disasters and complex emergencies.

The research team includes experts from a range of fields including disaster vulnerability and response, conflict assessment, complex emergencies, and Asian politics:

  • Joshua Busby is the program’s principal investigator and leads the program’s Disaster Vulnerability project. This project is developing a disaster vulnerability model for Asia, which identifies the subnational locations in Southern and Southeast Asia that are most vulnerable to climate-related hazards, defined in terms of the potential for large-scale loss of life.
  • Jennifer Bussell leads the program’s National Disaster Preparedness project. This project assesses how government decisions to invest in disaster preparedness are impacted by a range of factors, including exposure to previous disasters, economic strength, electoral incentives, bureaucratic capacity, and the influence of the international community.
  • Mike Findley and Kate Weaver lead the program’s International Aid to Mitigate Disasters and Complex Emergencies project. This project assesses whether international aid for both disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) and disaster and humanitarian response is targeting areas of highest need and enhancing domestic efforts to build capacity in these areas.
  • Ashley Moran and Josh Powell lead the program’s Complex Emergencies Dashboard project. This project is designing an open access, online platform to leverage data and models produced by the program, combined with geospatial analytics designed in coordination with U.S. military and policy agencies, to provide a framework for diagnosing, analyzing, and responding to complex emergencies in Asia.
  • Paula Newberg leads the program’s Governance Implications of Complex Emergencies project. This project explores how climate and environmental factors have affected states’ capacity to handle political and economic development, how the structure of governance has evolved to cope with emergencies, and how these governance dimensions contribute to the evolution of a natural hazards into a complex emergency.
  • Clionadh Raleigh leads the program’s Conflict and Complex Emergencies project. This project tracks conflict events and actors in real-time through an extension of the Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset to high-risk Asian states. This project investigates how varied insecurities impact conflict patterns and, in turn, how conflict contributes to the development of complex emergencies.

Understanding how different insecurities coalesce to impact vulnerability in Asia—and assessing when and how these insecurities can develop into complex emergencies—has strong implications for U.S. national and international security. Major displacements or unequal distribution of costs from cyclones, tsunamis, and flooding—all on the rise in parts of Asia—can potentially lead to civil unrest and, in some cases, develop into complex emergencies.

By mapping varied regional insecurities, this program seeks to identify: the areas of chronic concern where U.S. and foreign military assets may be directed for humanitarian relief or conflict containment; the areas at risk of complex emergencies; the potential climate-related vulnerability of bases, allies, and potential adversaries; and areas where destabilization might empower extremist groups. By producing the most accurate, real-time, disaggregated, geo-referenced data on Asian political violence and its agents, program research allows for comparable assessments of conflict across states using highly curated data on which to base policy, humanitarian, and security decisions.

By identifying factors that impact national capacity to build resilience, as well as the response capacity of international actors on the ground, program research seeks to support policy planning at national and international levels to potentially diminish the impact of future events. Dynamic mapping and analytical tools in development will leverage program research to provide integrated assessments of risks and potential intervention points, facilitating diagnosis, analysis, and responses related to complex emergencies.

Ongoing research released by the team is regularly updated on the CEPSA Publications and CEPSA Data pages on this site.

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