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Resilience in disaster research: three versions



This paper explores the concept of resilience in disaster management settings in modern society. The diversity and relatedness of ‘resilience’ as a concept and as a process are reflected in its presentation through three ‘versions’: (i) pastoral care and the role of the church for victims of disaster trauma, (ii) federal policy and the US Critical Infrastructure Plan, and (iii) the building of resilient communities for disaster risk reduction practices. The three versions aim to offer characteristic expressions of resilience, as increasingly evident in current disaster literature. In presenting resilience through the lens of these three versions, the article highlights the complexity in using resilience as an all-encompassing word. The article also suggests the need for understanding the nexuses between risk, vulnerability, and policy for the future of resilience discourse.
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Resilience in disaster research: three
Rasmus Dahlberga, Christine Tind Johannessen-Henrybd, Emmanuel
Rajucd & Suhella Tulsianiad
a Faculty of Health, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen,
b Faculty of Theology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen,
c Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen,
d Changing Disasters, Copenhagen Centre for Disaster Research,
University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
Published online: 07 Apr 2015.
To cite this article: Rasmus Dahlberg, Christine Tind Johannessen-Henry, Emmanuel Raju & Suhella
Tulsiani (2015) Resilience in disaster research: three versions, Civil Engineering and Environmental
Systems, 32:1-2, 44-54, DOI: 10.1080/10286608.2015.1025064
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Downloaded by [ University of Iceland ], [Rasmus Dahlberg] at 03:39 10 April 2015
Civil Engineering and Environmental Systems, 2015
Vol. 32, Nos. 1–2, 44–54,
Resilience in disaster research: three versions
Rasmus Dahlberga, Christine Tind Johannessen-Henryb,d, Emmanuel Rajuc,dand
Suhella Tulsiania,d
aFaculty of Health, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark; bFaculty of Theology, University
of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark; cFaculty of Law, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen,
Denmark; dChanging Disasters, Copenhagen Centre for Disaster Research, University of Copenhagen,
Copenhagen, Denmark
(Received 29 September 2014; accepted 26 February 2015)
This paper explores the concept of resilience in disaster management settings in modern society. The
diversity and relatedness of ‘resilience’ as a concept and as a process are reflected in its presentation
through three ‘versions’: (i) pastoral care and the role of the church for victims of disaster trauma, (ii)
federal policy and the US Critical Infrastructure Plan, and (iii) the building of resilient communities for
disaster risk reduction practices. The three versions aim to offer characteristic expressions of resilience, as
increasingly evident in current disaster literature. In presenting resilience through the lens of these three
versions, the article highlights the complexity in using resilience as an all-encompassing word. The article
also suggests the need for understanding the nexuses between risk, vulnerability, and policy for the future
of resilience discourse.
Keywords: resilience; emergency response; critical infrastructure; pastoral care; trauma; vulnerability;
Hyogo framework of action; disaster risk reduction
1. Introduction
Ecologists call it adaptation, economists call it coping capacity, anthropologists call it bounce
back better, and in engineering it is best known as the capacity of a structure to withstand shock
while retaining function. Resilience, as a concept that embodies strength, capacity, elasticity,
and evolution, has been in use for centuries (Alexander 2013). The United Nations Strategy for
Disaster Reduction (UNISDR 2009) defines resilience as
the ability of a system, community or society exposed to hazards to resist, absorb, accommodate to and recover
from the effects of a hazard in a timely and efficient manner, including through the preservation and restoration of
its essential basic structures and functions.
It has been used (1) in ecology (Holling 1973), (2) in the social sciences, where Alexander
(2013) identifies with the work of Clarke et al., in 1958, (3) and in education, psychology, econ-
omy, and engineering (Walker and Cooper 2011). The human’s capacity to resist or be susceptible
to disease, owing to known innate physical and unknown external attributes, was noted already
*Corresponding author. Email:
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Civil Engineering and Environmental Systems 45
by Hippocrates in ‘On the Natural Faculties’. While there have been attempts to summarise
different definitions of resilience, it is clear that there seem to be differences in understanding
and implementing resilience concepts between academia and practice. This may be evident in
the way organisations define resilience and use the term more broadly in disaster risk reduc-
tion (DRR) and various aspects of climate change adaptation (CCA). In recent times, no other
word has been as widely used in policy and disaster discussion as resilience, as evident from a
Google Ngram search on of the word ‘resilience’ in books. How can we fully understand it as a
We intend to approach resilience in this paper by studying the diversity of the phenomenon
as popularly used in the disaster research discourse. By understanding resilience as ‘a multiplic-
ity’ (Mol 2002), it is possible to accommodate different disciplinary reflections and adaptations
– despite their divergences. Inspired by anthropologist Annemarie Mol’s development of the
(Post-)Actor-Network-Theory (see, e.g. Latour 1993) this paper presents resilience as practices
emerging from three institutional reservoirs: pastoral care and trauma management, US federal
policy on emergency management, and DRR. This analysis intentionally includes three hier-
archical frameworks – societal, national, and global. The versions of resilience presented are
different, but related, and interconnected in the development of resilience as a useful concept,
and as a dynamic process.
