Resilience and Sustainable Peace

Researchers provide resilience concepts and tools that could enable sustainable peace and help navigate risks.

Researchers provide resilience concepts and tools that may enable sustainable peace and help navigate risks


Over the last century there have been significant improvements in human wellbeing. But rising inequalities, climate change, biodiversity loss, and poverty continue to be major challenges. In addition, global connectivity also exacerbates the spread of risks arising on one side of the planet that can have impacts on the other side.

In this background paper, researchers from the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden, and the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition, South Africa, show how resilience thinking, concepts and tools can, and should, be used and applied to development, risk management, and peacebuilding activities. The paper was prepared for the UN75 Sub-regional meeting on multilateral cooperation to address climate-related security and development risks with a focus on Sahel, that was held 3-4 March 2020 in Dakar, Senegal.

Resilience is the ability of a system – be it a city, a forest or an economy – to persist, adapt and transform in the face of change. Throughout the paper, the authors show how resilience can be applied and provide concrete examples.

They state that by applying social-ecological resilience to development and risk management, it can allow one to look beyond locally, beyond sustainability and beyond persisting. It allows one to consider global as well as local dynamics, to view people and the planet as deeply linked, and to move from a state of persistence to transformation.

The authors propose steps that can be taken towards enabling sustainable peace. These include creating platforms for dialogue among different stakeholders. Resilience thinking can also provide practitioners with anticipatory conflict management tools, such as building social capital, embedding learning-based management, or enabling a set of diverse stakeholders to equitably manage resources.

The report also addresses the rise of systemic risks. These are the types of risks that arise in one place and have a major impact someplace else, across systems – such as for example the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. It spread rapidly across the globe, affecting not only health systems, but also supply chains, transport systems, and the environment – to name but a few – resulting in impacts across social, economic and political systems worldwide.

The strong and many global connections that characterise the world today exacerbate such systemic risks, which in turn can influence violent conflict. For example, food price spikes in 2008 and 2010 driven by volatile energy prices, highly connected food production systems, and unpredictable financial markets triggered shocks to societies and places around the globe. This resulted in food riots and violence in dozens of countries. Systemic risks imply that local peace-building activities should consider novel approaches such as tracking financial speculation on food commodities or identifying the financial system leverage points that support sustainable investments.

Finally, new resilience-based approaches are also needed to manage emerging risks and enable peace, promoting the importance to continually monitor, learn and experiment.

The full background paper can be found here: Resilience and Sustainable Peace: Managing Climate Related Security & Development Risks in the Anthropocene

Feature photo © European Union, 2018