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The ESDN Quarterly Reports provide in-depth documentation of a selected topic on a quarterly basis. The current ESDN Quarterly Report is displayed below. For previous ESDN Quarterly Reports click here.

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ESDN Quarterly Report September 2012

Resilience and Sustainable Development: Theory of resilience, systems thinking and adaptive governance

by Umberto Pisano

This ESDN Quarterly Report (QR) provides a condensed overview of the concept of resilience. Despite the complexity of the theory behind resilience, this QR tries to communicate the main notions behind this concept in a way that is understandable and not overly technical. The intention of this QR is to serve as a guide through the concept of resilience. The report does not aim at being exhaustive but intends to provide an overview on the links which are particularly relevant for sustainable development (SD) in general and SD governance in particular.

A multitude of diverse sources have been used, mainly from the academic literature. It has to be mentioned the significant and decisive role that the Resilience Alliance has in providing extensive knowledge: the website that they are running, is an exceptionally good source of information for those who are interested and want to deepen their knowledge of resilience. Additionally, among all the scientific publications cited throughout the report, a special mention goes to the book by Walker and Salt (2006) entitled “Resilience thinking: sustaining ecosystems and people in a changing world”, which is very much suggested as a practical source of information on resilience.

As a first chapter, an executive summary is provided with a short overview of the report with the essential notions that are depicted throughout the QR. The second chapter then introduces the concept of resilience and gives an extensive background on the notions behind it. It intends to provide guidance, especially to understand the linkages between the concept of resilience and sustainable development, and the importance of resilience and systems thinking for policy-makers and for those who work on SD governance. The third chapter summarizes the relationships among resilience, society, governance and policy. Therefore, the concept of ‘adaptive governance’ is advanced as a more appropriate way to deal with complex issues that arise in social-ecological systems. The fourth chapter presents three practical examples of resilience. The first one is more general and reviews the case of climate change adaptation responses in relation to resilience. The second and the third examples analyse experiences with translating resilience into practice in Sweden and Australia respectively. Finally, some conclusions are drawn at the end of the report, where we propose reflections to better understand resilience.

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