Late last year I attended the Red Cross’ Global Resilience Forum in Cali, Colombia. Cali is possibly one of the furthest cities from Melbourne. It also rates as one of the most dangerous cities in the world (which I found out as I was researching what I might do with spare time while I was there. Ah, stay in the hotel). The forum was hosted by the Colombian Red Cross, a phenomenal organisation. It was an amazing experience on a number of counts. The intent of the forum was to adopt the Framework for Community Resilience, a Red Cross/Crescent document that had been developed over couple of years, with wide consultation.
The Framework is the culmination of two years of workshopping and consultation around the various Red Cross/Crescent member societies and zones. There are a number of things that I quite like about it. Firstly is that it is easy to read and accessible. Many strategies, guides, plans, manuals about resilience are often wrapped up in turgid, impenetrable language, almost as though they are hiding a hard to define concept in jargon. The IFRC framework makes use of simple language and infographics. Which is important, having spoken with colleagues from Germany and China in various forums, they say there are no translations for resilience in their languages.
The framework recognises that resilience operates at a number of different levels. Unfortunately I think there characterisation household and community level being a rolled up collection of resilient individuals doesn’t really cut it. Once you begin to multiply the numbers of people, like probability, there are many combinations, depending on circumstances.
I do like the way community is described. It is one of the interminable debates and challenges of the sector
- often refers to a group of people that live in a defined geographical area
- is often a group of people who share a common culture, values and norms and
- who are arranged according to a social structure that has evolved over time
- might refer to a group at the local, national or international level
- may describe a group of people that come together because of specific or broad interests.
- Individuals may belong to more than one community, in fact the more communities that an individual belongs to the more resilient s/he is likely to be
Particularly the last part, I think is good, it reinforces the complexity what we are dealing with. I am part of the Elwood community, where I live, my school community, the community of middle aged men who should know better but still kick a football, and a work community.
A resilient community is described as:
- knowledgeable, healthy and can meet its basic needs
- socially cohesive
- has economic opportunities
- has well maintained and accessible infrastructure and services
- can manage its natural assets
- is connected
I like the way this describes different elements of resilience, and again highlights some of the complexity we deal with. It is interesting to contrast with the national strategy for disaster resilience, which suggests (paraphrased)a disaster resilient community is one that is well prepared, has good plans, draws upon community strengths, and has recovery plans (a simplistic take on the strategy, I know), but its very much based upon the PPRR of emergency management.
The framework also goes onto to suggest a range of actions and indicators for measuring each of the above attributes of a resilient community. While not perfect, I think it is an excellent contribution to literature relating to resilience.
A snapshot of the forum included many formalities with Ministers and Mayors, many anthems, police guards and motorcades, multilingual sessions, chairing a session in Spanish, French and English, wasting a session on trying to define resilience, extraordinary field visit to a psychosocial program in a town about an hour from Cali, meeting up with people who have been corresponding with over the past couple of years. Cali itself, is a fascinating place. Wracked by violence, a new mayor has slowly been tackling the drug gang violence, side on rather than head on (eg enforcing liquor licensing in bars). I discovered a little of it on morning runs (taking a deep breath and ignoring the security advice) and the Colombians I met were fabulous people, very warm and welcoming.