Enhancing resilience to shocks and stresses

This briefing paper introduces the concept of resilience to disaster and climate change, covering how to measure, operationalise and advocate for improved resilience.

In 2011, natural disasters affected more than 244 million, killed nearly 30,770 people and caused $366 billion in damages. In addition in 2011 we faced the first famine of the 21st century in Horn of Africa. The frequency of natural and man-made hazards appears to be increasing over the coming decades and shocks and stresses will affect a large number of people all over the world. Further climate change is already taking place and magnifies the risk of climate-related disaster.

The impact of climate change is leading to increased risks of malnutrition and livelihoods insecurity, particularly amongst the most vulnerable and poorest people.

A shock is defined as a ‘sudden event that impacts on the vulnerability of a system and its components’. In case of slow onset hazards is ‘when the event passes its tipping point and becomes an extreme event.’ A stress is a ‘long-term trend that undermines the potential of a given system and increases the vulnerability of actor within it’.

The impacts of shocks and stresses at the community level depend of the intensity of the hazard, combined with the vulnerability and the capacity of those affected to cope with them.


Disaster risk reduction (DRR) aims to minimize or avoid the losses caused by natural and man-made hazards, through preparedness, mitigation and prevention measures whilst working to build resilience.

Climate change adaptation (CCA) has for objective to develop actions to cope, evolve or profit from changes in climate. Adaptation is a process that implicates multiple stakeholders at different level, involving various sectors of intervention. It requires analysis of climate shocks and stresses of current and future exposures.

With more people than ever before affected by natural disasters, and an increasingly proportionate number of civilian victims suffering from violent conflict, ACF remains committed to responding to humanitarian crises.

ACF adopts a two pronged approach in responding to a humanitarian crisis. The twin track approaches focus to:

• Address the urgent needs of those affected by disasters
• Build adaptive strategy through disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

It is important to notice that the approaches are not dissociating one from the other. Building resilience to disaster of the individuals, households or communities requires simultaneous interaction to cover both urgent needs from shocks and permanent needs by targeting structural causes of vulnerabilities.

Additionally these parallel approaches contribute to strengthen the resilience of threatened populations, through the development of their capacity both at institutional and community level.


About this document

Section: Technical

Thematic Area: Disaster Risk Reduction

Location: Global

Type: Briefing

Tags: Resilience

Language: English

Key Information


Year Published: 2013
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