2015: a pivotal year for creating a resilient society

Maria Noguer is lead educator on the University of Reading’s free online course “Our Changing Climate: Past, Present and Future“. Here, she discusses how three international agreements signed this year could help us create a society that’s more resilient to environmental, economic and social changes.

2015 is a year when the world’s governments sign three major international agreements on three key challenges facing society today:

  1. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR), which was adopted in March 2015, aims to achieve “the substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health, and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, business, communities and countries”.
  2. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in September 2015, give us a plan of action for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership, and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development (the economic, the social and the environmental).
  3. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to be agreed in December 2015 in Paris, aims to achieve a legally-binding and universal agreement, which will provide a framework for transition towards low-carbon societies and economies that are able to withstand climate change.

Given that each of these agreements has its own aims and goals, the key question is: how do we lift the most vulnerable people from poverty to prosperity with secure livelihoods that are resilient to climate change, extreme weather events, and other environmental, economic and social changes?

How do we define resilience?

These frameworks will put us on a path towards achieving a more resilient society. But what is the definition of a resilient society? What do these frameworks have in common? Will they all be going in the same direction or will we end up implementing policies for one that make the situation worse for the others? How can society flourish within its own limits?

There is a danger that, after 2015, these three global processes will diverge and follow their own routes without considering each topic under the common theme of “a resilient society”. Better cooperation and synergies across disaster risk reduction, the sustainable development goals and climate change, will bring joint policy initiatives that will be more effective in enhancing resilience.

How can we coordinate and communicate?

These agreements are a milestone towards a resilient society but they will only have laid the foundations for what happens next. Countries are asking for more scientific evidence, more technical capacity and more coordination of existing networks. It is therefore essential to develop research that builds bridges between disaster risk reduction, sustainable development and climate change.

At the same time, this new science needs to reach and engage with actors beyond the research to enhance its benefits, so communication is also a key component

Moving beyond 2015 requires that these three major agreements, and the polices they will encourage, work effectively together. Building resilience for prosperity is a concept that can unify and align these separate but vital agendas.

How can we adapt, anticipate and absorb?

Resilience is the ability to absorb shocks and continue to function and might, ultimately, come down to three things: the ability to adapt to change, anticipate what might happen next and absorb shocks when they do come along. This is what is known as the 3As framework under BRACED – the Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters initiative, funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

The UN Secretary General is also pushing for Climate Resilience under a proposed anticipate, absorb and reshape (A2R) framework:

“It is time for global action on resilience and disaster risk reduction that not only anticipates and absorbs climate risks, but also reshapes them into an opportunity for safer, sustainable development.”
– Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General, June 2015

To achieve a “resilient society” then, adaptation, anticipation and absorption, together with coordination, communication and cooperation, seem to be the key words. And, ultimately, they will reshape challenges into opportunities.

To find out more about the actions we should be taking to address the challenges surrounding global resilience, join the free online course “Our Changing Climate; Past, Present and Future“.

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Comments (10)

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  • Yvette BEGA

    Very important informations for to help people to know how to be resilient with environment changes. The practice is better that to learn theories. The society must take action to protect our environment.

  • minyahel

    Wonderful expression. Thank you.

  • simon board

    Obviously lots of potential overlap/synergy between the three programmes. Does the UN formally recognise the need to coordinate between them, and has it established a mechanism to do that?

  • Selamat Anwar sadat

    Great Information. can add new knowledge about climate change, thank you

  • Penias Banda

    Climate change is no longer just an environmental issue. It no doubt involves social and economic issues. Hope there are clear linkages/ strategies that make the three agreements relevant to addressing the global challenge at hand. The powers that-be should not isolate the reasons for the agreements and look at the problem of climate change in silos. The poor and marginalized will always be at the receiving end….. waiting to hear about fresh agreements or pronouncements in future while they are wallowing in poverty.

  • Ron Moyes

    Tend not to read the newspapers but pick things up from the internet but these three International Agreements have gone under the radar. Has there been much publicity?

  • RODNEY TITUS

    very informative. one can see here in south africa where im from how climate change / global warming are affecting and are visible in our country . we like on the brink of a problem of food security because of drought in the northern part of our country . farmers do nor cope with the drought and it has an effect on crops produced and loss of live -stock.

  • Jacki

    Most informative..
    How can we safe our World form ourselves???

  • Luke

    Very interesting post, thank you.

  • Kelash sarhadi

    Excellent information.