7-8 JUNE 2017 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

How to invest in resilience to support system transformation?

How to invest in resilience to support system transformation?

How the work on resilience tackles deep drivers and causes of vulnerability and risk

debate
D5
Wednesday, June 7, 2017 -
14:00 to 15:15

Key points

  • With nearly 40 frameworks on resilience in circulation today, the concept has become meaningless jargon for too many people. This has led to confusion and misunderstanding.  
     
  • Panellists agreed that building real resilience requires tackling systemic, root causes instead of just dealing with the consequences.
     
  • Too often politics gets in the way of building resilience because the decisions involved can be difficult, expensive and unpopular.
     
  • More coordination among partners is needed to harmonise investments in resilience, especially related to ecological threats.

Synopsis

What really is resilience and what investments will make vulnerable communities more resilient? Panellists from the European Commission and leading non-profits wrestled with these tough questions in a standing-room only auditorium.

Finding common agreement on the meaning of ‘resilience’ appeared elusive. With nearly 40 frameworks on resilience in circulation today covering diverse topics from energy and climate to economics and conflict, the British Overseas Development Institute argued that the concept has become meaningless jargon for many. Inevitably, this has led to some confusion and misunderstanding.

Panellists agreed that building real resilience requires tackling systemic, root causes of challenges instead of just dealing with the consequences. With the United States pulling out of the 2015 Paris climate change agreement, Oxfam noted that investments in resilience that meet this threshold just became even more important and probably more difficult.

Too often politics gets in the way of building resilience, argued Plan International. Politicians – typically focused on the short term – often lack the incentives to take the sometimes difficult, expensive and unpopular decisions that are needed. Plan called for more bold leadership from policymakers at every level, encouraging them to dare to be resilient themselves in the face of pressure.

All panellists called for greater coordination. With the EU, OECD, NATO, the United Nations and the World Bank all operating within their own frameworks, national governments get pulled in too many different directions. Not only is this inefficient, but it undermines trust in governments when programmes that are spread too thin fail to meet the public’s expectations.

The European Commission believes coordination has improved since it published its 2012 Communication and Action Plan on resilience. Spokespeople on the panel believed that together these strategic documents have laid the foundations for programmes that can realistically promote long-term resilience in vulnerable communities, and fill the previous gap in political engagement.

When polled, the overwhelming consensus from the audience was that more investment in resilience is needed, especially in innovation to make communities more resistant to ecological crises. This was a sentiment strongly shared by the South African moderator representing Oxfam.

The moderator challenged the audience to consider the South African government’s struggle to respond to a water crisis that has been festering for decades. If we are not good at managing the risks we are aware of now, how will we respond to the unknown ones we face on a warming, increasingly unpredictable planet? 

Insight

This is not a debate for Europe alone. This is a debate that partner countries need to own. They need to identify their problems, and prioritise the biggest ones for them. All countries have unique characteristics they can leverage to build resilience.

Organised by

  • Moderator
    Siphokazi Mthathi
    Executive Director
    Oxfam South Africa
  • Maria-Manuela Cabral
    Head of Unit for Fragility and Resilience
    European Commission - DG for International Cooperation and Development
  • Virginie Le Masson
    Research Fellow, Social Development / Risk and Resilience
    Overseas Development Institute
  • Jacobo Ocharán
    Head of Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation
    Plan International
  • Henrike Trautmann
    Head of the Specific Thematic Policies unit
    European Commission - DG for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection
Photo gallery

Password for download : EDD2017