Anderson Sydney Dyer & Daniella Skeoch
In partnership with Food for the Hungry, Foreign Policy and Dr. Mayesha Alam hosted a discussion titled “From Fragility to Resilience.” The virtual symposium focused on promoting resilience measures aimed at helping economically unstable communities reduce the risks posed by crises.
COVID-19 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine proved to create immense stress on already struggling countries. Alam speaks about how the pandemic created huge problems in global economies, causing the food and energy crises to intensify. Climate change and poverty are two of the many struggles that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. The world’s economically weakest countries are disproportionately affected by these circumstances. In this conversation, Alam speaks with Mark Viso, the president of Food for the Hungry, who has worked in international relief and development for 30 years. Having this conversion allows for the rethinking of international cooperation in the most in need places of the world.
Beginning the conversation, Viso speaks about how Food for the Hungry is beginning to see the emergence of four main characteristics of resilience: paradigm shifts, systems not symptoms, focusing on broken relationships, and adaptation. The paradigm shift is the change in resilience from intervening and fixing to being a lens that is used to better understand how we, as a world, react to crises and development. “Systems not symptoms” refers to moving from simply fixing issues in society like poverty, to fixing the systemic and structural causes underlying these societal issues to make a community more independently resilient. Broken relationships come in the form of patterns of exclusion and marginalization that are some of the main contributors to the risks in fragility and resilience. The more access and equal distribution of power that is reached, the better and stronger social structures become. The ability to adapt and persevere allow these communities to stay strong when difficult times and situations arise.
Viso continued to discuss the interconnections between the world, emphasizing how it is beneficial for everyone to be involved and want these states and communities to be resilient. He says though this would be ideal, it is unfortunately not the case, thus the responsibility falls onto the countries that are struggling. Although this can be difficult, when the country itself is resilient and autonomous, it provides a strong sense of accomplishment, pride, dignity, and purpose. Help from other countries facilitates this process, as with the case of Mozambique with the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
Ambassador Peter Vrooman discusses the program PEPFAR and its influence on healthcare systems. This program has aided the resilience of the healthcare system in Mozambique and other countries by enabling them to have a public health response to crises. It is important to note that public health crises are not limited to a pandemic; crises can include disease outbreaks after natural disasters and other large scale public health phenomena. Another factor that deeply impacted Mozambique’s ability to build resilience, cites Vrooman, was colonization, as they did not have independence until the 1970s.
The Global Fragility Act allows for a certain level of flexibility. In the case of Mozambique, the Act is assisting the mission of the United Nations of the demobilization of the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) fighters in the region. It is important to focus on community involvement and engagement to ensure the continued support and cooperation with programs.
Climate change and the environment can often and unfortunately be pushed to the side when focusing on resilience and economic strengthening of a country. In these instances, be mindful of promoting economic growth and building in resilience features into the economy while minimizing overall climate impact.