Based on research and a series of working group meetings hosted by the United States Institute of Peace, this report explores the concept of resilience in the context of peacebuilding and conflict-affected states and how socioecological systems respond to violence. 

Summary

  • Resilience refers to a socioecological system’s (community, society, state) response to violence and capacity to both maintain peace in the event of a violent shock or long-term stressor and resist the pernicious impacts of violence on societal norms and relationships.
  • Considerable research has been done on societal resilience and resistance to hegemonic threats, which can inform how the peacebuilding field thinks about resilience to violence.
  • Increasingly, researchers and practitioners are exploring together how social systems respond to violent conflict, creating a rich foundation for understanding their resilience.
  • Resilience is an attribute of a social system to respond to long-term stressors or shock and has neither a negative nor a positive quality. Societies can be resilient to violence, and systems of violence can be resilient to positive change.
  • Responses to violence—adaptation, absorption, and transformation—can differ in scale and approach. The peacebuilding field focuses on transformation, when perhaps absorption and adaptation may be more realistic.
  • A resilient response to violence involves actors that self-organize and learn within the system and institutions and norms (a regime) that support absorption, adaptation, and transformation.
  • A crucial aspect of resilience is response diversity, or the ability of a system to respond in different ways to a violent shock or stressors, which increases the odds that a successful response will emerge.
  • Resilience is not the same as invulnerability; even highly resilient social systems can be propelled into violence as a result of severe stress or an overwhelming shock.
  • Supporting a society to become more resilient could play a key role in preventing conflict and achieving a more sustainable postconflict recovery.

About the Report

Based on research and a series of working group meetings hosted by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), this report explores the concept of resilience in the context of peacebuilding and conflict-affected states and how socioecological systems respond to violence.

About the Authors

Lauren Van Metre, PhD, led the Applied Research Center at USIP and currently conducts research and writing on community resilience to violence in Ukraine and Kenya. Jason Calder is an international peacebuilding and development expert and is currently the Carter Center’s country director in Guyana.

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