Developing strategies to end hunger

Resilience: Not Another Acronym

In our world of acronyms, chances are that like myself, you have found yourself in that awkward situation -– when you stumble across a mysterious acronym, and with a good degree of embarasssment you recite it, still wondering what it means. You all know how that goes. Fortunately, this blog post is virtually an acronym-free zone, so that you dont leave still wondering whether you missed something. It is about a critical concept in development --resilience.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) defines resilience as the ability of people, households, communities, countries, and systems to mitigate, adapt to, and recover from shocks and stresses in a manner that reduces chronic vulnerability and facilitates inclusive growth. Resilience should be about preventing repeated humanitarian interventions by bringing humanitarian and development goals closer and making people much less vulnerable.

This week- in Washington D.C, USAID launched its first-ever policy guidance on building resilience to recurrent crisis. The new Resiliency Policy seeks to act on the root causes of people’s vulnerability -- not just make people better able to bear the effects. The policy also comes at a critical time, when it could help to make resilience a part of the post-2015 development framework. According to Bread for the World Institute's 2013 Hunger Report, Within Reach: Global Development Goals, the world has made great progress in reducing hunger and poverty. But food price volatility, increasing demographic pressures, resource scarcity, and other shocks remind us of how fleeting those gains are.

ResiliencyFrom left to right: His Excellency Elkanah Odembo, Kenyan Ambassador to the U.S; Neal Keny-Guyer, CEO- Mercy Corps; Nancy Lindborg, Assistant Administrator- Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance at USAID; David Beckmann, President- Bread for the World; and Carolyn Woo, President & CEO - Catholic Relief Services at the launch. Photo/Alex Loken- Bread for the World

Amid drought in the Horn of Africa, floods in Southeast Asia, and the current crisis in the Sahel, the importance of an integrated approach to sustainable development cannot be overemphasized. The ongoing drought in the Sahel and the famine in the Horn of Africa both reinforce the role of social safety net programs in providing a broad package of support for the most vulnerable — from specialized nutrition products to protect the minds and bodies of young children, to investments in sustainable land management that help communities build resilience to drought and other shocks.

Evidence shows that such investments are cost-effective, and they save millions of lives. For example, when food prices rose in 2008, hasty responses such as some countries' bans on exporting food contributed to driving 100 million people into poverty — the first increase in decades. When food prices rose again in 2011, however, the world avoided poor policy responses and invested instead in long-term food security. During the world’s worst drought in 60 years, this approach was validated by Kenya's and Ethiopia’s ability to avoid famine, thanks in part to President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative and its emphasis on building resilience through agricultural development.

Moving forward, the new resilience policy could help to ensure that the process of reaching agreement on post-2015 global development goals is open and includes a wide range of development actors, including emerging donors, civil society, the private sector, and most importantly-- the vulnerable communities themselves. Faustine Wabwire is senior foreign assistance policy analyst at Bread for the World Institute.


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