A new course "International Policies and Disaster Coordination" at Ryerson University

Dr. Alexander Belyakov (ELP 2001)
The course CKDM 115 "International Policies and Disaster Coordination" is offered separately or as a part of the Certificate in Disaster and Emergency Management at the G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada, in the fall 2013 semester. Every Wednesday evening between September, 11 and December, 11, 2013 students will meet in a classroom to learn more about the current trends and solutions.

Disaster management is becoming increasingly complex with each new event. Unfortunately, we see more catastrophes and disasters every year. Politicians stress an importance of resilience for societies. The insurance industry experts already reported a growth of the inflation-adjusted costs of natural catastrophes from about $25bn per year in the 1980's to an average of $130bn in the last ten years. According to the Rockefeller Foundation, cost of urban disasters in 2011 alone was estimated at over $380bn. Human survival in many cases depends on quick and smooth emergency actions.

Coordination in response has always been difficult, especially in terms of intra-agency, international and civilian-military cooperation. The future leaders in international disaster and emergency management need a complex set of coordination skills that are cross-agency and international in scope. Students will acquire skills and knowledge to become solution providers in international disaster and emergency management and coordination. This course develops the students’ analytical skills required for analyzing systems and practices of managing international disasters and emergencies. It gives an understanding of the different participants´ responses, national and international policies and laws, approaches to risk related to international disasters and emergencies.

Students will learn about examples from different industries, examine case studies of their choice, master effective coordination  strategies for international disasters with accounting for needs of different audiences and cultural differences. This course develops skills for operations on the international level and improves employability with the cross-border projects of the governmental agencies and international organisations. Students will learn how to explore a career with the United Nations.

There will be a unique case study of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Even after 27 years, the public and the academic world are experiencing difficulties with obtaining full access to relevant information. Due to this, everything discovered so far becomes more valuable. A link to the Fukushima nuclear disaster will be made. This course will use a cross-disciplinary approach and is based on theoretical frameworks from international development, international public law and policy, risk management and coordination.

The course will examine a number of cross-cutting themes, including effects of disasters on society; cultural differences in perceiving and responding to disasters; the role of disasters in international policy shaping; standards for international response; issues of liability; obstacles to risk disclosure; the role of public emergency education and the media; the role of donors in international disaster management. The course will explore case studies from different sectors by analyzing the response of national governments, industries, the international community, and donor agencies.

The discussion of proposed case studies will also be focused on coordination strategies, lessons learned from examined disasters and emergencies and how they have influenced national and international policy development. The course includes in-class discussions and group projects with presentations. It will equip students with tools to analyze international response systems and cases of disaster and emergency response coordination. We apply Democratic Classroom approach where students and an instructor are the “co-learners” and share responsibility for management and leadership of the course, co-decide many of the class activities and the course content.

Emergency coordination skills development – including team work, consensus building, collaborative decision-making, emotional intelligence, cultural sensitivity, professional ethics and critical thinking – is also an important component of this course, which allows students to better prepare for future leadership roles in coordination, policy development and implementation dealing with complexities arising during disasters and emergencies. Professionals who complete this course in emergency coordination will have better opportunities for employability in this growing field, more career chances in international organisations and can even start their own consulting firms.

If you interested in learning more about this course, please go to the course web-page at: http://axr.be/115 or e-mail the instructor Dr. Alexander Belyakov at: belyakov[at]ryerson.ca