2. A societal version of resilience: trauma management and the practice of pastoral care
Performing identities is not a question of ideas and imaginations devoid of materiality [ ... ]. A lot of things are
involved. Black ties and yellow dresses. Bags and glasses. Shoes and desks and chairs and razors. And among the
stage props is the physical body. (Mol 2002, 38–39)
The 9/11 terrorist attacks were of an order of magnitude different from any previous to strike
an urban centre; the situation encouraged professionals to work together in new and different
ways, to acknowledge limits more readily, and to forge other ways of responding to the specific
challenges at hand (Brenner, Bush, and Moses 2010, xv). Clergy prayed with rescue workers,
performed last rites over bodies, searched for victims, held prayer vigils, and supported victims’
relatives in family assistance centres throughout the affected parts of the city (Koenig 2006,
51). From the place of disaster itself, a situated and context-sensitive pastoral theology emerged
(Swain 2011a). At Ground Zero pastoral caregivers through faith found a way to hold, bear, and
transform their experience so as to manifest resilience, post-traumatic growth, and connection to
meaning and community (Brenner, Bush, and Moses 2010, xv).
In theologian Storm Swain’s study of the clergy’s relief effort at Ground Zero for the first six
weeks after 9/11, a minister describes the disaster scene as ‘organic’ (Swain 2011b, 486). The
place was filled with power and generated energy in the middle of the unutterable horror. The
place is described as a kind of cosmic fire point, filled with the Spirit and almost like a sacred
place. The chaplains blessed the bodies and body parts that were found and bagged. Swain’s study
shows how spiritual care is socially and materially practiced. The spiritual care is interwoven
with the place and the bodies – with burned and detached legs, vomit, and twisted steel. The
place, Ground Zero, is in that sense transformed by the community of faith.
The case of 9/11 shows how resilience is practiced in pastoral care. From a theological point
of view, traumatic loss lies at the very heart of the Christian imagination (Hunsinger 2011,
8). A Christian claim is that in the middle of collapsing worlds is ‘redemption’. ‘The veil
parts and something new and good happens’ (Jones 2009, 71). Pastoral care is the broad min-
istry that includes the many ways that ‘spiritually energised care’ is given to people in order
to provide help in periods of physical, mental, spiritual, and relational crises, losses, dilem-
mas, and stresses (Clinebell 2011, 8). In the context of disaster, pastoral caregivers are often
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46 R. Dahlberg et al.
first responders to the catastrophic events in which their call is to help others to manage their
trauma (Wimberley 2011, 48). Pastoral care has therefore become aware of the significance
of the specific situation of ‘emergency’, and the growing number of pastors’ training manu-
als and guides on disaster response give evidence of the development (Hacker 2014; Massey
2006; Roberts and Ashley 2008). Disaster happens in today’s plural – multi-cultural and multi-
religious – societies as more secular in context, that is, environments of multiple beliefs that
require an inclusive approach in pastoral care (see Johannessen-Henry 2012). Such conditions
and concerns frame the tasks of the church in disaster-response and how pastoral care may
help people and community to cope with the collective and individual traumas that follow
Disaster is ‘a potentially traumatic event that is collectively experienced, has an acute out-
set, and is time-delimited’ (McFarlane and Norris 2006, 4). What makes each event a disaster
is the extreme disruption of body, mind, spirit, family, home, livelihood, and community (Bren-
ner, Bush, and Moses 2010, viii). Disasters affect communities by overwhelming their capacity
to address physical and emotional needs, by destroying resources, disrupting important attach-
ments and relationships, threatening safety, and exceeding individual and community capacity
to make meaning of the events (Hobfoll et al. 2007). Despite these circumstances only a lim-
ited proportion of people who are traumatised develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD);
most traumatised people seem to be able to negotiate these initial adaptive phases successfully,
without succumbing to the long-term progression of their acute stress reaction into PTSD (Kolk,
McFarlan, and Weisaeth 1996, 425) For them, the trauma becomes merely a terrible experience
in their past (Kolk, McFarlan, and Weisaeth 1996, 425).
