How can we translate global resilience policies into action?

  • Par Alexander Carnwath, Concern Worldwide (UK)
  • 20/06/2016

Men and women from the community action committee in Tcharow, Chad, analyse the impact and frequency of the hazards the village faces in 2014. Dom Hunt


The need for resilience has never been clearer. Climate change is driving an increase in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters around the world. Rising levels of malnutrition in parts of the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa, exacerbated by El Niño, are the latest spike in a pattern of recurring crises.

As well as the risk of more high-profile disasters, the damage caused by low-intensity “everyday emergencies”, such as recurring small-scale floods or persistent animal disease, has a huge impact on people’s lives, eroding assets – like seeds and livestock – that help people withstand disasters.

So it was crucial that resilience featured prominently in three global policy frameworks agreed in 2015 (the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on climate change) and that key commitments were made on resilience at the World Humanitarian Summit held in May.

But in a sense, recognising the importance of resilience is the easy bit. How these policy commitments are put into practice is less straightforward. 

Resilience is a complex concept and its prominence in 2015 global frameworks poses a whole new set of questions about how to translate policy commitments into real change for disaster-affected people.

Agencies are grappling with the challenges of tackling disaster risk in different contexts. We hope that through resilience programmes such as BRACED, answers to some of these questions will emerge.

But for now, and at this key moment when governments are looking to implement their commitments in this area, there are already things we can say.

Concern’s new report, From risk to resilience: making global policies count for the most vulnerable, identifies five broad principles for resilience building, which connect to the 2015 policy commitments, and provides recommendations as to how resilience can be built where it matters most: in disaster-affected communities.  

The report draws on Concern’s programme experience in countries such as Chad, Somalia, Bangladesh and India to address some of the fundamental questions surrounding resilience-building, such as the role of disaster-affected people themselves as well as the humanitarian and development communities, and the importance of tackling inequality.

It explores the importance of integrated programmes that address the variety of risks that people face and the connections between them. It also examines the importance of communication and coordination at all levels, from communities to national governments, to help vulnerable people benefit from early warning information.  

Most of all, the report makes the case for stepping up to the challenge of delivering the post-2015 commitments on resilience – focusing political will and delivering resources where they are required.   

For unless we succeed in building the resilience of disaster-affected people, the wider aims of the 2015 global policy frameworks – to alleviate poverty and address some of the most significant threats facing people around the world – will not be achieved. 

Alexander Carnwath is a Community Resilience Policy Officer at Concern Worldwide (UK).

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