Forum Institutional

How we can strengthen the resilient communities most susceptible to climate change

Climate change is making extreme weather events more common.

Climate change is making extreme weather events more common. Image: Misbahul Aulia on Unsplash

Angela Williams
President and Chief Executive Officer, United Way Worldwide
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Forum Institutional?
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Society and Equity

Listen to the article

  • It's time to commit ourselves to advocating for and creating resilient communities that are prepared to deal with the challenges stemming from climate change.
  • When we take proactive measures to make our communities more resilient, we multiply our opportunities not only to mitigate the consequences of climate change, but to prevent them altogether.
  • To proactively make our communities more resilient, let us reject complacency and commit ourselves to the long game, engaging with community members on the ground and ensuring they have the resources they need to thrive.

Extreme environmental events are not new, but their frequency and levels of destruction have accelerated. Over the course of history, we have adapted to these events with varying degrees of success. We often realize too late, however, that our efforts are responsive and reactive when they need to be proactive. As policymakers continue to negotiate and pledge terms that will mitigate the human-produced impact on the environment, we must commit ourselves to advocating for and creating resilient communities that are prepared to deal with the challenges stemming from climate change. When we take proactive measures to make our communities more resilient, we multiply our opportunities not only to mitigate the consequences of climate change, but to prevent them altogether.

We all deserve the right to live in a safe and healthy environment. When disaster strikes, the implications from the fallout extend far beyond the impact zone. The health, safety and stability of millions may be at stake, whether it be the physical foundations of their abodes, access to potable drinking water or durable infrastructure that can get necessary goods and services to and from the disaster zone. Marginalized communities are always the most adversely impacted and they carry an inequitable burden in struggling to rebuild.

Have you read?

Climate change has micro and macro consequences

Climate change is deepening environmental, economic and public health crises on micro and macro levels and it is threatening economic stability on a global scale. In 2022, an estimated 8.7 million people were displaced due to extreme weather events, marking a 45% increase from 2021, and 258 million people across 58 countries faced food insecurity. Approximately one billion people are at threat of being displaced between now and 2050 due to “environmental change, conflict, and civil unrest.” We cannot underestimate the relationship between and among these phenomena.

While the outlook may be bleak, we are presented with manifold opportunities to change course and forge new paths. Our neighbours are counting on us and the stability and possibilities afforded to future generations are dependent upon the actions – or inactions – we choose. At the centre of a successful action plan must be our resolve to dismantle the barriers that have created deep inequities and highly stratified societies and to improve health, education and economic mobility for all.

In proactively choosing to support communities today, we establish the foundation for greater resilience tomorrow. Here is how we can do that most effectively:

• Proactive resilience requires that we exercise foresight, learn from past experiences and innovate new ways of collaboration for macro and micro-level actors.

• We must lay the foundations for expanding opportunities and participation in the community.

• Investments in healthcare, infrastructure, innovation, job training and other resources that help people live healthier, safer and more contributory lives must be at the centre of our efforts.

• It is imperative that we collaborate with communities. As we contemplate solutions to the climate crisis, we must ensure that we obtain the voices and perspectives of people at all levels of the community. Efforts to improve community-focused work cannot be successful if voices are discounted or ignored. As Magis (2010) critically observed, “A community perspective emphasizes community actors developing and engaging resources for the community to thrive in the face of change.”

Discover

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?

Collaboration is crucial

Over the course of our lifetimes, we witnessed the deep disparities inherent in how climate crises manifest themselves upon and within communities. Colwell (2015) states, “Resilient communities have social cohesion and the ability to adapt and work collectively to respond to disasters and shocks.”

In the United States, United Way’s 211 call centres serve as a 24/7 confidential, community crisis helpline for individuals and families seeking immediate assistance across a range of services, including housing and meals, healthcare and disaster relief. The 211 network receives about 50,000 calls every day and, most importantly, the people answering the calls are connected to the very communities they serve. The network is all about showing up for our neighbours when they need it most.

While neighbours helping neighbours is an invaluable asset of resilient communities, external actors are also needed to expand the available products and services necessary to prepare for tomorrow. In times of significant global challenges, a commitment to collaboration among public, private and civil society actors is paramount. Partnerships allow us to be a unified force for good with recognizable and influential institutions in the world to facilitate transformative change.

Public-private partnerships support resilient communities

Public-private partnerships present collaborative opportunities to advocate and implement policies that support resilient community infrastructure and equitable access to resources that promote environmental sustainability. Philanthropy is our collective tool to advance the common good and help create a brighter, more equitable future for those who need it most. Generous donations, especially those that are 'unrestricted' put trust in the benefitting community and empower its members to utilize the money in the most effective ways for that community. It is a simple idea that is radical in practice.

As we rise from the challenges and turbulence we have experienced over the last few years, we must endow communities with the tools they need to become stronger, safer and more equitable. Impactful community change is a long process, requiring long-term support and commitment. Let us commit ourselves to changing the conversation around disaster response. Rather than simply rebuilding and getting back to normal, let's cultivate a new era and a new society that makes space for historically marginalized people, advances economic mobility and opportunity, reduces health disparities and ensures every member of the community has the tools they need to thrive. To proactively make our communities more resilient, let us reject complacency and commit ourselves to the long game, engaging with community members on the ground and ensuring they have the resources they need so that all may rise.

Loading...
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Institutional update

World Economic Forum

May 21, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum