Resilience is the enduring power of a body or bodies for transformation, renewal and recovery through the flux of interactions and flow of events; or the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity; or the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness, or the ability of an individual, a household, a community, a country or a region to withstand, to adapt, and to quickly recover from stresses and shocks.

The concept of resilience has two dimensions:

  1. the inherent strength of an entity – an individual, a household, a community or a larger structure – to better resist stress and shock, and
  2. the capacity of this entity to bounce back rapidly from the impact.

The term resilience has evolved from the disciplines of materials science and environmental studies to become a concept used liberally and enthusiastically by policy makers, practitioners and academics. It suggests an ability of something or someone to recover and return to normality after confronting an abnormal, alarming and often unexpected threat. It is used alongside security to understand how governments, local authorities and emergency services can best address the threats from terrorism, natural disasters, health pandemics and other disruptive challenges. Resilience embraces the concepts of awareness, detection, communication, reaction (and if possible avoidance) and recovery. It also suggests an ability and willingness to adapt over time to a changing and potentially threatening environment.

Increasing resilience (and reducing vulnerability) can therefore be achieved either by enhancing the entity’s strength, or by reducing the intensity of the impact, or both. It requires a multifaceted strategy and a broad systems perspective aimed at both reducing the multiple risks of a crisis and at the same time improving rapid coping and adaptation mechanisms at local, national and regional level. Strengthening resilience lies at the interface of humanitarian and development assistance.

In security research, resilience is an evolving concept. In particular with respect to planning for secure systems of different kinds, resilience can be described to be based on the following characteristics:

  • It reflects the extent of change that a system can experience while retaining its order, or normative (formal) as well as its dynamic organization.
  • It reflects the capability level of a system for self-organization.
  • It requires both acceptance by as well as symmetric competences of the citizens.
  • It reflects the capability of a system to learn and adapt to changing environments while retaining its characteristics and identity (or, technically, its operational closure).

With a view to establishing quantitative indicators for resilience to plan for improved systems, resilience can be defined as determined by the degree to which a social system is capable of organizing itself to increase its capacity for learning from past disruptions and disasters for better future protection and to improve risk reduction measures.


  • Magsino, S.L.: Applications of social network analysis for building community disaster resilience. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences, 2009.
  • Twigg. J.: Characteristics of a disaster-resilient community: A guidance note. DFID Disaster Risk Reduction Interagency Coordination Group. 2007.
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