Resilience Amidst Disruptions
By The Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS Centre)
S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS)
Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore
Against the rapid changes in today’s global environment, the concept of resilience has become increasingly important as a goal for societies and states affected by different types of crises. In light of new types of disruptions, the concern about resilience – particularly building resilience for vulnerable communities that are struggling to bounce back and/or adapt after a disaster – has been become more critical. As a policy goal, resilience has reached higher political significance and relevance in global governance given the interconnected and transnational implications of building resilience amidst 21st century disruptions.
What is new about the kinds of disruptions we face today? And, how should these kinds of disruptions be addressed collectively by the international community? These were some of the major questions deliberated on at the 3rd Annual Convention of the Consortium of Non-Traditional Security (NTS) in Asia held in Singapore on 27-28th March 2018.
Building resilience and dealing with disruptions are not mutually exclusive. But in order to deal with both concerns comprehensively, one needs to understand what is new about resilience and about disruptions in a changed global environment. Disruption refers to an event that challenges an existing order and may catalyse gradual or radical changes in norms and practices in economic activity, security and political stability within state and society. Disruptions in Asian countries have caused fundamental changes in the past half-century, from war, poverty and hunger to climate change and technological development.
The impacts of climate change and technological advancements have been notably dramatic. Climate change has been known to be a threat multiplier, generating ‘consequences of consequences’, from water, energy and food scarcity to forced migration and the emergence of new types of infectious diseases. Climate change-induced extreme weather patterns have also resulted in catastrophic disasters that have wrought massive devastation on lives and property, causing massive displacement of human population.
Meanwhile, the rapid advances in technology, also known as the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, have brought about significant implications on many aspects of human life and on the nature of inter-state and intra-state relations. The impact of technological advancement has revolutionary changed the nature of inter-personal communication, information processing, business transactions and even the conduct of political campaigns. However, both people and states are not yet prepared for the disruptions brought about by technological breakthroughs such as privacy breach, cybercrime and even cyberterrorism.
There are clear policy imperatives in understanding and dealing with these new kinds of disruptions and their effects on the environment and climate, agriculture and food, on humanitarian crisis and forced displacement, and cyber space. But in order to build societal resilience and ensure the security of states and societies, one must not lose sight of the more structural causes that can magnify the vulnerabilities of affected groups and communities. This is where notions of resilience must also be revisited against new kinds of complexities that these disruptions generate on the ability of vulnerable communities to cope, bounce back and adapt. This means that the task of building resilience goes beyond building capacity and empowering local communities to respond to disasters. It also necessitates the need to link local initiatives with regional and global frameworks and institutions that are geared to respond to these disruptions. In doing so, building resilience is a participatory and inclusive policy framework that brings together multiple stakeholders, both public and private actors, working collaboratively at multiple levels from the local and national to the regional and international arena.
Bulletins and Newsletters / Non-Traditional Security / Southeast Asia and ASEAN
Last updated on 24/04/2018