Resilience has become an important concept by which to understand the human relationship
between trauma and pastoral care. It has been variously described as reflecting an individual’s
ability to withstand the effects of trauma or disaster, whether by having the capacity to (a) remain
unaffected, (b) readily bounce back from whatever effects there are, or (c) bounce back to a new
way of being that is shaped positively more than negatively (Ellison and Katz 2010, 190). The
example from Swain’s study (2011b) shows inter alia how non-competing partnerships between
professionals of divergent disciplines are important to overcome the ruptures wrought by disas-
ters (see Koenig 2006, 52). These partnerships have the potential to help societies harness the
transformational capacity disasters hold for resilience – for ‘how we might redress chronic, long-
simmering illnesses in new ways, comfort the bereaved, rebuild with survivors, and perhaps even
help people to better situations than they were in prior to disasters’ (Brenner, Bush, and Moses
Churches, faith-based organisations, and spiritually informed practices, play significant roles
in inculcating resilience following disasters (Koenig 2006). Spirituality, faith, and religious belief
have been identified as vital coping mechanisms that can enhance resilience for survivors of
adversity (Alawiyah, Bell, Pyles, and Runnels 2011; Greene, Galambos, and Lee 2004). From
the perspective of many faith communities, disaster may be viewed not only as a loss and target
for problem solving but also as a challenge that can inspire growth and foster improved function-
ing, or ‘post-traumatic growth’. Such growth is characterised by perceiving oneself as resilient,
having more meaningful relationships with others, developing an increased appreciation for life,
and experiencing enhanced spirituality (Harris, Thornton, and Engdahl 2010, 84). While tragic,
disasters also have potential to help reimagine relationships with one another and who and what
people are as a society.
When professionals from different disciplines work together with clergy during or after a
disaster, there exists an opportunity for them to claim their role in community healing (Brenner,
Bush, and Moses 2010, xi). But while recovery – as a return to a pre-state – may be identified as
the goal of interventions, from a theological point of view this may not be possible, or necessarily
desirable (Brenner, Bush, and Moses 2010, xiii).
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Civil Engineering and Environmental Systems 47
Harris, Thornton, and Engdahl (2010) have outlined ‘the psychospiritual impact of disaster’
(2010). In order to reduce emotional arousal when a community faces a disaster, it is impor-
tant that individuals who are emotionally distressed become aware that the reaction is not an
indication of psychopathology. Including clergy in counselling for those with acute emotional
and spiritual needs reinforces the individual’s strengths and efforts towards personal growth. In
many communities, seeking a clergy for counselling is less stigmatising than seeing a mental
health professional. Hence, clergy can assist in reducing hyper-arousal, including therapeutic
grounding, medications, breathing techniques, yoga, imagery, meditation, and prayer. By meet-
ing the needs of the individual and the community, clergy may be able to develop a positive
perception, and thus enhance capacity for recovery. In order to build up a constructive social
support, clergy can assist the community of faith by maintaining an intact relationship with the
Deity through worship services, public memorials, and prayer groups. In communities stressed
by disaster, there is an abundance of increased conflict. Survivors of disaster may need assistance
with the process of forgiveness, including forgiving the Deity or others involved in the disaster,
forgiving themselves for failing to live up to their expectations, and forgiving one another as con-
flicts arise. Guidance in spiritual response to a disaster while exploring the meaning of suffering
(theodicy) is an important element in providing hope.
Studies in the research literature have stressed that rituals such as arranged activities, cere-
monies, funerals, prayer and meditation among groups of survivors and relatives – performed
in chapels or in relation to the disaster place itself – may be an important factor to promote
resilience (Ellison and Katz 2010, 188). Rituals can serve to maintain a culture’s social struc-
ture and its norms, strengthen the bonds of individuals to their communities, assist adaption (to
change or crisis), manage fear and anxiety, and ward off threats (Ellison and Katz 2010, 187).
Research indicates that those who use prayer, for example, as an active coping strategy in their
daily lives emerge from stressors such as disasters with better mental health outcomes. Disas-
ters and trauma disconnect people from one another and from their past and future. Routines
are destroyed along with lives and cherished belongings. Questions of purpose and meaning
inevitably arise as stricken communities struggle to find hope amid death and destruction. Some-
times pain does not simply resist language, but actively destroys it (Scarry 1985, 4). Thus, rituals
are activities that explicitly seek to enhance community bonds, strengthen its structure, enhance
adaptation, and deal with anxiety or fear.
