Key Resources: Resilience

Resilience, disaster risk reduction (DRR) and Climate Change

No Accident: Resilience and the inequality of risk. Oxfam Briefing Paper (2013) Debbie Hillier and Gina E. Castillo, Oxford: Oxfam International, (last accessed 28 August 2015), 39 pp.

The authors of this paper argue that governments’ and the development sector’s current focus on resilience building can only bear fruit if the extent to which the world’s poor bear the brunt of the shocks and risks caused by climate change, natural hazards, food insecurity and so on, is addressed. The paper outlines the unequal level of risk faced by both poor individuals (with a section specifically addressing increased risk for women) and poor countries, and discusses the role of governments and the international aid sector, with recommendations for both. Central to the paper’s argument is that resilience-building work must address inequality – including gender inequality – and power and rights, and it calls for support to be given to ‘social movements and women’s movements to make risk and inequality a political issue in their countries’ (p.27). It also argues for provision of basic essential services – health, education and social protection – both as a right, and to bolster resilience in the case of shocks.

Leading Resilient Development: Grassroots Women’s Priorities, Practices and Innovations (2011) Maureen Fordham, Suranjana Gupta, Supriya Akerkar and Manuela Scharf, Brooklyn, NY: Groots International and New York: UNDP, Resilient Development GROOTS.pdf (last accessed 28 August 2015) 80 pp.

This paper highlights the importance of thinking of disaster risk reduction (DRR) (and by extension, community resilience) in terms of grassroots women-led development. The paper is divided into two parts. Part I explores the context of increasing occurrences of disaster and the future risks from climate change, followed by a brief overview of community resilience. It then examines how disaster risk reduction differs from traditional disaster management approaches and uses the Pressure and Release model to illustrate the root causes of disaster and climate change vulnerabilities. It goes on to discuss how disaster efforts tend to marginalise women and then presents the ‘sustainable livelihoods approach’ as a framework through which to view the case studies in the second part of the paper, using case study excerpts to illustrate grassroots women’s ability to build each sustainable livelihood resource set. It concludes by drawing connections between disasters, resilience and grassroots women’s development efforts. Part II presents case studies demonstrating a range of resilience-building strategies led by grassroots women’s organisations from around the world, which have secured a range of resources and relationships that have cushioned their communities from disaster-induced shocks and stresses.

Building resilience to environmental change by transforming gender relations. Briefing (2014) Cecilia Tacoli, Emily Polack, Isilda Nhantumbo and Janna Tenzing, London: IIED, (last accessed 28 August 2015) 4 pp.

Arguing that the issue of gender is ‘a latecomer to the policy debates on environmental change’ (p.1), the authors of this short briefing paper seek to foreground the importance of gender analysis in research and policy. The authors define two kinds of resilience: the first strengthens stability in the status quo, avoiding substantive change in development models and in social and political inequalities, and is inevitably short-term; the second – in which the transformation of gender relations is a crucial element – places power relations at its centre, in order to address social injustices that are the root causes of environment crisis. The authors critique recent/current discourse and approaches that are either gender neutral or address women’s practical needs while ignoring gender relations, and propose an approach to be used in any action research in this area.

Resilient Women: Integrating Community Resilience Priorities in Post-2015 Agenda – Action Research of the Community Practitioners Platform for Resilience in Latin America and the Caribbean (2015) Huairou Commission, Brooklyn, NY: Huairou Commisison, Women_web.pdf (last accessed 2 September 2015) 62 pp.

The research reported on in this paper set out to understand the experiences of grassroots (that is, economically marginalised) communities in the areas of disasters and climate change; the risks faced by grassroots women in land and food security; community partners and allies’ roles in resilience building; and programmes and public policies that advance resilience priorities. The paper lays out the methodology of the research, findings from each of the focus areas, case studies from Peru and Honduras, and the priorities identified by participants for enhancing community resilience. Of particular note for the authors was the importance of the issue of land tenure, particularly as it connects with food security.

‘Resilience is futile: the cultivation of resilience is not an answer to austerity and poverty’ (2014) Kristina Diprose, Soundings 58: 44–56

Noting the recent and widespread appearance of the term resilience across diverse policy fields, including urban planning, national security, poverty reduction, and environment, characterised by the author as ‘the bounce-back-ability bandwagon’ (p. 45), this critique highlights the dangers of co-optation of the concept of resilience by neo-liberal policymakers, who use it ‘as a way of encouraging people to live with insecurity because the status quo is deemed insurmountable’ (p. 49). While acknowledging the positives to be found in the notion of resilience, the author argues that its focus on the character of people and communities ultimately serves a neo-liberal political agenda of shifting responsibility for change away from the state.

