Resilience is a concept central to the discourse in disaster risk management and development. Several frequently used definitions include:
"The ability of individuals, communities, organizations or countries exposed to disasters, crises and underlying vulnerabilities to anticipate, reduce the impact of, cope with and recover from the effects of adversity without compromising their long-term prospects." (IFRC)
"The ability of a system, community or society exposed to hazards to resist, absorb, accommodate to and recover from the effects of a hazard in a timely and efficient manner, including through the preservation and restoration of its essential basic structures and functions" (UNISDR)
“The ability of an individual, household, community, country or region to withstand, adapt and to quickly recover from stresses and shocks.” (European Commission)
Resilience is increasingly considered an essential undercurrent to any effort aimed at fostering individual, community and national health, safety and prosperity. It is often described as the bridge between long-term development investments and humanitarian efforts in response to natural catastrophes and protracted human crises, and requires an analsyis of levels of exposure to hazards in order to better understand and respond to social, political, economic and environmental vulnerabilities. Resilience must be considered in terms of a multi-hazard, multi-sectoral approach, with cross-cutting themes, current trends and historical perspective, and input from a highly diverse representation of society.
Communities inherently have some degree of susceptibility to hazards, or vulnerability, and at the heart of this are coping strategies that emerge from high levels of repetitive exposure. This experience results in a familiarity of the risks at hand and cumulative knowledge around ways to avoid, prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters.
Recent research has put forward six core characteristics that suggest a 'safe and resilient' community:
- is knowledgeable and healthy, with the ability to assess, manage and monitor relevant risks while learning new skills to better address these while tapping collective experience.
- is organised. It has the capacity to identify problems, establish priorities and act.
- is connected. It has relationships with external actors who provide a wider supportive environment, and supply goods and services when needed
- has infrastructure and services. It has strong housing, transport, power, water and sanitation systems. It has the ability to maintain, repair and renovate them.
- has economic opportunities. It has a diverse range of employment opportunities, income and financial services. It is flexible, resourceful and has the capacity to accept uncertainty and respond (proactively) to change.
- can manage its natural assets. It recognizes their value and has the ability to protect, enhance and maintain them. (IFRC, 2012)
These characteristics recognize the importance of human health and well-being and also individual knowledge and awareness as central to the ability of households individually and collectively to be able to prepare, prevent, respond to and recover from shocks and stresses. Secondly, they acknowledge the importance of assets and access to wider resources beyond the immediate control of the community.
Common approaches to reduce vulnerability include livelihoods diversification, education, protecting and building assets and investments, and securing access to resources through alternative safety nets, such as credit and insurance.
Key resources used to frame the resilience dialogue include:
- The Hygo Framework for Action (UNISDR)
- A Framework for Community Safety and Resilience (Twigg 2009)
- Understanding community resilience and program factors that strengthen them: A comprehensive study of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies tsunami operation (IFRC 2012)
- Increasing resilience by reducing disaster risk in humanitarian action (The European Commission on Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection 2013)
- Building Resilience to Recurrent Crisis: USAID's Policy and Program Guidance (USAID 2012)