What makes societies resilient?

The CPF 2015 theme: ‘What Makes Societies Resilient?’ draws on work developed in Malta on resilience and vulnerability. The Forum will add global value to the discourse on resilience, which has to date tended to focus on its economic and environmental aspects.

Why resilience

Resilience has gained credence as a concept and policy response. For small states including small island developing states (SIDS) on the front line of climate change impacts, and with limited resources to cope, building resilience has gained particular traction.

While it is widely accepted that the concept of resilience is used to define the ability to respond to crisis, there is a need to deepen the analysis. There has been silence on the root causes and the unequal exposure to vulnerability of some parts of society, for example indigenous communities. The new resilience thinking suggests that there is no ‘optimal’ response to vulnerability. Instead it suggests adaptive learning, flexibility and a response to the complexity of real world dynamics. It also asserts that social cohesion and dialogue are instrumental in facilitating collaborative approaches to respond to adverse shocks. Resilience connotes renewal and hope and challenges the narrative of vulnerability and the current constructs of adaptability and preparedness.

Framing resilience in governance and development

In its work in profiling vulnerability and resilience in small states, the Commonwealth acknowledges the important role of governance, the role of democratic institutions and people’s participation in the analysis of what makes resilient societies. This is an area that is largely underexplored. CPF 2015 will contribute to expanding the current thinking on resilience and will explore the aspects of governance- rules, institutions and processes through which people, organisations and government work toward common objectives, make decisions, generate legitimate authority and power and promote and protect human rights. It will feature contributions of civil society and examples of local and bottom up responses. Four threads of inquiry will be used at the Forum in analysing resilience In the context of governance and people’s participation in governance and development: Transformation, Inclusion and Responsiveness, Transparency and Accountability and Gender.