Key finding: There is very little evidence available of the effects of humanitarian interventions on resilience for a number of reasons. First, the concept of resilience as it is applied to disasters and human societies remains in its infancy. Second, regarding interventions on resilience, there is a limited evidence base and a short retrospective timeframe. Third, the quality of available evidence is an issue. Monitoring and evaluation tends to be geared toward inputs and processes more than outcomes and impact. A number of other inconsistencies make the evidence base problematic, including: different definitions and assessments of effectiveness; the lack of independent assessment in a number of findings; the evidence base being fragmented and often case- or sector-specific; some of the literature being speculative, prescriptive or based on untested assumptions; and the difficulty in establishing causalities.
Nonetheless, the following common themes emerge from the literature.
- Resilience is in good part shaped by larger factors, not created by social engineering. Community resilience is first and foremost an endogenous process.
- Resilience is in part about self-reliance, and donor interventions are not necessarily central. Overall, the most effective efforts are context-specific and tailor their goals and activities to local meanings, priorities and strengths.
- External interventions may do more harm than good. ‘Do no Harm’ principles include the need to commit enough time and resources for the long-term.
- Community resilience must be viewed as a process rather than an outcome
- Programmes for resilience need to be inclusive. They must be carefully designed and implemented in relation to the local context, given the difficulties and risks involved in inclusion.
- Effective coordination between actors is essential, under local or national leadership. Support must be coherent and cover all aspects of disaster resilience holistically.
Using an annotated bibliography, section 2 of this helpdesk report presents general factors shaping community resilience and section 3 presents evidence of the effectiveness of interventions. Section 4 points to additional references.