Trust and Solidarity Save Lives and Make for Resilient Local Development, Finds Newly Published National Human Development Report

Dec 8, 2016

Steliana Nedera, UNDP Serbia Deputy Resident Representative, Predrag Terzic, Mayor of Kraljevo City and Ivan Bosnjak, State Secretary in the Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-Government, at today's launch event in Kraljevo

Since 1992, UNDP has spearheaded Human Development, a people-centered approach to development that not only focuses on the national incomes, but also on the ability of individuals to develop their full potential to lead healthy, productive and creative lives. However, societies and communities are increasingly facing various threats along that path: from economic and demographic downturns to floods and earthquakes.

The 4th National Human Development Report for Serbia (NHDR) is entitled Social Capital: The Invisible Face of Resilience. Resilience has different meanings in different disciplines. Although the idea is not new, the term began to gain popularity following the 2008 global financial crisis, but most of the definitions focusing too narrowly on responding to shocks in order to maintain the current state of affairs.

In this report we looked at the resilience as the ability of Serbian municipalities to resist, absorb, adapt and recover from the effects of natural disasters – and to “build back better”. There is a growing recognition that all disasters are actually influenced by human action and inaction, and development choices. Nowadays, countries with high and very high progress in human development, including Serbia, increasingly pay a high price in the face of devastating events. The 2014 floods come to mind, which affected more than 20 per cent of Serbia’s population, causing EUR 1.7 billion in damages, effectively pushing the country into a recession.

Clearly, all economic, environmental and institutional challenges related to resilience could not be addressed in a single report. This is partially explaining why the Government of the Republic of Serbia and UNDP decided to look deeper into the invisible face of resilience – the social capital – as manifested by peoples’ actions in times of crisis.

How to better prepare for the crisis? How to engage volunteers and distribute humanitarian aid more efficiently? Why is it important to include women in disaster risk preparedness and response? How to prevent the poor, persons with disabilities, the elderly and children from becoming even more vulnerable during a crisis?  Why do partnerships between the state and non-state actors matter? These are only some questions that the report answers. This National Human Development Report (NHDR) shows the importance of communication, partnerships and coordination, solidarity and volunteerism, humanitarian aid, social inclusion and trust.

Findings emerge from the analysis of hundreds of compelling stories and testimonies, collected through direct interviews with citizens and local authorities. By bringing all the views together, the NHDR offers a set of actionable recommendations on how to strengthen the social fabric to reinforce the resilience of communities.

In addition to diagnosing the problem, the report seeks to compare municipalities through the Capitals for Resilience Index, which was specifically constructed for this purpose. Notwithstanding the Index’s limitations, primarily its inability to capture important non-measurable aspects, it effectively complements the findings from the field. However, it was impossible to capture in the entirety the wealth of information that the research team collected. Our attempt to open the debate about resilience by portraying the local communities and providing measurements and ranking might have been too ambitious, taking into account a multitude of factors that make up resilience. But it is hoped that the selection of empirical and practical information presented in this report will help Serbian municipalities and other development stakeholders to strengthen social and institutional mechanisms in order to minimize costs of disasters, build capacity to manage and sustain development momentum, and maximize transformative potentials.

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