Resilience must mean more than simply bouncing back from negative shocks: that is the message from last week's 2020 Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The conference, themed "Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security," provided a new definition of resilience, one that focuses on empowering individuals, households, and communities to become better off than they were before the shocks occurred.

The conference centered around the need to incorporate resilience into the post-2015 agenda so that households and communities in developing countries can survive, and even thrive, in the face of economic, environmental, and political shocks. Increasing people's ability to recover quickly from negative events is particularly important in ending hunger and malnutrition. When crises like droughts, floods, conflicts, price spikes, or even personal health problems strike, the availability of and access to nutritious food often suffers, particularly for poor populations. By ensuring that these populations are able to predict and handle such crises, the development community can play a crucial role in protecting and enhancing food and nutrition security.

But successfully building resilience will require renewed efforts to collect more and better data, particularly gender-disaggregated data, and to use new and innovative risk assessment tools like environmental mapping, information and communications technologies (ICTs), and warning systems like the Excessive Food Price Variability Early Warning System. Such tools can give policymakers and researchers a better idea of where and when shocks are more likely to occur, allowing for better preparation and more effective responses.

And as David Nabarro, United Nations Secretary-General Special Representative on Food Security and Nutrition, emphasized in his opening remarks, long-term resilience must come from within. "One-size-fits-all" policies prescribed by outside actors cannot solve the challenges of food and nutrition insecurity. Researchers must be willing to learn from the on-the-ground experiences of development practitioners and NGOs, and all stakeholders - researchers, policymakers, development practitioners, civil society, and private sector actors - must work together to find and scale up programs and policies that work at the national, local, and individual levels.

As we near the start of the post-2015 development agenda, ensuring that developing countries and poor populations can recover from negative shocks must remain a key focus. As Shenggen Fan, IFPRI Director General, pointed out in his closing remarks, “Resilience covers all these cross-cutting areas: sustainable development, jobs, (and) of course, food and nutrition security… Without tackling the resilience issue, we will not be able achieve ending hunger (and) ending malnutrition by 2025. Resilience is a must.”

Read the full collection of 2020 Vision Briefs on how to measure, enhance, and protect resilience.

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