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Humanitarian Aid on the move # 12, special issue: Environment

Natural resource management – a central pillar of crisis-affected people’s resilience
Blanche Renaudin & Bonaventure Sokpoh

There is a close link between a preserved ecosystem, its resilience and that of the people who depend on it. It is urgent to make natural resource management a central part of resilience strategies, by focusing more on existing strategies based on endogenous knowledge and innovation. This needs to be accompanied by strong commitment from governments, donors, actors and communities to reverse the process of environmental degradation and reinforce people’s resilience.

For a number of decades, there has been global concern about natural resource management and the protection of the environment. This is the consequence of over-exploitation of natural resources and uncontrolled urbanization as well as pollution from industry and agriculture (chemical, greenhouse gases). Aid actors are not exempt from these concerns as these phenomena have direct consequences on certain operational contexts and affect the people who live there. In addition, the fact that aid organizations often have to return to the same contexts to provide assistance raises questions about their ability to reinforce the autonomy of authorities and communities in the face of such situations. These issues are causing a change in paradigm and are placing resilience at the centre of many key actors’ strategies [1] and at the interface between several types of operation, between emergency relief and development.

Resilience is defined as “the ability of a system, community or society exposed to hazards to resist, absorb, accommodate to and recover from the effects of a hazard in a timely and efficient manner, including through the preservation and restoration of its essential basic structures and functions” [2]. Preservation of the environment and resilience building are two concepts which make it possible to respond to the question of disaster risk while preserving the existing potential of the context in question and strengthening the capacity of the affected populations in the medium and long term. The interactions between these two concepts are all the more important as the people who are the most concerned by international aid are also the most weakened by a degraded environment. Wherein the importance of raising awareness among aid actors so that they take the environment into account more in programmes which aim to build resilience.

[1] European Union, World Bank, USAID, DFID, United Nations agencies and NGOs.

[2] Terminology on Disaster Risk Reduction, 2009, UNISDR.