From 30 October to 3 November 2023, the Centre for Disaster Resilience (CDR) and the Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) hosted the 7th Northern European Emergency and Disaster Studies Conference (NEEDS 2023) at the University of Twente.
The conference was organised by the CDR from the University of Twente and the organising parties from the VU Amsterdam, Erasmus University, Groningen University, Leiden University and University of Amsterdam.
It was a unique gathering that transcended academic boundaries, fostering connections and discussions that promise to shape the future of disaster resilience. The event saw a diverse range of experts coming together, breaking down silos and exploring interdisciplinary solutions to global challenges.
The week began with a thought-provoking PhD school where global minds brainstormed ways to make their work more inclusive. Interactive sessions and informal meetings laid the foundation for a community dedicated to creating positive change.
Renz Prudenciado, PhD Student in Gender and Development Studies at the Asian Institute of Technology reflected after attending the PhD school: "One particular aspect captivated my soul - the ethical dilemma that permeates research. It is a reminder that we must always approach our endeavours with a commitment to reduce harm in working with ourselves and with others and in serving the people".
NEEDS 2023 PhD School
The conference opened strongly with a panel led by Professor Thea Hilhorst, Head of the Humanitarian Studies Centre, joined by Professor Maarten van Aalst (Director of the KNMI) and Professor Lotte Jensen, their spirited debate provided invaluable insights on the narrative around disasters and reflected on the most effective ways to communicate and bring people and governments to action.
Professor Maarten van Aalst, Director of the KNMI, speaking at NEEDS 2023
The conference did not shy away from addressing the harsh realities of global disasters. On Thursday, a panel moderated by Dr Rodrigo Mena (Assistant Professor of Disasters and Humanitarian Studies at the Erasmus University Rotterdam), brought together Keynote Speakers: Nathalie Olijslager, the director of Humanitarian Aid of Foreign affairs; Sherwan Qasem, humanitarian worker for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF); Professor Jacquleen Joseph, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, India and Professor Karin Pfeffer, Chair in Infrastructuring Urban Futures at the University of Twente.
The insights shared by these panelists with very diverse backgrounds highlighted the multifaceted nature of disaster resilience and the interconnectedness of ecological, social, phyiscal and political systems and resonated as a call to action, urging a collaborative and inclusive approach to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.
The conference had several innovative elements such as a special panel managed by children, highlighting that children are agents of change in the face of the climate crisis. The NEEDS 2023 photo competition provided a visual narrative of vulnerabilities in disaster situations. On Friday 3 November a round table discussion was held on the role of women in disasters, emphasising the importance of sharing experiences and fostering a supportive community.
Nora (11 years old) presenting the game she developed on climate change and disasters during the panel led by children.
The 10 Finalist Images in NEEDS 2023 Photo Competition
A number of excursions also took place on Friday: the Urban Cycling Workshop, the Rotterdam Excursion and the Disastrous Information Session, showing that the NEEDS Conference was not merely a platform for discussion but a catalyst for tangible action, bridging the gap between theory and practice in the pursuit of a more resilient world. The success of the conference was not only due to its groundbreaking content but also the tireless efforts of the organising committee.
The NEEDS Conference 2023 has set a new standard for collaboration, inclusivity, and forward-thinking in the field of disaster resilience. As the academic community reflects on the event, it is clear that the impact will extend far beyond the confines of the conference halls, shaping a more resilient and interconnected future.
Article by Irene Manzella and Heather Handley
The NEEDS 2023 Conference Organisers express their deep gratitude to the following 2023 Conference sponsors. Their support contributed to a more inclusive and open conference for all: