(The Humanitarian Social Network)
When I began my international career, I applied my degrees and training in watershed management and soil and water conservation to activities that were under the programmatic umbrella of sustainable development. The world was a much more stable place then, or at least that’s how it was treated. Of course, an important element in achieving sustainability is to incorporate safeguards in the administration of the activity to the beneficiaries, in order to avoid their confidence in the “new and improved” system being destroyed by a setback, albeit a minor one.
With the recognition of climate change, the increase in conflicts around the globe, and the increasing frequency, severity and tolls of disasters, it has become even more important to be prepared for a setback. I think it is important to show that one’s efforts in building a sustainable system includes Plans B, C, and D, and even more if you work someplace like the DRC. This is the resilience factor that is so prominent. As the saying goes, “Plan for worst and hope for the best.”
Another factor that comes into play is that people don’t seem to want to accept death anymore. Plagues, malnutrition and catastrophes used to provide periodic “corrections” of uncontrolled population growth. Governments and organizations felt these mechanisms were a hindrance to prosperity and began putting health programs in place that reduced mortality rates. However, they did not calculate into their predictive equation that the increased populations would have to live off the finite, and increasingly limited, resource base on the planet. Their immediate goals at that time of preserving life did not consider the longer-term goal of sustaining livelihoods. The results of this have included increased conflicts and unstable ecosystems. Hence the need for resilience: to endure the “development” brought on by the same governments and organizations.
The mixture between traditional beliefs and practices, on the one hand, and the necessary / ideal way to manage the situation presently, on the other, is a volatile one. I have go back to my old song and dance about “tradition” (no change) versus “development” (change). The world is not the same place it was 100 years ago, and certainly not the same as it was 1000 or 2000 years ago when some of the guiding religious texts were dreamed up and put into writing.