WR18: Smart Villages and resilience to natural disasters

This report summarises the findings of a workshop on Smart Villages and Resilience to Natural Disasters. Co-hosted by the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, and the Smart Villages Initiative, the workshop brought together two communities of researchers and practitioners focusing on energy access and natural disasters to promote active discussion around key issues concerning smart villages and resilience to natural disasters. It also sought to draw out messages relevant to academic researchers and policymakers and make recommendations for future research questions.

Representatives from each of the two communities began by conceptualising “smart villages” and resilience to natural disasters. The need for further efforts to link the “smart villages” concept, particularly access to modern energy, with resilience to natural disasters was highlighted in addition to the nuanced nature of resilience.

The first panel session, consisting of frontline views of earthquakes, floods, and droughts, brought together experiences from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Asia as a whole. Key lessons learned included the need to actively include the community, for all stakeholders to work together, for processes to be embedded in governance systems, and for a long-term horizon approach to be adopted.

The second panel session focused on strengthening the resilience of rural communities. Using examples from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, three useful frameworks were presented for understanding resilience and the processes required to improve resilience among rural communities. A key message from this panel session was the need to see rural communities as equal partners in the resilience building process rather than simply as recipients of new knowledge.

The third panel session examined linkages between energy access and resilience. This session revealed the significant research gap concerning linkages between energy access and resilience and the need for the academic and practitioner community to undertake further work to better understand this relationship.

A final session on identifying policy messages and future research questions found that more explicit attention should be given by policymakers to the potential role of traditional knowledge in improving resilience. Further policy messages included the need to understand potential unintended impacts of interventions designed to improve the resilience of a community to a particular risk. Research questions suggested by participants included: energy, resilience and gender; the relationship between energy access/poverty and disaster resilience; and how energy access and technologies can improve resilience.

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