However, these setbacks are not inevitable. While every society is vulnerable to risk, some suffer far less harm and recover more quickly than others when adversity strikes. This Report asks why that is and, for the first time in a global HDR, considers vulnerability and resilience through a human development lens.
Much of the existing research on vulnerability has considered people’s exposure to particular risks and is often sector-specific. This Report takes a different and more holistic approach. It considers the factors which contribute to risks to human development and then discusses the ways in which resilience to a broad group of evolving risks could be strengthened.
This approach is particularly important in our interconnected world. While globalization has brought benefits to many, it has also given rise to new concerns, manifest at times as local reactions to the spillover effects of events far away. Preparing citizens for a less vulnerable future means strengthening the intrinsic resilience of communities and countries. This Report lays the groundwork for doing that.
In line with the human development paradigm, this Report takes a people-centred approach. It pays particular attention to disparities between and within countries. It identifies the ‘structurally vulnerable’ groups of people who are more vulnerable than others by virtue of their history or of their unequal treatment by the rest of society. These vulnerabilities have often evolved and persisted over long periods of time and may be associated with gender, ethnicity, indigeneity or geographic location — to name just a few factors. Many of the most vulnerable people and groups face numerous and overlapping constraints on their ability to cope with setbacks. For example, those who are poor and also from a minority group, or are female and have disabilities, face multiple barriers which can negatively reinforce each other.
The Report considers the way in which vulnerabilities change during our lives — by taking a ‘life cycle approach’. Unlike more static models, this analysis suggests that children, adolescents and the elderly each face different sets of risks which require targeted responses. Some periods of life are identified as particularly important: for example, the first 1,000 days of a child’s life or the transition from school to work or from work to retirement. Setbacks at these points can be particularly difficult to overcome and may have prolonged impacts.