In the case of the clergy who responded to the 9/11, the task of recovery was closely con-
nected to materiality, the body parts, and the burned ground, and the social relations as part of
an integrated mission with distinct roles in helping rescuers and survivors cope with events (see
Swain 2011b). In everyday life, religious institutions provide familiar frames and structures to
recognise life’s transitions and facilitate transformation (Milstein and Manierre 2010, 222). Thus
in the midst of trauma, clergy and pastoral care offer secure environment that provides a ‘sacred
space’ right where lives are destroyed. The sacred space is the space as it is inhabited by peo-
ple – by their experiences, rituals, cultural practices, creative moments, conflicts, and narratives
(Cooper-White 2010, 75). Spiritual care in a disaster context is thus a practical embodied state-
ment of a public theology that offers healing and support via multiple pathways. ‘To make a
reparative response that does not deny sin and suffering but transforms it by being the best we
can be “doing the possible in impossible situations”’ (Swain 2011b, 497).
This first version shows that clergy can help society (via victims of the disaster) come to
terms with the disaster at a community and societal level, recover, and thus be resilient. The
examples given refer mainly to the immediate aftermath although indeed the needs can continue
for years. These examples however undermine the larger role that political and governmental
institutions can play in organising and galvanising the efforts of individuals in resilience-building
activities. During the longer road to recovery, very different needs emerge. During this longer
time, the clergy among other non-religious institutions still have a very important, though now
very different, role to play.
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48 R. Dahlberg et al.
3. A national version of resilience: US critical infrastructure protection
Hierarchies between representational devices may shift in character over time. (Mol 2002, 82)
Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) has been subject to increasing public and political atten-
tion over the last decades, and the concept of resilience has played an important role in this
development. Perhaps in no other field, at least in the USA, has resilience come to dominate the
discourse in such a short time. For our purpose, a closer look at the turn to resilience in US CIP
is therefore useful.
Acknowledging the threats from natural hazards, technical malfunctions, human error, and
terrorist attacks to complex infrastructures and processes, agencies, governments, and inter-
governmental organisations have led to the launching of programmes and initiatives to protect
critical societal functions. This may be seen as a natural development as the complexity and
interconnectedness of our societies grow (Brown 2006).
As the world’s largest national economy and strongest military power, the USA has for
decades been setting the international agenda with regard to CIP. However, an important shift
towards resilience can be identified in US policy from 1998 to the present. In the mid-1990s
President Clinton created the President’s Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection
(PCCIP). In its 1997 report, the commission gave a number of recommendations to the Clin-
ton administration. As opposed to the Cold War Era when CIP was focused on dispersing key
elements and protecting the hardware, the 1997 report emphasised the need for public–private
co-operation because much critical infrastructure was now owned by companies and not con-
trolled by the government. Most importantly, however, PCCIP suggested that cyber threats
be given more attention in future US CIP policy. In May 1998, the Clinton administration
released ‘Presidential Decision Directive No. 63 (PDD-63)’, defining critical infrastructure as
‘those physical and cyber-based systems essential to the minimum operations of the economy
and government’, thereby acknowledging the commission’s encouragement to include cyber
threats (Executive Office of the President 1998).
The wording of the PDD-63 emphasised ‘vulnerability’ because CIP was seen as a
countermeasure to threats to vulnerable systems. No less than 25 occurrences of ‘vulnera-
ble/vulnerability’ are found in the document (and none of ‘resilient/resilience’). After the 9/11
terrorist attacks on the USA in 2001 the nation’s preparedness was placed under the responsibil-
ity of the new Department of Homeland Security. In the department’s first Office of Homeland
Security (2002, iii), the nation was also primarily described as ‘vulnerable’: The President’s
preface to the document includes the following: ‘The need for homeland security is tied to our
enduring vulnerability. Terrorists wish to attack us and exploit our vulnerabilities because of the
freedoms we hold dear’ (Department of Homeland Security 2003, iii).
The Homeland Security Strategy 2002 contains 65 occurrences of ‘vulnerable/vulnerability’
in 90 pages – and none of ‘resilient/resilience’. A similar trend can be identified in the Home-
land Security Presidential Directive No. 7 (HSPD-7) on ‘Critical Infrastructure Identification,
Prioritization, and Protection’ from December 2003 (Department of Homeland Security 2003).