MacKinnon, Danny and Kate Driscoll Derickson (2012) ‘From resilience to resourcefulness: a critique of resilience policy and activism’, Progress in Human Geography 37(2): 253–270

In this scholarly paper, the authors problematise the concept of resilience, which has migrated from the natural and physical sciences to the social sciences and public policy, and is now used in a wide range of government and policy circles and by grassroots activist groups alike. For the authors, the successful spread of the concept of resilience ‘reflects its ideological fit with neoliberalism’ (p. 257), and ‘places the onus squarely on local actors and communities to further adapt to the logics and implications of global capitalism and climate change’ (p. 266). As an alternative to resilience, the authors propose the concept of ‘resourcefulness’, which has as its focus the uneven distribution of resources within and between communities, whilst maintaining an awareness of the possibilities of community self-determination through local skills.

Women, Gender and Disaster: Global Issues and Initiatives (2009) Elaine Enarson and P.G. Dhar Charkrabarti (eds.) London: Sage, ISBN: 9789351502395

This edited collection brings together contributions organised into four sections: Understanding Gender Relations in Disaster; Gendered Challenges and Responses in Disasters; and, perhaps of most relevance from a gender and resilience perspective, Women’s Organised Initiatives; and Gender-Sensitive DRR. The Women’s Organised Initiatives section provides case studies on women’s responses to disasters, including DRR and resilience-building work in Central America, India, Kenya, Montserrat and Brazil; while the DRR section includes chapters on gender and DRR from both policy and practice perspectives.

Increasing Community Resilience Through The Advancement of Women to Address Climate Change and Natural Hazards (2015) New York: UN Women, office eseasia/docs/publications/2014/6/ireach_brief_june2014.ashx (last accessed 28 August 2015) 4 pp.

Focusing on Pacific Island countries, which are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, this short paper from UN Women outlines the impact of weather related disasters in the region, along with the ‘double disaster’ often experienced by women and girls, who, while already more likely to die or suffer injury in a disaster, can face secondary impacts afterwards, such as increased levels of domestic violence. The paper then describes UN Women’s IReach Programme, which aims to increase Pacific Island women’s participation in DRR, climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts through policy development and disaster response, and highlights the Pacific Gender and Climate Change Toolkit, booklet pages.pdf (last accessed 2 September 2015), designed to support practitioners in mainstreaming gender into the design and implementation of climate change programmes, with a focus on food security, water, and energy.

Women’s leadership in risk-resilient development: good practices and lessons learned (2015) Bangkok: UNISDR, (last accessed 28 August 2015) 38 pp.

This publication from the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction is a collection of case studies from around the world, presenting a wide-range of examples of women-led disaster risk reduction in a variety of contexts across humanitarian, environmental and development sectors, with the aim of shifting the perception of women ‘from beneficiaries to key actors in shaping, building and sustaining resilience to disasters’ (p. vi). While the paper includes no main introduction or conclusion, each case study is set out identically, with Impact and Results; Good Practice; Lessons Learned; and Potential for Replications sections, allowing for ease of reference and comparison.

The South Asia Women’s Resilience Index: Examining the role of women in preparing for and recovering from disasters (2014) Manisha Mirchandani, London: The Economist Intelligence Unit, commissioned by ActionAid, (last accessed 1 September 2015) 65 pp.

This report assesses the extent of women’s involvement in preparing for and recovering from disasters in eight countries, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, the Maldives, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and Japan (which is used as a comparator), focusing on the degree to which women’s needs have been incorporated, and the extent to which these countries are prepared for disasters. The findings are that each of these countries, Japan aside, fares poorly in this regard, with Pakistan scoring worst owing to the presence of higher economic, social and institutional barriers to women’s participation in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and resilience-building than elsewhere, although policies to address this are being developed. The paper highlights the absence of attention to violence against women in DRR policies, despite the high levels of violence in some countries, and describes a ‘vicious circle of vulnerability and disempowerment’ (p. 5) preventing women’s capacity to build resilience from being realised. It contrasts this with the potential of women to engage in DRR work, given their proven skills in community-mobilisation, and notes the significant ‘invisible role’ they play as primary caregivers to those most affected by any shock.

Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 -2030 (2015) Geneva: United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, (last accessed 2 September 2015)

The Sendai Framework was adopted at the Third UN Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, held in Sendai, Japan, in March 2015. The framework provides guiding principles, priorities for action (including Priority 3: Investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience) and targets to be met on disaster risk reduction, globally. The Sendai Framework succeeds the previous UN instrument – The Hyogo Framework for Action, 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters, a stated priority action of which was that ‘A gender perspective should be integrated into all disaster risk management policies, plans and decision-making processes, including those related to risk assessment, early warning, information management, and education and training’. Much work was done by gender experts and women’s rights organisations at the consultation stages of the Sendai Framework in order to influence the final document (see for example the paper Women as a Force in Resilience Building: Gender Equality in Disaster Risk Reduction – Asia–Pacific Input Document for the Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (HFA2) above). The new Framework has had a mixed reception in terms of incorporation of a gender perspective, for example see the statement, ‘Where are Women’s Rights in the Sendai Framework for DRR?’, from the Women’s Environment & Development Organization (last accessed 2 September 2015).

Resilience Scan 2015 Q1: A Review of Literature, Debates and Social Media on Resilience, Thomas Tanner, Aditya Bahadur, Catherine Simonet and Hani Morsi, London: Overseas Development Institute, (last accessed 2 September 2015) 43 pp.

This is the second (at time of writing) in a series of papers, begun in 2014 and produced by the UK’s ODI in response to what it terms the ‘resilience revolution in international development’ (p.1). The papers compile information on the latest research, social media content and events on the topic of resilience. For more, see (last accessed 2 September 2015). A very useful resource, although definitely focused on the scholarly literature, the scan includes ‘insights from resilience experts’, reviews the latest publications, identifying key themes and emerging trends, with this scan highlighting the ‘dominance of issues of gender and inclusion, resilience measurement, and urbanisation’ (p. 1).

Characteristics of a Disaster-Resilient Community: A Guidance Note, Version 2 (2009) John Twigg, London: UCL, (last accessed 2 September 2015) 84 pp.

Developed by a consortium of UK-based INGOs and the UK Department for International Development, this practical document is aimed at governments and CSOs working on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation initiatives at the community level, and aims to shows what an ideal ‘disaster-resilient community’ might consist of by setting out various different elements of resilience. These are presented in a set of Characteristics Tables, divided into thematic areas. The Characteristics do not contain any reference to issues of gender (in)equality. The author states, ‘There is no specific gender element in the Characteristics, but it is implicit across the framework: for example, in Characteristics relating to participation, accountability, indigenous knowledge, cultures and attitudes, well being and social protection. This is another illustration of the need for organizations working with the Characteristics to avoid the ‘checklist’ approach and instead use the resource as a starting point for identifying and discussing relevant issues’ (p. 23). However, the section on the Creation of new Thematic Areas includes a draft by NGO Plan UK, of a set of ‘Characteristics of a Child-Centred and Gendered Disaster-Resilient Community’ (pp. 50-51) which incorporate a set of indicators relating to gender rights.

A comparative overview of resilience measurement frameworks: analysing indicators and approaches (2015) Lisa Schipper and Lara Langston, London: ODI, (last accessed 2 September 2015) 30 pp.

This scholarly paper assesses a range of resilience indicator frameworks in a context in which ‘what counts as an indicator of resilience has been defined and redefined in semi-chaotic fashion according to different interpretations of what the concept means, as well as how best to go about measuring it’ (p. 9). Perhaps of most relevance from a gender perspective is the authors’ finding from their survey of the 17 frameworks of ‘the scant reference to gender or how different groups of people, or even individuals with different levels of vulnerability, can be disaggregated (pp. 19-20). The paper includes an interesting discussion on definitions of resilience, ‘Resilience versus adaptation and vulnerability’; ‘Resilience of ecosystems and social systems’; and ‘Towards sustainable livelihoods’ (pp. 10-11).

