Understanding Government Decision-Making: Canada’s Disaster-Relief in Haiti and Pakistan

Title: Understanding Government Decision-Making: Canada’s Disaster-Relief in Haiti and Pakistan
Authors: Mamuji, Aaida
Date: 2014
Abstract: Canada coordinates its responses to natural disasters abroad through implementing its ‘whole-of-government’ policy framework. The two largest natural disasters that struck in 2010 were the January earthquake in Haiti and the flooding in Pakistan seven months later. In contrast to the fast and robust earthquake relief provided to Haiti, Canada’s response to the Pakistan floods was minimal, especially when considering the extent of damage sustained. This dissertation applies a public administration lens to trace factors that led to the Government of Canada’s 2010 disaster-relief decisions. It develops a multi-level theoretical framework to holistically explore the role of problem-definition in shaping decision-making. It applies historical institutionalism at the macro level; recognizes the role of case-specific details and arenas at the meso level; and uses the logic of appropriateness to identify informal institutions affecting individual action at the micro level. Analysis of interviews, government documents and media coverage indicates that bureaucratic actors involved in the whole-of-government approach recognize that their role is ultimately removed from final disaster-relief decisions. There is an informal acceptance that political will, more than needs in the disaster-affected region, shapes implementation decisions. Consequently, technical assessment is inadvertently affected, and recommendations reflect what is deemed most in line with ministerial disposition to assist. The primary motivators for Government of Canada action are found to be the gaining of public support or the need to subdue targeted criticisms. Findings indicate that as a result of its media appeal, there was a strong incentive for the deployment of military assets in response to the earthquake in Haiti, even when doing so was not in the best interest of the affected region. Where Canada could respond only with non-military means, there was less incentive for action. This leads to supply-driven relief rather than a needs-based humanitarian response. With the developed theoretical framework, process-mapping and media analysis methodologies, and the actor-centred approach adopted, the dissertation makes theoretical and empirical contributions to existing public administration literature on decision-making and problem definition. It also presents a hitherto unexplored perspective on donor behaviour for consideration by international relations and development scholars.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/31704
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -