March 2013 Natural Hazards Observer on Clarifying Resilience

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The March edition of the Natural Hazards Observer (download here), a bimonthly publication of the Natural Hazards Center at University of Colorado, Boulder, features comments from two resilience experts. A couple of notable quotes below.

Hugh Deeming, Scientific Technical Officer for the Building Resilience Amongst Communities in Europe (emBRACE) project differentiates resilience to be sought from resilience to be fought:

Ben Wisner (2004), coauthor of the influential At Risk, recently suggested … that resilience thinking requires us to consider an interesting dichotomy regarding “resilience to be sought” and “resilience to be fought.” Wisner’s point is that an aptitude for adaptation, adjustment, and recovery from stressor influences is not something that is purely confined to positive phenomena. Poverty appears, for example, to be highly resilient, as do despotic regimes. This raises an important warning flag for those who have moved so readily into the resilience camp. This dichotomy, between the “to be sought” aspirational resilience, which allows people to take informed and effective actions to mitigate threats, may not be easy to implement in the face of “to be fought” resilience, with its propensity toward persistence and its resistance to relinquishing dominion, or its own vested interests. (p. 14)

Dan Lewis, chief of UN-Habitat’s Risk Reduction Unit, provides useful background on the $8 million, 4-year City Resilience Profiling Project (CRPP), now in its initial phases (a short brochure about CRPP is here).

[T]here are now probably as many different definitions of resilience as there are people who can actually say the word. For OCHA—which is the [UN] Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs—their view on resilience is entirely driven by a food security agenda. I look at a huge network organization like ICLEI, which is a global network of local authorities, their entire concept of resilience is hitched to climate change.

… Other organizations, even countries, look at resilience from the point of view of critical infrastructure—energy, for example, or water—and will build a resilience agenda around protection of those resources. In the private sector, business continuity is the trunk of the resilience tree. But from a city point of view there does not exist any systemic approach to addressing resilience to multihazards, whether they’re economic hazards or whether they’re social hazards, whether they’re so-called natural hazards or whether they’re human-induced technological or industrial hazards. Nothing exists in my estimation that is robust enough to be a bit more sure of how resilient a town or a city or a megacity might be. (pp. 10-11)

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