Resilience: The Holy Grail or Yet Another Hype?



Disaster risk is globally on the rise, mainly as a result of the complex interplay of environmental, demographic, technological, political and socioeconomic conditions that are expanding hazard and vulnerability profiles (Peek 2008). The inevitability of climatic change at both the global and the local level is generally accepted to be a fact, and various sources predict its dramatic impact on the planet and on humankind (Jones et al. 2010; UNICEF 2007; UNISDR 2004; Save the Children 2007). The field of disaster studies has consequently experienced a significant shift concerning both the nature of disasters, and ways to contend with them. Over the past few decades it has become accepted that disasters occur at the intersection of a natural hazard and people’s vulnerabilities, i.e. the organisation of society, with implications for the activities undertaken under the denominator of disaster management. That is, if disasters are inevitable, measures could only be directed at preparing people for a possible disaster to come—disaster preparedness—and assist them once a disaster had hit—disaster response. Approaching disasters as an intersection between nature and humankind on the other hand implies targeting underlying factors equally, including enduring vulnerability and people’s capacities. Following this trend, resilience thinking currently tops the agenda of disaster risk reduction, and yet the challenge in the coming period is to overcome the teething troubles of this approach. Indeed, resilience has the potential to become the next battleground for on-going debates on the purpose of humanitarian aid; i.e. whether it should be provided solely on the basis of identified needs, linked with development objectives, as part of broader coherence/whole of government agendas for wider change, or simply be a means of preserving the status quo—what Walker and Maxwell (2009) label as the ‘3 Cs’, compassion, containment, and change. To establish resilience as a useful approach to interventions rather than a political tool or point for debate, it is consequently valuable to pursue a mapping of the current discussions with regard to its promises and pitfalls. This chapter therefore provides an examination of the approach, without claiming to present an exhaustive list of issues. Rather, it is a careful exploration of experiences, both in theory as in practice of a resilience approach. The next section starts by discussing in more detail the shift that has taken place in thinking on disasters and their management.


