The concept of resilience revisit...
The concept of resilience revisited Siambabala Bernard Manyena Research Associate, Disaster and Development Centre, School of Applied Sciences, Northumbria University, UK The intimate connections between disaster recovery by and the resilience of affected communities have become common features of disaster risk reduction programmes since the adoption of The Hyogo Framework for Action 2005���2015. Increasing attention is now paid to the capacity of disaster-affected communities to ���bounce back��� or to recover with little or no external assistance following a disaster. This highlights the need for a change in the disaster risk reduction work culture, with stronger emphasis being put on resilience rather than just need or vulnerability. However, varied conceptualisations of resilience pose new philosophical challenges. Yet achieving a consensus on the concept remains a test for disaster research and scholarship. This paper reviews the concept in terms of definitional issues, the role of vulnerability in resilience discourse and its meaning, and the differences between vulnerability and resilience. It concludes with some of the more immediately apparent implications of resilience thinking for the way we view and prepare for disasters. Keywords: disaster resilience, disaster risk reduction, vulnerability Introduction Over the past ten years, work on disasters has increasingly focused on the capacity of affected communities to recover with little or no external assistance. This requires a stronger emphasis on approaches to risk reduction and humanitarian and development work that put resilience, rather than just need or vulnerability, at the nucleus of the debate (IFRC, 2004). Current thinking on resilience is a product of theoretical and practical constructs that have seen the refining and reshaping of the disaster paradigm over the past three decades. The history of its application is not rosy it is full of con- testations, especially regarding its affinity with and lucid usage by a multiplicity of disciplines. Consequently, it is instructive to explore the concept within the context of the ongoing search for the most appropriate disaster risk reduction framework. Resilience is derived from the Latin word resilio, meaning ���to jump back��� (Klein, Nicholls and Thomalla, 2003). The field in which it was originally used, though, is still contested: some say ecology (Batabyal, 1998), while others say physics (Van der Leeuw and Leygonie, 2000). In the sphere of ecology, it gained currency following the 1973 release of Holling���s seminal work, entitled Resilience and Stability of Ecological Systems (Blaikie and Brookfield, 1987 Levin et al., 1998 Adger, 2000 Van der Leeuw and Leygonie, 2000 Stockholm Environmental Institute, 2004). Most of the literature, however, states that the study of resilience evolved from the disciplines of psychology and psychiatry in the 1940s, and it is mainly accredited to Norman Garmezy, Emmy Werner and Ruth Smith (Waller, 2001 Johnson and Wielchelt, 2004). It materialised Disasters, 2006, 30(4): 433���450. �� The Author(s). Journal compilation �� Overseas Development Institute, 2006. Published by Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA DISA 30(4).indb 433 26/10/2006 12:35:16
Siambabala Bernard Manyena 434 as a result of efforts to understand the aetiology and development of psychopathology, most particularly in studies of children ���at risk��� of psychopathological disorders due to parental mental illness, perinatal problems, inter-parental conflict, poverty or a combi- nation of the above (Masten, 1999 Rolf, 1999). The pioneers in the study of resilience were interested in analysing risks and the negative effects of adverse life events on children, such as divorce and traumatic stressors (abuse, neglect and war, for example). These studies saw the emergence of terms such as ���resilience���,���stress-resistance��� and ���invul- nerability���. Of the three constructs, resilience has become one of the most disputed. Today, resilience is being applied in a number of fields, especially disaster manage- ment. The adoption, on 22 January 2005, of The Hyogo Framework for Action 2005��� 2015���also known as ���The Hyogo Declaration������by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) is a positive move. Increased atten- tion will be paid to what affected communities can do for themselves and how best to strengthen them (IFRC, 2004).Yet, if the concept of resilience is to lead to a new way of tackling disasters and provide policy options, there is a need to address the philo- sophical questions that continue to blur the concept. To enhance resilience it is neces- sary to have a good initial understanding of what it is, its determinants (Klein et al., 1998), and how it can be measured, maintained and improved (Klein, Nicholls and Thomalla, 2003). This paper focuses mainly on four aspects of resilience: the definitional issue of resil- ience whether resilience