Household self‐blame for disasters: responsibilisation and (un)accountability in decentralised participatory risk governance

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The most important theoretical argument concerning decentralised participatory governance is that it can make a government more accountable for the needs of the governed. Key to this process are participatory spaces that act as mechanisms for dialogue between citizens and local government. However, within Cochabamba, a city in the centre of Bolivia, South America, ‘at‐risk’ citizens engage minimally with disaster risk issues in participatory spaces, despite high levels of civic participation. This is because ‘at‐risk’ populations view disasters as a private/household problem that is symptomatic of household error, rather than seeing them as a broader public problem due to wider structural inequalities. Consequently, they redistribute responsibility for disaster risk reduction towards households, which (re)produces the absolution of government authorities as guarantors of disaster risk reduction. This paper challenges the normative assumption that participatory spaces facilitate democratic deliberation of disaster risk reduction and the downward accountability of local government for disaster risk reduction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-310
Number of pages22
Issue number2
Early online date22 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


  • Bolivia
  • accountability
  • decentralisation
  • disaster risk reduction
  • participation
  • risk governance
  • risk responsibility


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