This document had eight occurrences of ‘vulnerable/vulnerability’ and none of ‘resilience’. In
the 2007 Homeland Security Strategy, however, the discourse had changed significantly (Office
of Homeland Security 2007). Now there were only 13 occurrences of ‘vulnerable/vulnerability’
in 62 pages – but 17 of ‘resilient/resilience’.
Obviously, something changed between 2002–2003 and 2007. Now, the President stated in his
introduction to the Homeland Security strategy that it was the aim of US policy to ‘enhance the
resilience of our economy and critical infrastructure before an incident occurs’. More precisely,
the strategy acknowledged that it would be impossible to deter or prevent all terrorist attacks
or natural catastrophes. Instead, the nation’s vulnerability should be mitigated ‘by ensuring the
structural and operational resilience of our critical infrastructure and key resources’ (Homeland
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Civil Engineering and Environmental Systems 49
Security Council 2007, 42). Interestingly, the Homeland Security strategies at the same time
shifted their focus away from cyber-security to physical threats (Moteff 2014, 12), a consequence
of the mass casualties of 9/11.
Professor of Political Science Stephen E. Flynn was among the first scholars to suggest a
turn towards resilience in CIP in his book America the Vulnerable (Flynn 2004). Also the 2004
National Plan for Research and Development In Support of CIP included a section on ‘Resilient,
Self-diagnosing, Self-healing Systems’. The report envisioned as a strategic goal the develop-
ment of replacement elements and systems for physical and cyber infrastructures that should be
‘resilient if attacked or damaged’, meaning that they would be able to adapt and self-heal (Exec-
utive Office of the President and The Department of Homeland Security 2004, 14). These new
ideas found their way into the National Infrastructure Protection Plans (NIPPs), issued by the
Department of Homeland Defense from 2006 onwards (Department of Homeland Security 2006,
2009,2013). In 2006, the overarching goal of the NIPP was to ‘build a safer, more secure, and
more resilient America’. Three years later, ‘resiliency’ was promoted to the subtitle of the docu-
ment alongside ‘protection’, and in the latest version of the NIPP (2013), the front page simply
read: ‘NIPP 2013: Partnering for Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience’.
The Presidential Policy Directive No. 21 (PPD-21) from February 2013 described the Obama
administration’s policy on CIP: ‘U.S. efforts shall address the security and resilience of critical
infrastructure in an integrated, holistic manner to reflect this infrastructure’s interconnectedness
and interdependency’ (Executive Office of the President 2013a). PPD-21 has only 11 occur-
rences of ‘vulnerable/vulnerability’ and 37 of ‘resilient/resilience’. The document even offers
a definition of resilience as ‘the ability to prepare for and adapt to changing conditions and
withstand and recover rapidly from disruptions. Resilience includes the ability to withstand and
recover from deliberate attacks, accidents or naturally occurring threats or incidents’. PPD-21
thus very much reflected the increased focus on resilience and the all-hazard approach that had
evolved in US critical infrastructure policy over the last decade (Moteff 2014, 14).
It is worth noting that resilience according to recent US policy is not only a matter of gov-
ernment but of the nation as a whole. In his 2013 presidential proclamation on November as
‘Critical Infrastructure and Resilience Month’, Barack Obama stated that,
Emerging and evolving threats require the engagement of our entire Nation – from all levels of government to the
private sector and the American people. This month, as we recognise that safeguarding our critical infrastructure is
an economic and security imperative let each of us do our part to build a more resilient Nation (Executive Office of
the President 2013b).
Today, following a strident turn towards resilience a decade ago, CIP seems to have become the
responsibility of every US citizen – at least from the perspective of policy makers. While CIP
used to be a matter of hardware protection and defensive measures it has evolved into a much
more practice-based approach addressing the adaptive capacities in socio-technological systems.
In such complex systems resilience is not just a property built into the design by engineers and
developers but a set of practices that all together enable the system to become self-healing in
times of trouble. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 were the major event that fuelled this hierarchical
change, and resilience functioned as a convenient concept in that process, effectively distributing
ownership of CIP to the entire population and, indeed, placing some responsibility at the global
4. A global version of resilience: the Hyogo framework for action
Events are necessarily local. Somewhere. Situated. (Mol 2002, 180)
The World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR) in Kobe, Japan, in 2005 by the UN
marked an important transition in the field of disaster perception and management worldwide.
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50 R. Dahlberg et al.
