Since the 1970s, the word resilience has been used in a number of circumstances ranging from natural disasters to engineering and ecological issues and even child psychology. In the context of development, its use has often been related to humanitarian issues, an area that has seen a significant development. The ‘resilience’ of a given system, organisation, individual or ecosystem can be seen as its ability to prevent, respond and/or recover from an extreme situation. In view of this, the amount of attention given to this subject is constantly undergoing changes.
Effectively, the growing number of complex crisis situations and cases of vulnerability has increased the scale of natural disasters and conflicts, which in turn has had an impact on the demand for a response, particularly concerning humanitarian issues.
These conflicts and disasters have a disproportionate effect on countries, communities and the most vulnerable people, particularly women and children. It is estimated that 97% of deaths due to natural disasters occur in developing countries where the physical, institutional and human structures are fragile.
It has become apparent that the answers to this reality go beyond solving the immediate needs of disasters and conflicts, requiring investment in the prevention of and preparation for natural disasters, which is a fundamental characteristic of resilient societies and one that creates the right conditions for sustainable development.
Making individuals, families, communities and the most vulnerable countries more resilient increases their capacity to manage change by maintaining or changing aspects of their lives in the face of shocks and disasters such as extreme weather conditions, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, drought and conflict, without affecting their long-term prospects. It’s a goal that requires commitment from society as a whole (central governments, local authorities, civil society, donors, private sector, schools, universities, etc.), since comprehensive strategies are needed (institutional, political, technological, environmental, educational, cultural, health, social, legal, structural and economic) and great co-ordination in terms of planning, employing resources and effective execution in order to reduce the impact on people’s lives through suffering and loss of subsistence.
As mentioned in the report of the United Nations Secretary-General for the World Humanitarian Summit which took place in May 2016, "people are the main players in their lives and are the first and the last to respond in any crisis. Any effort to reduce the vulnerability of people and strengthen their resilience should begin at a local level, with national and international efforts based on expertise, leadership and local capacities. The affected persons must be consistently involved and engaged in decision-making processes, ensuring the participation of women at all levels. Legitimate representatives of the communities must always be placed on the level of leadership in all contexts. People should be able to influence decisions on how their needs are met".
The response to humanitarian crises should primarily be addressed by local systems and national effectiveness, with access to human and material resources required to properly cater for the basic needs of the people affected with the assurance that these recovery efforts can put those same people into a process of sustainable development, thus breaking the poverty cycle.