is the opposite of vulnerability how resilience applies to people and structures and the implications of the deconstruction of the term for the way we view disasters and disaster risk reduction. Methodology Background information for this article came from primary and secondary sources. The primary data were collected through personal communication and group e-mails requests were directed at those who have distinguished themselves in disaster scholar- ship and research. Many of the people contacted sent detailed responses, involving, in some instances, pages of comment on the subject. Disaster resilience: a paradigm or expression? The entrance of the term resilience into disaster discourse could be seen as the birth of a new culture of disaster response. The outcomes of the 2005 World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR) confirmed that the concept has gradually found more space in both theoretical and practical terms in a wide range of disaster risk reduction discourse areas and in some interventions. Phrases like ���sustainable and resilient commu- nities���, ���resilient livelihoods��� and ���building community resilience��� have become common in journal articles and programme documents. However, while some would refer to it as a new paradigm (McEntire et al., 2002), others see it as more of an expression, compli- menting use of other disaster terms, such as vulnerability or risk. DISA 30(4).indb 434 26/10/2006 12:35:16
The concept of resilience revisited 435 The theoretical base of disaster resilience centres on a range of studies. Bradely and Grainger (2004) recommend a social resilience model in which actors switch from performance to survival strategies when the perceived severity of constraints exceeds a critical threshold. Tobin (1999) suggests a composite sustainable and resilient framework of analysis for communities in hazardous environments. Paton, Smith and Violanti (2000) propose a risk management model for disaster stress, while Paton and Johnston (2001) advocate a model of resilience to hazard effects. Meanwhile, Mallak (1998), Kendra and Wachtendorf (2003) and Davis (2004) have all put forth some principles of resilience. The work of McEntire et al. (2002) traces the evolution of ���disaster paradigms���, although without a timeline, from comprehensive disaster management through disaster-resistant community, disaster-resilient communities and sustainable development and sustain- able hazards mitigation, and invulnerable development, to comprehensive vulnerability management. The intention here, though, is not to get into a debate on the character- istics of the paradigm, the ���resilience paradigm���, as it has become known, which arguably falls short of warranting such a label. The concept of resilience has gained currency in the absence of philosophical dimensions and clarity of understanding, definition, sub- stance, and most importantly, its applicability in disaster management and sustainable development theory and practice. There is a danger of current usage extending further into the practitioner end of disaster and development work in order to describe the quality of ���end��� products of disaster-risk reduction interventions. Some scholars contacted during the information- gathering process for this paper were of the opinion that (disaster) resilience can not necessarily be viewed as a new way of looking at disasters ���as we have done much of this before���1 and therefore it is not new conceptually. The only new thing is the inclusion of ���resilience��� in disaster and development discourse. The concept of disaster resilience has ���confused things���.2 For instance: The ecological literature has moved to using the term adaptive capacity, with resilience (the amount of deformation or disturbance a system can withstand before it loses a capacity to bounce back) as a subset . . . its (resilience) value will only be retained if definitional issues are resolved and more systematic work is conducted in outcomes and predictive processes.3 The concept has prompted a new way of conceptualising hazards and their conse- quences, ���as it suggests focusing on building something up rather than just reducing something, which is the case when talking about poverty or vulnerability reduction���.4 Recently, in addition to environmental determinism (Middleton and O���Keefe, 1998), which was viewed as an adequate account of human disasters, political and socio- economic conditions have received recognition, coinciding in space and time with an extreme ���trigger event��� natural hazard to which a certain group of people has been made vulnerable. This has made an immense contribution to our understanding of the interrelationship among hazard, risk and vulnerability. Deficient information, commu- nications and knowledge among social actors, the lack of institutional and community organisation, weaknesses in emergency preparedness, political instability and the absence DISA 30(4).indb 435 26/10/2006 12:35:16