The conference was a post cursor to the Yokohama Strategy of 1994–2004 where only natural
disasters were thematic and strategies were restricted to developing education and technology
for disaster warning systems or coordinating ground operation efforts (UNISDR 2014). Gaps
had been identified and lessons had been learnt from the Yokohama Strategy. As a result, at the
2005 conference, building resilience was presented as a holistic, strength, and capacity build-
ing endeavour that would result in nations and communities being better equipped to cope with
natural and/or other disasters (Pelling and Dill 2010). The conference concluded with the sign-
ing of what is now commonly known as the ‘Hyogo Framework for Action 2005–2015 (HFA):
Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters’.
With the overarching goal of building community resilience by reducing vulnerabilities, the
HFA identified five key areas as priority for national disaster recovery strategies. Essentially
these five areas encompassed DRR being presented as a national and local priority with a
strong institutional basis for implementation, invited researchers to identify, assess, monitor, and
respond to disaster risks including with the enhancing of early warning systems and identifying
underlying risk factors, and encouraged education and knowledge sharing to build a culture of
safety and resilience at all levels. The HFA will conclude its 10-year action plan in 2015 and
will function as a precursor to a second phase at the WCDRR in Sendai, Japan. Needless to say,
a discussion on building and measuring resilience in the context of DRR as well as its interplay
with vulnerability, risk, and robustness is at its peak again and the need to provide a meaningful
way forward is therefore vital to the UN and its signatories.
Researchers suggest that, with HFA, building resilience has become an important goal in haz-
ard planning and DRR for some signatories (Mayunga 2007, 1). Disaster research experts such
as Gaillard (2010) argue, however, that more attention needs to be paid to addressing risk fac-
tors, and therefore to reducing vulnerability. With 168 nations as signatories to the HFA, it has
become a global document with very little local impact. There seems to be a need to enhance
resilience by viewing it as a process and not as a standalone event achieved by a single insti-
tution. Although there is a requirement for institutional arrangements for successful resilience,
there is also evidence from Peru that ‘locally specific disasters and global climate change take
place in the context of vulnerability’ (Oliver-Smith 2014, 97).
For example, in Indonesia, it is claimed that there is success in forming institutions at the
national level to address DRR as well as resilience. This has not been achieved at the local level
(Djalante et al. 2012). For over two decades, studies have shown the importance of community
involvement in disaster risk management. One such recent example is the importance of indige-
nous institutions in building resilience (Rumbach and Foley 2014). The recent findings of a HFA
study states that one of the areas for improvement is the strengthening of local capacities for
disasters (UNISDR 2014). In this regard, local-level institutions need to have more ownership of
the process of resilience building.
Gaillard (2010) indicates that CCA and DRR continue to remain isolated from each other.
Researchers also note the difficulties in meaningfully and universally measuring resilience as
one of the key reasons for disparity in representation (Adger 2000). Growing discussions and
debates around resilience also raise questions of the potential to integrate resilience initiatives
with adaptation initiatives and DRR. A criticism of the HFA has also therefore been that aca-
demic communities and practitioners working in adaptation and risk reduction have continued
to work in isolation (Thomalla et al. 2006).The challenge ahead for a multi-level understanding
of resilience is to bridge this gap and not continue to institutionalise different aspects of disaster
recovery in separate silos. While there exist global frameworks, the impacts of these frameworks
need to be echoed locally. This entails moving towards making fundamental changes in bridging
gaps between policy and practice at all levels.
So what will the road to Sendai in 2015 look like? It is of course expected that the HFA will
be debated at length and a tone will be set for the next phase of DRR and resilience protocol for
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Civil Engineering and Environmental Systems 51
signatories. While there is no doubt a greater need exists for national-level agencies to collabo-
rate at multiple levels, the role of communities by active participation must not be overlooked.
In fact, critics such as Oxley (2013, 2) suggest that merely an ‘extended version’ that overlooks
activities at individual and community levels will be insufficient and that the HFA needs ‘changes
which are both, fundamental and strategic in nature’. Whether resilience resurfaces at operational
and universal levels, whether the interplay between vulnerability and resilience is addressed, and
whether climate change is presented as an imminent disaster in this next phase of the HFA nev-
ertheless remain to be elucidated. Conversely, since the establishment of the HFA the integration
of resilience as a capacity-building and recovery-enhancing attribute at a national level as well
as a humanitarian relief effort at a societal level is unquestionable.
5. Concluding remarks
Might it be the case that different networks hang together in different ways, are there different kinds of associations?
