The EU’s approach to building resilience outlines a wide range of activities designed to reduce the vulnerability of low-income communities in disaster-prone areas. It is based on the European Commission's extensive experience in responding to crises and in tackling the root causes of weak development.
Recent and recurrent crises have affected 31 million people in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel region of Africa. These figures are just some of the latest data highlighting the need for sustained policy to increase the resilience of vulnerable people in developing countries.
Resilience is the ability of an individual, a household, a community, a country or a region to withstand, adapt, and quickly recover from stresses and shocks such as drought, violence, conflict or natural disaster.
One tool to increase resilience, especially to recurrent crises like droughts and floods, is the 'seasonal safety net' programme. This type of programme targets most vulnerable households in order to catch them before they fall into crisis, for example due to a poor harvest. It commonly involves cash transfers, either unconditionally or in exchange for work or training, to the most vulnerable people during the period of the year when their reserves of money and food are lowest.
Prevention and preparation projects are another proven resilience-building tool. Such projects can be designed to address cyclical risks, such as hurricanes and violent storms during the rainy season, or unpredictable vulnerabilities, such as earthquakes. They work best when they include and are embraced by local communities.
A targeted policy, rooted in experience
In 2012, the European Commission proposed a new policy communication on how EU development and humanitarian aid should be adapted to increase the resilience and reduce the vulnerability of people affected by disasters.
The policy builds on the promising results of the European Commission's resilience-boosting initiatives in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. These flagship initiatives – respectively, AGIR-SAHEL (‘Alliance Globale pour l'Initiative Résilience-Sahel’: global alliance for the Sahel resilience initiative) and SHARE (‘Supporting the Horn of Africa's Resilience’) – are part of the Commission’s response to the drought crises in these regions. They seek to break the vicious cycle of drought, hunger and poverty through sustained coordination between humanitarian and development assistance.
Focusing on resilience saves more lives and is more cost effective than relying exclusively on crisis response. It also contributes to poverty reduction – thus boosting the impact of aid and promoting sustainable development.
An approach in 10 steps
The Commission's new resilience communication outlines 10 steps. These steps include support for the design of national resilience strategies, disaster management plans and efficient early-warning systems in disaster-prone countries. They also put forward innovative approaches to risk management through collaboration with the insurance industry.
The Communication is based on the Commission's extensive experience responding to humanitarian crises and tackling the root causes of weak development. The underlying intention is to use the experience gained through AGIR-SAHEL, SHARE and other initiatives to make sure that EU support helps vulnerable communities not just survive disasters, but become better able to cope with them and recover successfully.