Red Cross/ Red Crescent Climate Centre

Analysis: Coping with climate change

27/01/2012 - by IRIN

In the past five years, “resilience” (the ability to absorb shocks and recover) has become quite a buzzword in the aid community. Discussions on adapting to a changing climate are increasingly peppered with the “need to build resilience” of people, infrastructure and governments in the face of shocks such as soaring temperatures, rising sea levels, severe storms and flooding.

In a review of its humanitarian operations (HERR), the UK government was among the first donors to place resilience at the centre of its “approach both to longer-term development and to emergency response” and announced its intention to scale-up work on resilience.

Aid experts and NGOs provide various reasons for the growing popularity and emergence of resilience as a concept. Some are sceptical. But they all agree it is a positive approach that will bring the worlds of development and humanitarian aid closer.

What does resilience mean in the aid world?

Some call it just another addition to the growing aid jargon. But mostly people call it a new approach, a “lens”, which has given new meaning to “sustainable development”.

Maarten van Aalst, director of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre and co-ordinating lead author of the summary of the special report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change (SREX) produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2011 explains it thus: Under the conventional sustainable development approach, if a road had to be constructed in a rural area, benefits - such as the impact on the lives of the communities living alongside, creation of job opportunities from the maintenance of the road and development of markets for the farming community - would have been taken into consideration.

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