Science supports politics
Resilience Academy Capstone Conference 2017
40 graduates of the Resilience Academies 2013 to 2016 followed our invitation to Washington D.C. The goal was further subject-related networking between all academy graduates of the last years and to publish the most important results. How are resilience, livelihoods and damage from climate change connected? How can society be strengthened?
Resilience is – vastly simplified – the ability of individuals, societies or systems to resist shocks or slowly imminent perils and to overcome adverse consequences. The term "Livelihoods" describes the way of life and maintenance opportunities available to people in a specific region. A small fishing village on the coast of Bangladesh, for example, may initially be limited to fishing. When people are able to operate agriculture, new vistas will be opened up. If they also have access to local markets, stores and new economic options may appear.
What is the link between resilience and risk management in case of natural disasters? When a storm or tidal wave hits a village community and destroys its fishing boats, this implies a great loss for the people. If they depend exclusively on their income from fishing, this event not only poses a risk of short-term economic loss (the fishing boat), but of long-term unemployment and potential poverty as well as greater vulnerability to perils. Income opportunities that are not affected can mitigate the effects of natural disasters. This means that diversification of "livelihoods" plays an important role for the stability of individuals, families and communities.
Damage from climate change – the "Loss and Damage" debate
Both concepts (mitigation and adaptation) are insufficient, however, as recent history has shown: there are regions where the consequences of climate change causes unavoidable damage or destroys entire human habitats irreparably. There are some promising instruments to reduce or buffer damage. Insurance products can be a solution. Sönke Kreft, secretary general of the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative (MCII), showed an example from the Caribbean. Poor but economically active people can purchase a "Livelihood Protection Policy" here to protect them from weather disasters. The annual premium is no more than the price of about three lunches. If a storm in a certain region exceeds a specific force, policyholders will receive a payment within a few days. This permits faster recovery after a disaster. For example, a small kiosk at the coast can be re-constructed quickly, the insured vendor will be able to work and generate income for his family again sooner.
Climate change - migration as a way out?
Some academy attendees are involved in resettlement programs or study how migration flows emerge by environmental changes and how to best manage them. Alberto Praeto, working for the international organisation for migration (IOM) in Niger, draws attention to a missing link in many studies and programmes: "Migration really comprises three large steps: leaving the region of origin, moving to the new home and arriving at the destination. While steps one and three are in the focus, everything in between often is not properly considered in response strategies." This is, however, where people are the most vulnerable and require help. Risk management and planning for accompanied resettlement must also be given more attention during this important phase.
At the Capstone academy, anthropologists, risk managers, social scientists, migration researchers, geographers, urban planners and many others discussed how to deal best with these difficult challenges. They specifically talked about how to contribute the results from research to political decision-making processes. Alice C. Hill, who worked as consultant for resilience and safety matters at Homeland Security in the White House under President Obama, answered questions. "It is important to find a shared language!" Politicians who are responsible for a specific area are not necessarily experts for it as well. Therefore, results from research must be elaborated in a way that even those new to the subject can work with them.
Roger-Mark De Souza, director for population and environmental safety at the Wilson Institute in Washington, picked up this demand and emphasised the significance of the Resilience Academy series: "Interdisciplinary meetings like ours create a proper and safe environment to approach each other and to promote mutual understanding." The Capstone Conference of the Resilience Academies formed the official closure of the five-year academy series. Rather than the many specialist publications developed, the unique network of people and experts from around the world were the greatest success.
The Resilience Academy, 16 to 20 October 2017, was organised by the Munich Re Foundation together with the Institute for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh (ICCCAD), the Institute for Environment and Human Safety at the University of the United Nations (UNU-EHS) and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars (WWCIS) in Washington D.C.
26 October 2017
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