(Mol 2002, 70)
At present, resilience is being written in books, typed on computer screens, taught at universities,
and embedded in policies across the world. In addition we see an increase in use of the term
resilience in job postings, organisational policies, and everyday disaster research conversation as
well. Our research shows that the more widespread the use of this term, the more versions there
are of its definitions and purposes. At the crux of the issue is the contextual relevance of each
version to the system it is referring to, that is, individual, community, or society. In this paper,
we have aimed to present three such versions to demonstrate the complexity of the term at the
societal, national, and global levels.
Resilience has also come to be a keyword that appears in research papers and journal titles
in the disaster research field. Yet there are also times where a need to bring resilience closer
to meaningful and tangible concepts is greatly felt (Schipper 2009; Schreiber 2014). Resilience
‘cuts across development, humanitarian and environmental processes’ (Mitchell 2012,9)justas
resilience cuts across disciplines and within a discipline. Through three perspectives of resilience
in emergency response and disaster research, this article has aimed to demonstrate the complexity
in universalising or diversifying it.
According to the theoretical development of post-ANT by the anthropologist Mol (1999),
any object is shaped by the practices, which are furthermore enacted in different versions.Mol
describes how a concrete disease, atherosclerosis, is being treated in a hospital by different
disciplines, with each discipline using a different approach from different areas of knowledge.
Surgeons, pathologists, medical doctors, laboratory technicians, and radiologists use patient con-
sultations, amputations, microscopy, record keepings, blood samples, etc. in various ways (Mol
2002). The object is enacted in different versions: though it still refers to the same abstract object.
Similarly with the concept of resilience, we are here addressing an intricately diversified process.
At a societal level, we are reminded of a version of resilience that is relevant to the community
following a disaster. In the example presented, we observe the renewed role of the church in
shaping communities and providing care to deal with current and future traumatic situations. At
the same time, the church itself transforms into a place of protection and recharging of resilience.
We noted how the transition from vulnerable as a term to resilience as an action began its
journey with the HFA and trickled into use in the US CIP protocol, which presents changes in
the governmental approach from one of preventing an attack to one of preparing for the blow.
Specifically the mention of ‘self-healing’ Critical Infrastructure systems in the 2004 National
Plan marked a pivotal juncture towards resilience and resilience-building exercises in US CIP.
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52 R. Dahlberg et al.
A self-healing system accepts its vulnerability and instead utilises its adaptive capacities to
countermeasure disturbances through self-organisation.
We are alerted to the devastation in the wake of acute events and our incapacity in mitigat-
ing the impacts of acute, natural disasters. Therefore, we redirect focus to strategies that address
identifying vulnerability and mitigating risk in order to build resilience. Resilience, particularly
in the disaster research context, is inarguably linked to eliminating vulnerabilities and managing
risk. Discussion on the relatedness of the three concepts is beyond the scope of this article. We do
however endeavour to make readers alert to shortfalls in using only vulnerability or risk as indica-
tors of resilience and that resilience is a process rather than a standalone concept. The challenge
for the global community is to unify and quantify these attributes in order to provide directed
and effective support. The attributes of resilience are understood in different contexts (Klein,
Nicholls, and Thomalla 2003) and it is therefore important to acknowledge this complexity when
designing strategies to build resilience in vulnerable communities globally.
These versions in this article highlight the connection between risk of an acute event, pre-
existing characteristics or vulnerabilities, and the resulting resiliency. We are also reminded
of the intricacies of these interactions and how they shape the policy and political arena. We
are increasingly made aware that the use of resilience as a descriptive concept or process is
quite diverse across disciplines and versions. We have argued that common characteristics such
as threat, positive outcome, preparedness, survival, adaptability, experience, coordination, and
cooperation tie these versions together.
We believe that a more acute awareness of the entanglement of these different levels and
versions of resilience inevitably promotes the meaningful use of the term resilience – in the
present and the future.
All authors contributed equally to the manuscript: CTJH to the use of ANT and Version I, RD to Version II, ER and ST
contributed to Version III, ST to introduction and discussion.
Christine Tind Johannessen-Henry, Emmanuel Raju, and Suhella Tulsiani are funded by the University of Copenhagen’s
Changing Disasters project. Rasmus Dahlberg is funded by the Danish Emergency Management Agency (DEMA). All
are hosted by the Copenhagen Centre for Disaster Research (COPE).
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
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... De entrada, debe señalarse que la resiliencia social implica a todo un sistema (Dahlberg et al., 2015), traspasando incluso el nivel de agrupamiento individual (Common y Perings, 1992). De esta manera, las primeras aproximaciones a la resiliencia social se han encuadrado bajo el paradigma de los llamados complex adaptive systems, sistemas adaptativos complejos que integran a todos los agentes, que interactúan a su vez entre sí en varios niveles (personales, laborales, familiares, sociales, etc...) y grupos, conformado múltiples elementos interconectados (Maclean et al., 2014). ...
