Understanding disaster resilience

The RISK Program focuses on "resilience" as a central thematic research area, linking agendas on sustainable socio-economic development, disaster risk management, and climate change adaptation from the local to the global scale. 

© Iryna Rasko | Dreamstime

© Iryna Rasko | Dreamstime

Specifically, the RISK Program seeks to:

  • Understand disaster resilience based on systems thinking considering the multi-scale and multi-variable dynamics of disaster risk and wellbeing;
  • Develop qualitative and quantitative modeling tools for  the assessment of resilience and resilience-based interventions;
  • Explore and inform the implementation of robust policy interventions across multiple levels that have the potential to bolster resilience of households, communities, governments and the private sector.

RISK’s research on resilience is both conceptual and applied, working towards informing resilience-based policy. Through transboundary action research involving communities, governments, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector, the group develops theoretical and methodological frameworks for improved decision making under risk and uncertainty. It combines traditional risk assessment with a novel approach of participatory disaster resilience appraisal.


Resilience thinking, a concept coined and developed at IIASA by Buzz Holling, is permeating many scientific disciplines, policy and practice.

Disaster risk analysis and management, which is confronted by numerous challenges, has been particularly quick to pick up on resilience concepts and definitions. The challenges in disaster risk analysis and management stem from an approach which is:

a) dominated by response and recovery to the neglect of risk reduction and preparedness;

b) too hazard-focused, ignoring the complex interactions between disaster events, disaster risk management initiatives, human agency and ecological systems.

Left unchecked, these challenges are prone to being amplified by trends in population growth, urbanization, and climate change, all of which are predicted to result in increasing frequency and severity of disasters in the medium term.

While resilience thinking provides an entry point for a holistic and systemic understanding of both disaster risk management and development, moving from concepts to operationalization to implementation is a key challenge.


Associated projects

The research feeds into a number of major projects: ENHANCEFlood Resilience, and Cambodia (SDMSC).

ENHANCE - Improving the resilience of society to catastrophic natural hazards through new risk-management partnerships

Improving the resilience of society to catastrophic natural hazards through new risk-management partnerships More

Cambodia CATSIM: Understanding disaster risk and resilience in Cambodia

IIASA collaborates with the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) on a project “Strengthening the Disaster Management Systems in Cambodia through Risk Assessment, Early Warning Systems and Developing Building Codes” supported by the World Bank. More

Flood Resilience

IIASA is a core member of the Flood Resilience Alliance, an innovative partnership between research, development and humanitarian NGOs and the private sector that works together for making at step change with regard to policy, finance and practice of managing floods and other climate-related hazards towards increased community resilience. More

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Last edited: 07 July 2016


Junko Mochizuki

Research Scholar

Risk and Resilience

T +43(0) 2236 807 576


Adriana Keating

Guest Research Scholar

Risk and Resilience

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313