Disaster resilience

The ability of a system, community or society exposed to one or more hazards to resist, absorb, accommodate, adapt to, transform, and recover from disasters in a manner that is timely, efficient, and reduces risk, including through the preservation and restoration of essential basic structures and functions.


1. Infrastructure resilience depends on the resilience of societal systems, governance systems, ecological systems, etc. See also “Disaster resilient infrastructure”.  

2. An associated phrase is "adaptive capacity" which is the ability of systems, institutions, humans and other organisms to adjust to potential damage, or to take advantage of opportunities. 

3. Transformative capacity is the ability of individuals and organisations to transform themselves and their society in a deliberate, conscious way. In the context of resilient infrastructure, transformation may manifest in the form of progressive governance arrangements, updating of codes and standards, and formulation of policies that enable resilience approaches in infrastructure development. See also “Organizational learning” and “Feedback loops”. 

4. See also "Flexibility".


Modified from UNDRR Sendai Framework Terminology on Disaster Risk Reduction (2023) term "Resilience".


Reference for Note 2: ISO (2020). ISO 14050:2020(en) Environmental management - Vocabulary: 3.8.7.


Reference for Note 3: Modified from Ziervogel G, Cowen A, Ziniades J. (2016). Moving from adaptive to transformative capacity: Building foundations for inclusive, thriving and regenerative urban settlements. Sustainability, 8:1–26.


Disaster resilience for the Dutch delta-city of Rotterdam

The Netherlands, a country mostly below sea-level, has a history of building dikes and other control structures to protect against flooding. In the face of increased intensity and unpredictability of rainfall, the city of Rotterdam has taken up a climate adaptation strategy focusing on water storage. City squares are set lower than streets and pavements and can fill up with water, acting as water plazas. Underground parking garages are built with basins for storing water. Increased green areas, including green roofs and green facades are designed to absorb water. The Dutch have also embraced the idea of floating neighborhoods – homes, schools, offices, parks, and even factories. At the mouth of the Rotterdam port sits the Maeslantkering, a storm surge barrier. The width of each of the two doors of the Maeslant storm surge barrier is 210m, the largest in the world.