Plenary: Resilience in Action

Monday, November 18, 2013

Presenters: Nancy Mock, Professor, Co-Director of the Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy, Tulane University; Christophe Tocco, Deputy Regional Director, USAID, Senegal

For many decades the Sahel, together with the Horn of Africa have faced continuous cycles of crisis. These are the result of complex interactions between political, economic, social and environmental factors, which have confounded development and humanitarian efforts. More recently, the international humanitarian and development communities have rallied around the concept of resilience as a key tool for policy formulation / programming aimed at reducing the chronic vulnerability of populations in the Sahel. This session reviewed trends in resilience frameworks and institutional developments. A framing presentation provided a conceptual framework for resilience, discussed key characteristics and principles of resilience programming, and identified promising practices for building resilience within the context of drought and chronic food insecurity. The session  then allowed small group work on some of the key factors influencing implementation of resilience programs followed by plenary discussion. The session concluded by giving attendees the opportunity to consider key questions for moving the resilience agenda forward.

The first presenter, Christophe Tocco, shared USAID’s vision with regard to resilience in the Sahel. He noted that rapid population growth and numerous other causes have contributed to an increase in the number of people affected by drought in the Sahel in recent years. Various countries in the region have been developing an action plan to strengthen resilience. USAID has also made resilience a priority in its programming in the Sahel and is targeting new investments at the national and sub-national level across several areas to achieve a better impact. USAID defines resilience as, “the ability of people, households, communities and systems to mitigate, adapt to and recover from shocks and stresses in a manner that reduces chronic vulnerability and facilitates inclusive growth.” USAID sees the drivers of change around resilience as extensivity, intensivity and diversification. The presenter outlines three important components to the USAID approach to addressing resilience: (1) a multisectoral approach; (2) an intense, but not exclusive focus on the most vulnerable population; and (3) collaboration between stakeholders. The presenter underscored that gender is also very important.

The second presenter, Nancy Mock, pointed out that the concept of resilience is a new development and has been used much more frequently in the past few years. The four elements of a resilience framework are context (a system or process), a disturbance (for example, a shock or stress), the capacity to deal with a disturbance, and a reaction to disturbance (such as, bouncing back better, recovering but worse than before, or collapse). Three types of capacities can make people resilient: absorptive capacity (stability), adaptive capacity (flexibility), and transformative capacity (change). Interventions that may affect one or another capacity positively include safety nets, climate-smart agriculture, disaster risk reduction, market access/value chains, and politics of reform. Researchers and policymakers are aiming to develop an evidence-based framework for resilience that takes all this into account.

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