ABSTRACT

This chapter describes vulnerability assessment through an overview of the concepts of vulnerability and adaptive capacity, with special reference to social vulnerability assessment in community-based contexts and ‘double-impact’ studies, where globalization has recently come to be seen as a major influence on vulnerability. Vulnerability is defined in this work from a perspective of social vulnerability, with climate change seen as an added impact. The study here views adaptive capacity as individual and collective potential and actual actions over both the longer and shorter term in order to encompass the large scope of adaptive and coping responses. The chapter also problematizes the extent to which a vulnerability assessment can be guided by a focus on more general determinants of adaptive capacity. The argument is that the problem of operationally defining vulnerability and adaptive capacity can be addressed by examining the broad decision-making or governance system that to a large extent can be regarded as determining the distribution of the adaptive capacity among different actors. The composition of the governance system is seen as influenced to a considerable degree by large-scale processes such as globalization, and by the norms relevant for larger-scale actors. A vulnerability assessment must thus include identification and analysis of the relevant governance network, how it is composed and structured in response to broader processes, and the adaptive capacities the network affords to different actors or types of actors.