2014 Resilience Academy participants.
Diana, Andrea and Beth are discussing challenges to build community resilience.

Resilience Academy 2014 – "Livelihoods amidst forced and managed transitions"

Our concept of organising two successive Academies with the same participants has proven its value. From the very first moment, the 35 people attending the Resilience Academy 2014 picked up on the topics from the previous year with great enthusiasm and concentration, and drove forwards academic concepts. We expect to see numerous articles in international specialist publications and media.

The Resilience Academy was held in Frauenwörth Abbey on the Fraueninsel on Lake Chiemsee this year. Nearly all those who had participated in Bangladesh in 2013 returned this year. That is a good sign for the organisers: ICCCAD, UNU-EHS and Munich Re Foundation. One of the goals of the double academies is to draft scientific articles and publish them in recognised specialist journals. We made a lot of progress towards that goal on the Fraueninsel.

The central question remained of how one can improve people's resilience and adaptability to shocks, with the aid of well-considered political framework conditions, supported by scientific know-how. With the academies, we want to create the scientific foundation for this. In particular isolated communities that are exposed to a large number of natural hazards are finding themselves forced to find new solutions as a result of environmental changes, climate change and growing population pressure. Traditional livelihoods can often not compete with new, dynamic developments. Poor countries like Bangladesh are hit especially hard.

New phenomena have been occurring for years now: The rainy seasons are changing, droughts are more prevalent, and the sea levels are rising ever more quickly and pushing salt water onto agricultural land. And Bangladesh still suffers from heavy cyclones. On top of this, the situations of many people are becoming more and more complicated due to social disturbances. These can be in the form of unrest or strikes, population pressure or poverty.

These many risks force inhabitants to adjust their livelihoods to the new circumstances. Traditional methods of cultivation often no longer pay off any more. Advancing river erosion also forces people to move out of their homes. And they can only succeed in doing so if they have the requisite resilience and adaptability. So resilience is of immense importance for the sustainable development of individuals, communities and entire regions.

"Only when one views resilience and livelihoods together can one develop successful strategies," says David Wrathall, Project Manager from UNU-EHS and organiser of the Resilience Academy. "Many processes are today considered in an isolated fashion: fighting poverty, climate change, disaster prevention. That is not good. An integrated approach, like the one practised at the Resilience Academy, is better."

Now is a good time to promote this concept, because in 2015, important international processes will be renegotiated: the Paris climate agreement is to provide the basis, and international goals for sustainable development will be specified in the Sustainable Development Goals. And the Hyogo Framework for Action that prescribes the international strategy for disaster mitigation will be resolved anew in March 2015.

Robin Bronen, a human rights lawyer from Alaska and participant in the academies agrees: "It is high time to take a new, holistic approach. That is the only way that we can guarantee that all people get what they have been entitled to for many years now already under the globally acknowledged human rights: health, an appropriate standard of living and self determination."

Many of the academy participants have positions in institutes, committees and organisations, from which they can have an influence: they work for or with, for example, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC, with UNEP, the World Bank, the Wilson Center in Washington or the German Agency for International Cooperation GIZ. So the research that we promote with the academies is politically relevant.

UNU-EHS, ICCCAD and Munich Re Foundation will set the topic for the Resilience Academy 2015/2016 in autumn 2014. The application cycle will begin before the end of the year. The contact and a closely knit network with the participants in the first two academies will remain – and the participants will again come from the scientific community and the business and political sectors. In this way we can guarantee the lasting success of the results achieved.

CB, JEL, 10 September 2014

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Links to partner organisations

> UNU-EHS

> ICCCAD

> The Wilson Center