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... Explaining the reasons for natural disasters and the positive effects of every disaster on the victims' lives can accelerate the victims' rehabilitation and change their perspectives (Dahlberg et al., 2015). The study of impacts of religious beliefs on society's response to disasters suggested that a spiritual rehabilitation approach for the survivors is to provide answers to their queries, such as "why did the disaster happen?", ...
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Co-learning Disaster Resilience: A Person-centred Approach to Understanding Experiences of Refuge and Practices of Safety
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This report aims to provide a state-of-the-art of the existing academic literature linking social media and crowd sourcing (SMCS) with disaster management processes (DMP). This is to improve institutional resilience; and map existing European formal governance processes in relation to SMCS and disasters across three levels of government: Global, European and national.
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Energy resilience is a complex issue, encapsulating a diversity of factors. Such complexity makes effective policymaking difficult, and requires a whole-systems approach. This paper argues that the bottom-up participatory causal loop mapping method can be helpful in facilitating a shared understanding of the issues, and can help facilitate the application of a whole-systems approach to the design of effective policy interventions. Focusing on Nepal as a case study, this paper outlines the participatory approach, highlighting the method’s value in visualising the variables and interconnections affecting the resilience of Nepal’s electricity supply. Through the mapping, participants identified four interconnected groups of factors as important for resilience: governance, technology, economic and social. Within these, political leadership was noted as particularly important. Environmental factors were largely absent, which is an interesting result given the emphasis on renewable sources and clean technologies in energy policy in Nepal. The outcomes of our bottom-up participatory approach show the significant benefit of using this approach for highlighting context-dependent understandings of complex issues and represents a novel methodological innovation for energy research, which could be applied in diverse geographies and contexts.
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This paper examines the development over historical time of the meaning and uses of the term resilience. The objective is to deepen our understanding of how the term came to be adopted in disaster risk reduction and resolve some of the conflicts and controversies that have arisen when it has been used. The paper traces the development of resilience through the sciences, humanities, and legal and political spheres. It considers how mechanics passed the word to ecology and psychology, and how from there it was adopted by social research and sustainability science. As other authors have noted, as a concept, resilience involves some potentially serious conflicts or contradictions, for example between stability and dynamism, or between dynamic equilibrium (homeostasis) and evolution. Moreover, although the resilience concept works quite well within the confines of general systems theory, in situations in which a systems formulation inhibits rather than fosters explanation, a different interpretation of the term is warranted. This may be the case for disaster risk reduction, which involves transformation rather than preservation of the "state of the system". The article concludes that the modern conception of resilience derives benefit from a rich history of meanings and applications, but that it is dangerous – or at least potentially disappointing – to read to much into the term as a model and a paradigm.
The nation’s health, wealth, and security rely on the production and distribution of certain goods and services. The array of physical assets, functions, and systems across which these goods and services move are called critical infrastructures (e.g., electricity the power plants that generate it, and the electric grid upon which it is distributed). The national security community has been concerned for some time about the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to both physical and cyberattack. In May 1998 President Clinton released Presidential Decision Directive No. 63. The Directive set up groups within the federal government to develop and implement plans that would protect government-operated infrastructures and called for a dialogue between government and the private sector to develop a National Infrastructure Assurance Plan that would protect all of the nation’s critical infrastructures by the year 2003. While the Directive called for both physical and cyber protection from both man-made and natural events implementation focused on cyber protection against man-made cyber events (i.e. computer hackers). Following the destruction and disruptions caused by the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the nation directed increased attention toward physical protection of critical infrastructures. Over the intervening years, policy, programs, and legislation related to physical security of critical infrastructure have stabilized to a large extent. However, current legislative activity has refocused on cybersecurity of critical infrastructure. This report discusses in more detail the evolution of a national critical infrastructure policy and the institutional structures established to implement it. The report highlights two primary issues confronting Congress going forward, both in the context of cybersecurity: information sharing and regulation.
The Andean nation of Peru is currently assessed to be particularly vulnerable to climate change. Andean populations are vulnerable to both disasters and climate change effects due to poverty, food insecurity, poor health and marginalisation. Adaptation to climate change and disaster risk reduction in Peru must address systemic vulnerabilities rather than weather related disaster effects only. Policies must integrate measures to address specific hazards with programs to reduce systemic vulnerabilities and societal inequality.