Road to Rio: Putting resilience at the heart of development | Helen Clark

16 Apr 2012

Woman in a dry riverbed in India How can we support countries in becoming more resilient towards these kinds of shocks?

The threats to our world and to development are real and imminent. Nearly forty per cent of the global landmass is already degraded due to soil erosion, reduced fertility, and overgrazing.

With a projected increase of the world’s population to almost nine billion by 2020, this stress will undoubtedly surge. Our political, social, economic, and technological tools and our policies need to step up urgently to address these challenges, and building resilience must be at the very heart of this effort. 

For UNDP, achieving resilience is a transformative process which builds on the innate strength of individuals, their communities, and institutions to prevent, lessen the impacts of, and learn from the experience of shocks of any type, internal or external, natural or man-made; economic, health-related, political, or social.

The question is: how can we support countries in becoming more resilient towards these kinds of shocks?

Building resilience benefits from governance which is active, effective, honest, fair, and responsive and representative. When state institutions fail to guarantee access to justice and a functioning public service, and cannot provide an enabling environment in which people can flourish, communities become more vulnerable to the criminal or other violent entities which will fill any void.

The first priority for building resilience must be prevention, complemented by explicit efforts to reduce societal vulnerabilities and a commitment to maintain the integrity of communities, institutions, and ecosystems.

Resilience-based sustainable development also calls for developing the capacity of the poor to overcome their conditions.

In addition to that, national and local institutions must have high levels of preparedness as they face crises. Building resilience must be comprehensive across all sectors, communities, and institutions.

Pursuing a resilience-based approach to sustainable development will mean significant changes to current global development paradigms. The power to design pathways to development needs to shift downwards to those who know the context intimately and those who are facing and confronting it – the communities themselves.

Resilience also cannot be built overnight.  It takes time.  But it is our best chance of locking in progress made to date, and advancing equitable and sustainable human development.

Talk to me: What other measures are critical for building resilient countries?

“Road to Rio” is a series of posts by senior officials of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), outlining some of the key challenges around human development central for achieving the sustainable future we want.

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