We are facing a greater frequency and wider spread of crises than ever before. Emergencies such as the Zika virus (p24), along with the pernicious effects of climate disruption, urbanisation, population growth and conflict, are seeding unprecedented fragility from which no region is immune. Natural disasters, environmental emergencies, public health crises, unrest, terrorism, mass displacement and migration are just some of the tragic consequences.
None of these crises stand in isolation, nor are many of them spontaneous by their nature. A paradigm shift in human thinking is therefore critical, and the oft-neglected role of communities is paramount within this.
On p14, we describe a plan in Finland that integrates volunteers into official emergency response plans. We report on how the Falkland Islands community helped in a maritime disaster (p16), while page 20 analyses how communities with good social connections can give practical and emotional support to each other during emergencies, enhancing resilience and recovery.
The power of a community is not limited to natural emergencies. Page 64 looks at societal resilience in areas blighted by terrorism, while p72 reports on how families are a key factor in preventing radicalisation and terrorist acts. Communications technology is also empowering communities (p82 and p86).
But a change in institutional mindset is required to release this potential fully, to make people central agents of their own resilient destinies. This is one of the fundamental tenets of the World Humanitarian Summit, which has issued a call to cast aside institutional divides between aid, development and response (p33).
A holistic approach to safety, preparedness, response and recovery also requires corruption and criminal activity to be addressed. Impartial and unbiased law enforcement is an essential element in reducing the fragility – and therefore vulnerability – of communities (see p66).
If resilient societies are the warp, then sustainable and responsible development, aid and response – coupled with fair, honest and effective national and international law enforcement – are the weft. The pattern and colours are irrelevant; it is the strength and resilience of humanity’s fabric that count.