Understanding disaster resilience

Questions of fiscal, social, and ecological resilience have become fundamental to addressing the global issues of risk management, climate change adaptation, and transitions to a sustainable future. However, operationalization of the concept has remained elusive; this is where Risk, Policy and Vulnerability (RPV) Program made substantial progress in 2015.



As a part of the Flood Resilience Alliance with the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Zurich Insurance Group, and the non-governmental organizations (NGOs), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and Practical Action, RPV applied systems science to the flood resilience challenge with its development of a conceptual framework for understanding the interconnections between disasters and development [1]. Together with Practical Action, this conceptual Flood Resilience Systems framework (FLORES) was presented at a multi-level stakeholder workshop in Peru, challenging existing mental models of disaster and fostering collaboration for ex-ante action. This case work is continuing with the use of a flood resilience measurement tool, an early version of which was tested in Nepal with support from RPV researchers. The refined tool is now being tested in 150 communities by five NGOs.

Figure 1. Flood Resilience Systems framework (FLORES)

Together with colleagues in the Ecosystems Services and Management and Water programs, RPV helped develop an analytical online platform, the Risk-Geo-Wiki platform, which uses a citizen science logic. It has great potential for crowd-sourcing critical flood risk and resilience information and assisting in identifying preferred interventions or actions for implementation.

Also of note is RPV’s collaboration with Japanese research partners to co-edit the Journal of Natural Disaster Science special issue on humanitarian coordination, entitled Toward Resilient Humanitarian Relief and Logistics Coordination. Finally, RPV researchers supported the development of flood early warning system plans for the Bengawan Solo Watershed and riparian rehabilitation plan for the Citarum River in Indonesia.


[1] Keating A, Campbell K, Mechler R, Magnuszewski P, Mochizuki J, Liu W, Szoenyi M & McQuistan C. (2016). Disaster resilience: what it is and how it can engender a meaningful change in development policy. Development Policy Review

[2] IIASA & Zurich (2015). Turning knowledge into action: processes and tools for increasing flood resilience, Zurich Risk Nexus September 2015, 

[3] Mochizuki J, Vitoontus S, Wickramarachchi B, Hochrainer-Stigler S, Williges K, Mechler R & Sovann R (2015). Operationalizing iterative risk management under limited information: fiscal and economic risks due to natural disasters in Cambodia. International Journal of Risk Science 6 (4): pp 321-334.

[4] Venkateswaran K, MacClune K, Keating A & Szönyi M (2015). Learning from Disasters to Build Resilience: A Simple Guide to Conducting a Post Event Review. Boulder, CO: ISET-International & Zurich Insurance Group. 

Print this page

Last edited: 10 May 2016


Joanne Linnerooth-Bayer

Distinguished Emeritus Research Scholar Equity and Justice Research Group - Population and Just Societies Program

Cross program contribution

Enhancing community flood resilience


Bouncing forward

Further information



International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313