"Climate resilience activities are still in their infancy" - Interview with Alice Hill

Resilience Academy Capstone Conference 2017

Alice Hill, a Research Fellow from the Hoover Institute, took an active part in our Resilience Academy Capstone Conference 2017 in Washington D.C. as a dialogue partner. Before joining the Hoover Institute, she worked as Special Assistant to President Obama and Senior Director for Resilience Policy for the National Security Council. She also served as Senior Counselor for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Apart from working with topics like national security and climate change, she enforces the incorporation of climate resilience considerations into international development and the establishment of national risk management standards. For us, she answered questions on the impact of the Resilience Academy and on climate resilience approaches.

Alice Hill from the Hoover Institute giving a speech at the Resilience Academy 2017 in Washington.

Last week the Resilience Academy (RA) met at the Wilson Center in Washington. How was your perception and what do you think about the RA?

The Capstone Conference of the Resilience Academy assembled top experts from around the world working on finding real solutions to urgent challenges. Experts shared experiences from all corners of the globe. We heard how Bangladesh reduced cholera outbreaks stemming from flooding, how the United States' national flood insurance program impacts resilience measures, and how the Marshall Islands have experienced an outward migration with many people reluctant to return in light of climate risks. These were just a few of the topics the wide-ranging program touched upon.

Do you think that the Academy has an outreach and will have impact?

The Resilience Academy brings enormous value to the evolving field of resilience. It has the potential to bring better preparedness for ever more frequent disasters. It can help nations identify milestones to meet as they build resilience policies and initiatives. The international collaboration promoted by the Resilience Academy puts us further along the road to ensuring that communities have the necessary tools to build adaptive capacity.  

How about the climate change issue?

Climate resilience activities, although increasing exponentially, are still in their infancy. The Resilience Academy provides the perfect incubator to help climate resilience approaches achieve their full potential quickly and demonstrate their wide applicability.

You chaired a public and private session “Building Coastal Resilience”. What was your biggest learning?

One of the biggest "Aha" moments came when you shared the new ideas around Resilience Bonds improving the risk situation e.g. in a country or on an island. Also the Livelihood Protection Covers developed by the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative (MCII) are very interesting. I had not known that these covers could be purchased by farmers and fisherman so cheaply, indeed, at prices well within their modest means. Use of individual microinsurance or Climate Risk Insurance unlocks unparalleled levels of personal resilience. With personal resilience strong, we have a fighting chance at securing community resilience.

Given the tremendous losses by Harvey, Irma, Maria and other storms – what tasks must we tackle next to improve resilience for the US and beyond?

The next most urgent step for the US and other nations to take  to improve resilience is to capture the moment and use it to promote resilience. When talking about climate risks with people from around the world, I often sense that somehow they believe that climate change will not affect them. I suppose it is part of the optimism bias humans possess. We generally think that we will somehow be spared.  

But the recent huge loss events in the US and elsewhere tell a different story:

With the catastrophic hurricanes and wildfires in the west, we have the full attention of Americans. When catastrophic events occur in other nations, those countries also have the full attention of their people. As nations grapple with the challenges of recovery, they have an unparalleled opportunity to share strategies for building resilience.  They can use those moments to share the vast knowledge already available regarding how communities can build back better-how they can take concrete action to ensure future resilience.  

Can you provide an example?

Steps like enacting stronger building codes, ensuring enforcement of those codes; encouraging increased insurance coverage; insisting on responsible land use planning to move activities further out of the danger zone; increasing education about the health risks from wildfires, flood waters, and extreme heat; developing plans to improve electric grid resiliency; and improving communication about emergency preparedness.  These are just a few of the steps that can be taken. 

What role do we have?

The point is to make sure that, in the aftermath of catastrophe, we find ways to help people understand how they can be safer in the future by building resilience.


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. 

30 October 2017


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