Current Issue

Resilience: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Science and Humanitarianism
(Volume 2)

Table of Contents


Astier Almedom

Editor's Note


John Parker, Eric Vaughan, and Jeffrey Bate

Resilience and Sustainability of Water Resources in the São Francisco River Basin, Brazil: an Assessment and Plan of Action

In 2003, a Strategic Action Program (SAP) was developed to guide integrated water resources management (IWRM) in the São Francisco River Basin (SFRB) of northeastern Brazil with the input of over 12,000 people and 400 institutions. This paper assesses the ability of the SAP to effectively implement IWRM in the SFRB by carrying out a multi-faceted analysis under the framework of resilience and sustainability. Three analyses – an Institutional Network Analysis, Water Use Analysis and Environmental Impact Analysis – identified critical areas of social and ecological vulnerability in the SFRB, including fragile basin-level institutions; rapidly increasing water use; high levels of inequality; and inadequate consideration of ecological health criteria. These areas of vulnerability are hindering the effective implementation of IWRM in the SFRB. With the goal of informing donor agencies, policy-makers and civil society organizations in the SFRB, four principal areas of policies and investments are recommended. These include: (1) build the capacity of the São Francisco River Basin Committee and basin-level institutions to improve shared governance and meaningful stakeholder participation; (2) reduce socioeconomic inequality in the Lower Basin; (3) improve water use efficiency among water users, particularly in the agricultural and industrial sectors; and (4) improve the decision-making and coordination of reservoir operations. The implementation of these recommendations will help build sustainable and resilient social-ecological systems that are able to better withstand unexpected shocks and meet the demands of current and future generations.


Ahmed Idris

Taking the Camel Through the Eye of a Needle: Enhancing Pastoral Resilience
Through Education Policy in Kenya

Since the introduction of free and mandatory education in Kenya in 2003, the number of children who have enrolled in formal primary education has increased tremendously. However, the pastoralist areas have continuously recorded a much lower enrollment and completion rates as compared to the rest of the country. Increasing scholarship establishes a nexus between the low pastoralist participation in formal schooling and the failed education strategies that are considered inappropriate to the circumstances in Kenya?s pastoral districts. Acknowledging this reality, the Government of Kenya formally adopted the Nomadic Education Policy in 2010 to ostensibly boost education access to Nomadic communities. This study seeks to understand content of the Nomadic Education Policy through a prism of pastoral livelihood and resilience. It seeks to establish the extent, which the policy can offer a radical departure from the past, contributing not only to higher enrollment in schools but also enhancing resilience of pastoralist communities.


Ola Dahlman

Security and Resilience

We witness today dramatic developments in Egypt and Tunisia that may lead to fundamental changes in many of the social-economic-political structures in these and maybe also other countries in the region. We have in the past seen such dramatic and rapid changes, most memorably during the break up of the Soviet Union some twenty years ago. How come that these dramatic changes are coming so rapidly and unexpectedly? Can we use the concept of resilience to help understand what is happening and why? May we, at some time in the future, even be able to use resilience to predict when a state or a group of nation states are approaching a dangerous situation and to find a safe way to avoid failure? This paper gives a brief introduction to the resilience concept and presents some examples of developments within large-scale social-economic- political systems that might be looked at through the lens of resilience. The intent is to stimulate thinking on how to conduct more comprehensive resilience analysis to address the stability of nation states and other large scale and complex social- economic-political systems.


Jasmine Barrett

The North Korean Healthcare System: On the Fine Line Between Resilience and Vulnerability

The healthcare system of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) has been under significant stress due to lack of resources since the country fell into economic recession in the mid 1990s. This paper examines the current status of the system using the lens of resilience, focusing on the coping mechanisms employed by individuals, families, and healthcare workers. It is suggested that although the system has demonstrated elements of resilience, it would appear that it has been unable to return to “normal” function following the economic recession, and is now in a seemingly permanent position of vulnerability due to its reliance on international assistance.


Hillary Eason

No Recourse Left: The Impact of Poverty on the Resilience of Women from the Migrant-Sending Countries of Central Asia to HIV/AIDS

In recent years, Central Asia has found itself with one of the fastest-growing HIV epidemics in the world. Poverty, while not a direct cause of HIV/AIDS infection in the region, is a recurring theme in any overview of the many ways Central Asian women find themselves susceptible to the disease. This paper attempts to trace poverty as a variable that negatively affects the resilience of women in the migrant-sending countries of Central Asia (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan); resilience is defined as —the capacity of individuals, families, communities, systems and institutions to anticipate, withstand and/or judiciously engage with catastrophic events and/or experiences? (Strauch, Muller, and Almedom 2008). In the paper, the direct and indirect effects of poverty on women‘s social capital are analyzed, as well as its impact on women‘s tendencies towards high-risk behavior. The evidence presented suggests that HIV prevention for women in the region should be expanded from current approaches that focus largely on existing high-risk populations, and that a shift in our HIV paradigm is necessary in order to understand the disease as a social health issue that requires structural reforms to effectively halt.


Ashraf Elhofy

Understanding the Cholera Epidemic in Haiti: Comparing Disease Focused, with a Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) Approach

Vibrio cholerae, has managed to easily weave its way through the country of Haiti resulting in the deaths of thousands of people. This is in part due to instabilities in a number of infrastructural components needed to secure the health of the Haitian people. Political strife influenced by both international and local entities continues to plague Haiti resulting in poor management and allocation of local and international funds. Water and sanitation infrastructure is non-existent, leading to the spread of lethal diarrheal diseases. The healthcare system is inadequately funded, resulting in poor access to essential healthcare. Social support networks are faltering as violence washes through the streets. And these are just a few examples of instability in critical systems required to ensure the health and safety of the Haitian people. What adds to the complexity are the many hands that are involved in “fixing” the problems of Haiti. Thousands of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are currently operating in Haiti, many focusing on the recent cholera epidemic. The pervasive strategy addressing the cholera epidemic in Haiti has been a disease-focused approach that measures its success based on a number of health indicators. Where health indicators are helpful, if they are not used appropriately it can lead to a deficient strategy that neglects the larger picture. This paper will explore and compare the disease focused and complex adaptive system (CAS) approaches. The purpose is to demonstrate how CAS holistically evaluates a system identifying critical interactions that effect long term stability. Through the understanding of these interactions appropriate strategies targeting a number of systems (political, water and sanitation, healthcare, economic, social, etc.) can be developed, thereby moving away from the traditional only intervention/outcome approach to embrace a comprehensive, holistic one.