Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 3, 2010

Resilience: Recovery Requires Reflection

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Mark Chubb on February 3, 2010

The responses to last week’s post were a bit different from what I expected. But they raised some important questions about resilience that warrant careful consideration in light of this concept’s prominence in the proposed DHS budget request to Congress.

Conventional models of disaster resilience, like the one developed by Michel Bruneau and Kathleen Tierney, characterize resilience as a function expressed over time and domains – physical/technical, organizational, social, and economic – as robustness, redundancy, and resourcefulness. Others add a fourth element – re-design or re-engineering – to express the extent to which resources have to be reprioritized or repurposed to achieve the goals of a given recovery.

In the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake, many people are wondering how anyone, much less a whole society, can overcome such a catastrophe. This question strikes at the heart of resilience.

From a distance, Haitian infrastructure, government, civil society, and the economy have looked decidedly non-robust. The apparent dependence on outside aid suggests no real redundancy or resources beyond those available in the form of international aid and institutional relief.

Most of Haiti’s institutions and much of its infrastructure were either primitive or in poor condition before the disaster struck. But evidence has already begun to emerge that Haitians are getting on with their lives in a social and economic sense despite the institutional and physical devastation that surrounds them.

The limited and focused effort to grasp recovery so soon suggests something important about Haiti (if not human nature itself) and offers insights into what we can expect from its people in the short-term. This nascent recovery requires little re-engineering or reprioritization on the part of Haitians: Most will do their best to take care of one another, as they always have.

These people, so accustomed to deprivation and loss, given few options besides continual struggle will strive to make the most of any opportunity. The question for the international community and Haiti’s leaders is more complex. How much control will they cede to engage the Haitian people in a recovery effort that addresses the fundamental technical, organizational, social and economic vulnerabilities that created the current catastrophe?

Haiti’s recovery is not just a question of how long it will take to clear debris, restore services, and rebuild infrastructure. In Haiti, as elsewhere, recovery requires reflection. What kind of country does Haiti want to become? What will it take to get there? How can the Haitian people turn this challenge into an opportunity to move beyond their past? What is the international community willing to do to foster sustainable development that engages the Haitian people in determining and achieving their aspirations?

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5 Comments »

Comment by Claire B. Rubin

February 3, 2010 @ 7:45 am

I’d like to call your attention to a recent article published in JHSEM, titled An Operational Framework for Resilience. http://www.bepress.com/jhsem/vol6/iss1/83/

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 3, 2010 @ 11:31 am

Haiti cannot be used for a study of resilience. What it can be used for as a study of how mass migrations of humans from resource poor (and that includes governmental structures)nations that are not resilient. They can vote with their feet or boats or whatever. Interesting you never see much about out migration from the US. Suspect that Ex-Pats will grow in number as the elites that can dwell offshore or whatever choose to do so. Haiti is actually a domestic disaster given past US policies and treatment as is most of the WESTERN HEMISPHERE since the announcement of the MONROE Doctrine designed to keep European nations from debt collections against the struggling yound democracies and republics of the W. Hemisphere. Note that only about 10 programs focusing on Haitian affairs exist in American colleges and universities. But with well over 1 million Haitians stateside this will be interest to watch play out. And yes, Haiti is poor and not resileint but just correlate the efforts that succeed or fail and they understand that 10 million people could be isolated pretty fast in the US under certain events including WMD attacks. And by my estimate 25% of first responder capability nation-wide has been cut during the current economic downturn. THat is a disaster and not the way to promote resilience. Another 25% cut in capabililty looks on the way in next 5 years. Readers of this blog know my take on federal capability but in short–no domestic crisis management civil system, no chain of command, no real collaboration or cooperation, and no real resiliency in Executive Branch components. Don’t ask me how I know.

Comment by Mark Chubb

February 4, 2010 @ 1:25 am

An interesting story in Der Spiegel about discussions surrounding rebuilding the Haitian capital someplace other than Port-au-Prince. What does this say about resilience? Is such consideration and the associated settlement decentralization argument an example of adaptation to the threat? What do readers think it will take to for such a strategy to succeed? How will donors condition their aid to either promote or impede such change?

Comment by christopher tingus

February 4, 2010 @ 7:40 am

Well, with portable water purification systems in hand since the day of the earthquake and the capability to commence the shipping of 75 eco-friendly and earthquake resistent 200 sq. ft. housing units with rain water catching capability and solar per every 40 ft. container, none have been shipped to Haiti for despite the telephone calls to US government agencies, the emails, the begging of Wall Street and others to help in the effort, the bureaucracy very much exists and whether Katrina or Haiti or for that matter any unfortunate such scenario, relief response and coordination is lacking an organized immediacy….

With local economies suffering and State legislators and State Department of Revenues intentionally ignoring the law and the Rights of citizenry to collect debts that even the court has not determined appropriate for the state, as a nation bankrupt by the “entrusted” folks who have pledged to serve the public, but rather serve personal agenda, incestuous behavior in their partisan ways indifferent to the majority interests, as an individual who as a community activist here on Main Street USA, dedicated to public safety – police, firefighters, EMT’s, the folks who really do care and show up when we make the desperate 911 call, our first responder capability should not be further jeopardized.

Therefore, Mr. President, I ask that in any such future event, trained units of our military for just such rescue will be used and no first responders from local communities be used outside our borders. Yes, I received a call stating that the military would be handing over the reigns of coordination to the State Department for such responsibilities in Haiti as we don’t want to look like we are engaged in a military takeover of Haiti, well, to hell with what it looks like to the rest of the world for it is our brilliant DoD – the military who can best adddress all aspects of Haitian rescue and relief and we need not explain ourselves to the rest of the world as we will be criticized for whatever we do….especailly by the Europeans – the German-led EU.

This is a long term commitment to Haiti. As our economy worsens and local communities face even further economic challenges as the beltway solutions are void of any real leadership and value as evident by what is really taking place here on Main Street USA…

Kudos to our expert local first responders who have done a terrific job and are much appreciated by the good Haitian people, however all these units are to be brought back home and the US military should be on hand with relief organizations and an organized relief effort to bring much needed supplies for an unfortunate scenario that will be long term and may well be complicated by a similar event(s) here in our national region as an earthquake or other may necessitate such response locally – where is our civil defense program these days….where is the 25% in federal funding for our esteemed local responders to cover local budget cuts -

God Bless America!

Christopher Tingus
Main Street USA
PO Box 1612
Harwich, MA 02645

chris.tingus@gmail.com
617-291-1940

Comment by Chris Dreibelbis

February 5, 2010 @ 5:09 pm

At the heart of resilience is people. We can never lose sight of that. The courage, grit, compassion and determination encompassed in the human spirit is the most powerful weapon we have. We saw it after 9/11 and we see it now in Haiti.

Making resilience a pillar of U.S. homeland security policy is the best means for fully tapping into that vital resource. The QHSR represents a good step towards that. http://policydaddy.wordpress.com/?p=42

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