With efforts well underway to gather data showing the benefits of building resilience, the next step is for experts to distill their findings for increasingly curious aid funders.
That view was shared by participants at a New Orleans conference this month focused on the numbers behind the concept of “resilience”, which seeks to prevent disasters and equip people to cope better with shocks and stresses.
The Resilience Measurement, Evidence and Learning (RMEL) Conference 2018 brought together more than 200 development workers who have fine-tuned methods to capture and evaluate the successes and failures of resilience-focused aid programs.
"We're now beginning to be able to say useful things about what strengthens resilience in different contexts - farmers in drought-prone Africa, or people who live in coastal areas subject to regular flooding," said Dorcas Robinson, co-director of the RMEL community of practice, which organized the conference.
“We want to make sure that decision-makers have access to that evidence and knowledge, and can use it to make good decisions around where to invest."
The idea of resilience is gaining traction as climate change intensifies hurricanes, droughts and other wild weather that can lead to disasters, conference attendees said.
Some governments have in the last several years invested heavily in aid initiatives that put resilience front and center, such as Britain's ongoing Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) program, initially deployed across 13 countries in Africa and Asia.
Yet even as the urgency is growing, projects to help people in developing countries adjust to the impacts of climate change have yet to garner sufficient political attention or the funding they need to expand, experts said.
The time has come to move beyond arcane discussions about what resilience means, and start focusing on “how we're going to use the evidence", said David Howlett, head of policy at the Stockholm-based Global Resilience Partnership.
Next year presents high-profile chances to steer international funds in that direction, he added.
Events on the global agenda in 2019 where donors will seek guidance on what form of aid works best include a U.N. climate change summit in New York. Resilience will be one of six themes at the September gathering organized by the U.N. chief.
Meanwhile, former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva will lend political muscle to the Global Commission on Adaptation, launched last month, which aims to strengthen the case for funding to boost climate resilience. The commission plans to deliver a flagship report in time for the U.N. climate summit.
"I'm not interested in resilience frameworks or indicators. The end result is making differences in people's lives," said Howlett. "I think we've got a year of opportunities."