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Resilience is the degree to which the functioning of a system is unperturbed by incidents, either by resisting damage and/or recovering quickly.


The concept of resilience applies to all systems of society (or aspects that can be viewed as a system), if its functioning can be evaluated. As such, the term gained an important role in the field of protection of Critical infrastructure.

Resilience is related to the concept of Vulnerability, in the sense that lowering vulnerability will most likely increase resilience and to the Crisis management cycle that, through a process of constant improvement, aims to increase resilience.

Societal resilience

Societal resilience concerns the well-being (health, morale, etc.), self-protection (asset pattern, income, qualifications, etc.), and social protection (hazard preparedness by society, building codes, shelters, etc.) of the general public. The term also includes the resilience of social and political networks and institutions (social capital, institutional environment, etc.).[1]

Resilience and urban planning

Incorporating both safety and security consideration in the process of urban planning can contribute substantially to the resilience of an urban environment, by reducing potential vulnerabilities and impacts and supporting effective crisis management. Planning can contribute to building a system (of both social and of built environment) “to either absorb or respond to negative external influences or to more generalized experiences of perturbation.” (Coaffee/Wood/Rogers 2009: 122)[2]

Concrete approaches that can be taken by urban planners to increase resilience, include:

  • Applying a comprehensive approach to urban planning can help increase societal resilience, because it acknowledges that an urban system can be confronted with all the phases of the crisis management cycle simultaneously.
  • Following the disaster reduction and mitigation principles of resilience building.[3]
  • Being sensitive to the social context and to security cultures.
  • Basing the design and use of tools on citizens’ perception of (in)security and risks, feeling of vulnerability and acceptance of technological solutions for security problems.
  • Identifying potential vulnerabilities (of which the Securban tool can be used to identify security issues).
  • Using a holistic approach by incorporating the following five interconnected functional components: social, economic, political, demographic, and environmental.[4]

Footnotes and references

  1. Cannon T. et al.: Social Vulnerability, Sustainable Livelihoods and Disasters. Report to DFID. Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance Department (CHAD) and Sustainable Livelihoods Office London, 2003, pp. 4-5.
  2. Coaffee, J/Wood, D.M./Rogers, P. (2009): The Everyday Resilience of the City. How Cities Respond to Terrorism and Disaster. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan: p. 122
  3. Sapirstein, G. (2009): Social Resilience: The Forgotten Element in Disaster Reduction. Boston: Organizational Resilience International. Retrieved from [last access: 2012-05-11].)
  4. Pelling M.: The Vulnerability of Cities: Natural Disasters and Social Resilience. London: Sterling, VA: Earthscan, 2003, p. 12.