Transforming Vulnerable Lives and Systems with Resilience in Policy
At its core, resilience work is about working with vulnerable people and places to adapt in times of intense change. Resilience approaches encourage multidisciplinary collaboration by humanitarian and development professionals to mitigate the impact of shocks and stresses on well-being outcomes.
The strategies, assets, and resources used to minimize risks and impacts on well-being depend on the dynamics of the system in which shocks or stresses occur and the level of vulnerability faced because of one’s social group and location. As a result, resilience involves not only supporting individuals in minimizing their vulnerability and adapting their livelihoods, practices, and behaviors, but also influencing the policy norms, networks, and mechanisms that make up the enabling environment.
Here are a few examples of how USAID’s strategic collaborations with governments are helping to transform lives and systems in the long term by reducing chronic vulnerability and facilitating inclusive growth.
Kenya: ending drought emergencies
The damaging impact of drought in Kenya is likely to worsen with climate change, destroying lives and livelihoods and undermining national development. However, these outcomes could be at least partially mitigated if adequate and appropriate measures are taken in advance, particularly in strengthening capacity to withstand periods of drought. The Government of Kenya has committed $1.6 billion to ending drought emergencies by 2022.
Donors and partners are aligning around six pillars of the Ending Drought Emergencies (EDE) framework: peace and security, climate-proofed infrastructure, human capital investments, sustainable livelihoods, drought risk management and institutional development and knowledge management. USAID’s Partnership for Resilience and Economic Growth (PREG) in the semi-arid and arid lands region of Kenya is nested within the initiative to bring together humanitarian and development partners to work with the Kenya National Drought Management Authority and county governments to build resilience among vulnerable pastoralist communities, create economic opportunities, and reduce humanitarian assistance needs to recurrent shocks.
Sahel and West Africa: Global Alliance for Resilience (AGIR)
The recurrent food and nutrition crises that affect millions of vulnerable people led Sahelian and West African stakeholders and their international partners to form a global alliance. Launched within the Réseau de prévention des crises alimentaires (Food Crisis Prevention Network) in 2012, AGIR focuses on the most vulnerable populations with the goal of eradicating hunger and malnutrition by building resilience to crises and shocks. Through this regional roadmap and with USAID support, AGIR channels individual resilience efforts towards a common results framework. Each country conducted an inclusive dialogue process to formulate its own national resilience priorities focused on strengthening social protection and governance for food and nutritional security for the most vulnerable communities and households.
In two of these countries, Burkina Faso and Niger, a USAID portfolio called Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced (RISE) aligns with and provides additional support to these countries’ priorities by layering and sequencing life-saving humanitarian assistance while reducing vulnerability to shocks and stresses. RISE II (2018–2022) broadens USAID’s collaboration with the Governments of Niger and Burkina Faso and aims to create better access to and management of water and other natural resources, promote business development and opportunities to engage in growing markets, improve health and nutrition outcomes, strengthen community and national health systems, strengthen effective governance at all levels, and empower women and youth to be a force for positive change in their communities.
RISE II takes into account important and cross-cutting challenges, especially the increase in violent extremism and instability in the region. The portfolio contains internal and external coordination mechanisms to facilitate discussion between development and humanitarian actors to coordinate responses to evolving challenges, such as the massive increase of internally displaced people in Burkina Faso in the last year. RISE II integrates a holistic approach to risk mitigation and response, strengthening local capacities to prepare for, respond to and recover from shocks and constraints. For example, activities are required to develop contingency plans to prepare in advance for shocks and many contain crisis modifier provisions that allow extra resources to be made available rapidly as conditions change. This innovative model, designed to complement USAID's humanitarian assistance and improve effectiveness and efficiency of all USAID efforts, is also informing resilience efforts beyond the Sahel.
Malawi: National Resilience Strategy
In 2015/16, Malawi’s agriculture season experienced a late onset of rains, prolonged dry spells, and incidence of floods across regions of the country. A severe drought made worse by El Niño exacted a heavy toll. The Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee indicated a total of 6.7 million people were severely affected, an estimated 40 percent of the country’s population. The delivery of Malawi’s largest humanitarian response in 2016/17 prompted the government of Malawi and its development partners to shift policies and approaches.
The National Resilience Strategy (NRS) aims to break the cycle of food insecurity in Malawi by bridging development and humanitarian interventions and prioritizing more predictable livelihood support packages that target vulnerable households, including by strengthening formal social safety nets. This will enable a shift in thinking from responding to shocks after they happen to preventing their occurrence.
The NRS guides key programs and investments to work better together to tackle chronic food insecurity and poverty by actively reducing chronic vulnerability and risks, while also strengthening opportunities for households to embark on pathways out of poverty. In support of these efforts, USAID launched a Development Food Security Activity called Titukulane (Let’s develop together) that is layered with food security and market systems strengthening activities, along with a strong focus on watershed and natural resource management, to sustainably and equitably improve food and nutrition security. Titukulane also embeds an advisor to support the Government of Malawi’s management and implementation of the NRS.
Building Capacity in the Face of Risks
Resilience work can reduce recurrent crises and the losses of lives, aspirations and livelihoods that occur as a result. Such preventive and proactive work develops the capacity of people and systems to anticipate and mitigate shocks and stresses with the aim of sustainably escaping poverty. USAID’s work to support governments’ policies to manage risks leading to humanitarian need and strengthen the resilience of people and systems in their journey to self-reliance is an increasingly important and effective way of preserving people’s dignity and providing poverty escapes.