Disaster Risk Disaster Management Climate Change Adaptation Disaster Risk Reduction Disaster Response 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Albala-Bertrand JM (2000) Complex emergencies versus natural disasters: an analytical comparison of causes and effects. Oxford Dev Stud 28(2):187–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alexander D (2013) Resilience and disaster risk reduction: an etymological journey. Nat Hazards Earth Syst Sci Discuss 1:1257–1284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson MB (1999) Do no harm: how aid CAN support peace-or war. Lynne Rienner, LondonGoogle Scholar
  4. Boyden J, Cooper E (2007) Questioning the power of resilience: are children up to the task of disrupting the transmission of poverty? Young lives. Department of International Development, University of Oxford, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  5. Brand FS, Jax K (2007) Focusing the meaning(s) of resilience: resilience as a descriptive concept and a boundary object. Ecol Soc 12:23Google Scholar
  6. Cannon T (1994) Vulnerability analysis and the explanation of ‘Natural Disasters’. In: Varley A (ed) Disaster, development and environment. Wiley, London, pp 13–30Google Scholar
  7. Cannon T, Müller-Mahn D (2010) Vulnerability, resilience and development discourses in context of climate change. Nat Hazards 55:621–635CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. CARE Netherlands (2013) Reaching resilience: handbook resilience 2.0 for aid practitioners and policymakers in disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and poverty reduction. Care Netherlands, Wageningen University, The HagueGoogle Scholar
  9. de Milliano CWJ (2012) Powerful streams. Exploring enabling factors for adolescent resilience to flooding. Dissertation, University of GroningenGoogle Scholar
  10. Ellis F, Biggs S (2001) Evolving themes in rural development 1950s–2000s. Dev Policy Rev 19(4):437–448CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Eriksson J (1996) Synthesis report: joint evaluation of emergency assistance to Rwanda. Steering Committee of the Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda, Danida, CopenhagenGoogle Scholar
  12. Faling M (2012) Interpretations and negotiations of resilience. Politics and power in the governance of disaster management in the flood-prone National Capital Region of the Philippines. Dissertation, University of AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  13. Folke C (2004) Regime shifts, resilience, and biodiversity in ecosystems management. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 35:557–581CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fox R et al (2012) The characteristics of resilience building, interagency resilience working group. Accessed 6 Oct 2014
  15. Frerks G, Warner J, Weijs B (2011) The politics of vulnerability and resilience. Ambiente Sociedade 14(2):105–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gaillard J (2010) Policy arena. Vulnerability, capacity and resilience: perspectives for climate and development policy. J Int Dev 22:218–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Heijmans A (2009) The social life of community-based disaster risk reduction: origins, politics and framing. Disaster Studies Working Paper. Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Research CentreGoogle Scholar
  18. Hewitt K (1983) The idea of calamity in a technocratic age. In: Hewitt K (ed) Interpretations of calamity, from the viewpoint of human ecology. Allen & Unwin Inc., Winchester, pp 3–32Google Scholar
  19. Jones L et al (2010) Responding to a changing climate. Overseas Development Studies, LondonGoogle Scholar
  20. Khasalamwa S (2009) Is ‘Build Back Better’ a response to vulnerability? Analysis of the post-tsunami humanitarian interventions in Sri Lanka. Norwegian J Geogr 63(1):73–88Google Scholar
  21. Klein RJT, Nicholls RJ, Thomalla F (2004) Resilience to natural hazards: how useful is this concept? Glob Environ Change Part B Environ Hazards 5(1–2):35–45Google Scholar
  22. Lavell A (2012) Reflections: advancing development-based interpretations and interventions in disaster risk: some conceptual and contextual stumbling blocks. Environ Hazards 11(3):242–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Levine S, Pain AB, Fan L (2012) The relevance of ‘Resilience’? HPG policy brief 49. Overseas Development Institute, LondonGoogle Scholar
  24. Macrae J, Leader N (2001) Apples, pears and porridge: the origins and impact of the search for coherence between humanitarian and political responses to chronic and political emergencies. Disasters 25:290–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Manyena SB (2006) The concept of resilience revisited. Disasters 30(4):433–450CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Manyena SB (2012) Disaster and development paradigms: too close for comfort? Dev Policy Rev 30(3):327–345CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Masten AS (2011) Resilience in children threatened by extreme adversity: frameworks for research, practice, and translational synergy. Dev Psychopathol 23(2):493–506CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Masten AS, Obradovic J (2008) Disaster preparation and recovery: lessons from research on resilience in human development. Ecol Soc 13(1):9Google Scholar
  29. McEntire DA, Fuller C, Johnston CW, Weber R (2002) A comparison of disaster paradigms: the search for a holistic policy guide. Public Adm Rev 62(3):267–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Meyer JW, Rowan B (1977) Institutionalized organizations: formal structure as myth and ceremony. Am J Sociol 83:340–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Montgomery H, Burr R, Woodhead M (2003) Changing childhoods, local and global. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  32. Peek L (2008) Children and disasters: understanding vulnerability, developing capacities, and promoting resilience – an introduction. Child Youth Environ 18(1):1–29Google Scholar
  33. Plummer R (2011) Social-ecological resilience and environmental education: synopsis, application, implications. Environ Educ Res 16(5–6):493–509Google Scholar
  34. Save the Children (2007) Legacy of disasters. The impact of climate change on children. Save the Children, LondonGoogle Scholar
  35. Storey A (1997) Non-neutral humanitarianism: NGOs and the Rwanda crisis’. Dev Pract 7(4):384–394CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Ungar M (2008) Resilience across cultures. Br J Soc Work 38(2):218–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ungar M et al (2007) Unique pathways to resilience across cultures. Adolescence 42(166):287–310Google Scholar
  38. UNICEF (2007) Children and conflict in a changing world: Machel study 10-year strategic review. United Nations, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  39. UNISDR (2004) Living with risk, a global review of disaster reduction initiatives, UN international strategy for disaster reduction. UN Publications, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  40. Uvin P (1998) Aiding violence: the development enterprise in Rwanda. Kumarian Press, West HartfordGoogle Scholar
  41. Walker P, Maxwell D (2009) Shaping the humanitarian world. Routledge, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Wageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Centre for Humanitarian Action, School of Agriculture and Food ScienceUniversity College DublinDublinIreland
  4. 4.Concern WorldwideDublinIreland

Personalised recommendations