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How does the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) define resilience?

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

DEFINITION: Resilience is the ability of communities to absorb and adapt to shocks, whilst transforming their structures to face long-term change.

  • The OECD understands resilience through these three capabilities: absorption, adaptation and transformation. Absorptive capacity is the ability to prepare, mitigate and prevent negative impacts. Adaptive capacity is the ability to adjust, modify or change policies to moderate potential future damage. Transformative capacity is defined by the creation of a new system so that the shock no longer have any impact.

  • The study of resilience allows analysts to include uncertainty in their analysis by exploring how long-term trends, such as climate change, insecurity, environmental degradation, and demographic changes can alter the nature and impact of shocks in the future.

COMPONENTS: The OECD defines resilience through its four components: type of system, actors in the system, type of risk and policy timeframe.

  • A system can be defined as a unit of society, such as an individual or a state; a natural environment, like a forest; or a physical entity, for instance an urban infrastructure network. The type of system and how it is setup to respond to shocks will influence the type and magnitude of the shock’s impact. The actors in the system refer to the targeted layer of society: individuals or specific groups.

  • Analysts should define the type of risk under evaluation. Risks can be geopolitical, economic, or environmental, amongst others. Finally, the policy frame will determine the duration of the resilience-focused policy. According to the OECD, the longer the timeframe, the more likely it is that shocks will occur, but the more uncertain the analyst will be about how the system can cope with those shocks.

STAKEHOLDERS: Three types of actors should be involved in the study of resilience projects: risk experts, system experts and key decision makers.

  • Three sets of actors can positively impact the study of resilience with their expertise. Risk experts should be at the forefront of resilience analysis. This category includes, among others, scientists, think-tanks, central banks, or economists. Similarly, system experts can be education specialists, chambers of commerce, park rangers, water/electricity companies, or religious leaders. Finally, key decision-makers such as local authorities, ministries, NGOs, development banks, or UN agencies should be included as they will implement new policies based on the study.

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