Food Security

Gender and Food Security: Towards Gender-Just Food and Nutrition Security. BRIDGE Cutting Edge Pack (2014) Brighton: IDS, (last accessed 2 September 2015)

This recent addition to BRIDGE’s excellent, long-running Cutting Edge series consists of an Overview Report and an 8-page briefing paper (also available in French and Spanish). The 103-page overview report constitutes a thorough investigation of every aspect of food and nutrition security, applying a gender lens to reveal the gender equalities that are contributing to and exacerbating hunger and malnutrition. The report ends with key principles and recommendations, and a comprehensive bibliography. The briefing paper sets out the argument for seeing food security as a gender justice issue, critically examines the existing food security ‘four pillars’ approach from a gender perspective, outlines what needs to change, and concludes with case studies from India documenting the roles of women in improving food security in their communities.

Resilience in Times of Food Insecurity: Reflecting on the experiences of women’s organizations (2014) Lauren Ravon, Ottawa: Oxfam Canada, (last accessed 28 August 2015) 30 pp.

Arguing for the recognition by the international community of women’s organisations as valuable partners in resilience policy and practice, this very valuable report presents research undertaken with 21 women’s organisations from 10 countries, examining their strategies for dealing with vulnerability to shocks and crises, and building resilience in a context of food insecurity. The report identifies what these organisations consider to be the key threats to resilience. Here, while there were some commonalities with current literature on resilience, there were also differences, with no distinction made by research participants between systemic shocks and risks, such as drought and crop failure, and individual or household shocks – many of these deriving from gendered inequalities. The paper highlights the critical role of women’s collective organising in resilience building, and calls for the addressing of gender inequality as a structural barrier to resilience.

Barriers to resilience: The impact of gender inequality on food security (2015) Concern Worldwide, London: Concern Worldwide, (last accessed 1 September 2015) 12 pp.

For the authors of this paper, the gender roles that women and men inhabit can ‘enhance or restrict the opportunities they have to contribute to resilience building’ (p. 3), and this report from INGO Concern, outlines the findings of their research in Chad and Sudan on the links between gender and risks to food security, emphasising the need for resilience policies to address gender equality as a core issue. Looking at evidence from across four areas of household and community life – Decision-making; Livelihoods; Responsibility for natural resources; and Education, the paper sets out the gendered disadvantages experienced by women that contribute to increased vulnerabilities for both them and their communities in relation to food security. The report concludes with some encouraging interim findings from Concern projects in Ethiopia and Niger that aim to address attitudes to gender equality as part of integrated resilience programming, along with a set of policy recommendations.

Women’s resilience to food price volatility: A policy response (2014) Ana Paula de la O Campos and Elisabeth Garner, Rome: FAO, (last accessed 1 September 2015) 28 pp.

This paper from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, focuses on rural women. Traditionally responsible for providing food in the household, the paper identifies two main factors that determine women’s ability to absorb and respond to shocks in a high and volatile food price setting: the gender gap in rural development (for example, lack of access to land, resources and services for female farmers), and women’s traditional roles in society and the household, which can result in women’s reduced food consumption in response to a crisis, increases in women’s time burden as a result of needing to earn extra income or search for cheaper food, and the selling off of women’s tangible assets. The paper recommends a twin-track policy approach to prevent growing gender disparities in future food price shocks, to improve women’s resilience, and help them avoid negative coping strategies. This approach combines closing the gender gap in rural development with the establishment – crucially, before any new crisis – of effective safety net schemes to enable women to build up resources (and therefore resilience), which can be scaled up during a crisis.

Humanitarian work

‘Stress and staff support strategies for international aid work’ (2010) Penelope Curling and Kathleen B. Simmons (2010)Intervention 8(2): 93–105 accessed 18 September 2015)

This paper explore the results from two workplace stress surveys along with respondent self analysis forms, undertaken in a large international aid organisation, with analysis being broken down into sub-groups, one of which being women and men. Stresses of particular concern to female staff members revealed in the findings relate to work-life balance, in a context where women everywhere are primarily responsible for undertaking care work, and around the security situation in many countries, where gender discrimination and harassment, along with social restrictions, can hamper women’s freedom of movement. Harassment in the workplace is touched on in the section of the paper that focuses on the need for provision of staff counsellors within an organisation.

‘Development people: how does gender matter?’ (2015) Anne-Meike Fechter in Anne Coles, Leslie Gray and Janet Momsen (eds.)The Routledge Handbook of Gender and Development, London and New York: Routledge, 550-559

In this thoughtful piece, the author seeks to address the gap in the literature on how gender matters for ‘development people’; as individuals, in relation to internal policies within their organisations, and in terms of the relationship between gender, sexuality, and development workers. The author’s gendered consideration of the stresses inherent in working in what is widely regarded as the ‘macho’ field of humanitarian relief shows that for any organisation seeking to support its workers and build their resilience, neglecting the issue of gender means that only a partial understanding of what affects the well-being of their staff will be achieved.

