This term has many different definitions that apply to specific contexts. Different definitions of “resilience” include “the ability of a system, community or society exposed to hazards to resist, absorb accommodate to and recover from the effects of a hazard in a timely and efficient manner” (UNISDR), or “the ability of a social or ecological system to absorb disturbances while retaining the same basic structure and ways of functioning, the capacity for self-organization, and the capacity to adapt to stress and change” (IPCC), or alternatively “the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change” (Resilience Alliance).
According to the UN Committee on World Food Security, “the resilience of communities is particularly important in protracted crises, during and after violent conflicts, and whenever state institutions and the systems through which livelihoods normally operate (e.g. markets) are weak and ineffective” (FAO). Despite variances among definitions for “resilience” most have two common elements: (1) capacity to bounce back after a shock and (2) capacity to adapt to a changing environment. Building resilience requires building support and networks between and among individuals, communities and governments, in order to transform policy into action and assist in recovery.
In housing and land rights, resilience refers to the capability of a person, household or community to recuperate after a shock or crisis involving the loss of, or damage to home or landed property, and/or displacement from a habitual residence.
However, “resilience” does not offer a normative framework like “sustainable development.” The latter aligns with the “progressive realization” of human rights and the “continuous improvement of living conditions” called for in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Articles 2.1 and 11, respectively). Resilience is only the return to the status quo ante, regardless of the quality of living conditions prior to the shock. Nor does resilience allow for addressing the root cause of the shock, liability for the parties responsible for the shock requiring resilience. Resilience puts the onus on the victim to “bounce back” while omitting the need and right to resist the causes, including defense against the responsible party, if any, offering no recourse to the impunity of perpetrators.