Organisations and websites

Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153 Rome, Italy, tel: 39 06 57051, email: , website:

The FAO lists as a corporate priority ‘increasing the resilience of agriculture-based livelihoods against threats and crises’. It divides its resilience work into three main areas: natural hazards, food chain threats, and conflicts and protracted crises. Information on the organisation’s strategies for each of these areas of work, and examples of project work from the natural hazards strand, plus additional information, is available on the Resilience pages of the FAO website.

Gender & Disaster Network, School of the Built and Natural Environment, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8ST, UK, tel: 44 (0)191 227 3757, email: , website:

Working through its website, GDN seeks to share knowledge and resources on gender relations in the context of disasters. This includes not only work on gender in disaster risk-reduction (DRR), but also in the areas of climate change, pandemics, and conflicts and displacement. The website hosts and maintains the Gender and Disaster Sourcebook – an electronic guide providing information on such things as planning and practice tools, best practice, and case studies on gender and DRR, with members contributing resources – and gives updates on relevant upcoming events.

gendercc – women for climate justice, email: , website:

With a stated goal of ‘integrating gender justice in climate change policy at local, national and international levels’ gendercc is a networking platform for organisations, institutions, and gender and climate-change experts. It seeks to provide information and resources for those wishing to gain familiarity with the issues, as well as those who are already more deeply engaged in research and action in the area of gender and climate change. Registered users of the website can add literature and case studies to the databases and the website is a valuable resource for the latest publications, news and events in the field of gender and climate change.

Huairou Commission: Women, Homes & Community, 249 Manhattan Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11211-4905 USA, tel: 1-718-388-8915/6761, email:  website:

Huairou is a global coalition of grassroots women’s organisations working on community development, one of their key focus areas being Community Resilience. For Huairou, women’s leadership is central to the development of successful resilience strategies in the face of natural hazards and climate change, and the network helps build the capacity of women’s organisations to undertake this work. The Resilience section of Huariou’s website provides discussion on the issue and solutions, along with a selection of resources, plus information on Huariou’s work in this area.

UNISDR (UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction) 9-11 Rue de Varembé, CH1202 Geneva, Switzerland, tel:   41 229178907-8


UNISDR was created in 1999 to oversee implementation of the UN’s International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction, and serves as the focal point in the UN system for coordination of DRR activities within the UN and beyond. UNISDR is responsible for the implementation, follow up and review of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (Sendai Framework) adopted by the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction on 18 March 2015 in Sendai, Japan, a 15-year voluntary, non-binding agreement for governments on DRR, and which succeeds the previous Hyogo Framework for Action. UNISDR sets out its thinking on ‘gender responsive DRR’ on its website (see the link above).

UN-Habitat,United Nations Avenue, Gigiri, P.O. Box 30030, 00100, Nairobi, Kenya, tel: 254 20 7621234, email: infohabitat@unhabitat, website:

UN-Habitat is the UN agency responsible for urban development, with a mission to promote ‘socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements development and the achievement of adequate shelter for all’. Resilience is one of UN-Habitat’s ‘urban themes’ (as is Gender) and the Resilience page on the organisation’s website outlines how cities can become more resilient, and some of the agency’s work in this area. The agency is holding its third major conference, UN Habitat III, in Quito in 2016. The conference website – – has background documents available on a range of thematic areas.

Women’s Environment & Development Organization (WEDO), 355 Lexington Avenue, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10017, USA, tel: 1 212 973 0325, email via the website, website:

Founded in 1991, WEDO is an international, US-based organisation advocating for women’s equality. It works in four programme areas: women’s leadership, sustainable development; and global governance. The organisation seeks to lobby and influence on sustainable development issues – with a particular focus on climate change – at the international level, monitoring global legal frameworks and laws on gender equality, human rights, and sustainable development, and holding governments to account. The WEDO website contains an online resource guide, providing links to free-to-download resources, including WEDO-authored papers and factsheets. WEDO is currently one of the organising partners for the Women’s Major Group,, which organises participation of women’s NGOs in UN policy processes on sustainable development and environmental matters.