Increasing Resilience Requires an Effective Framework for Measurement
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This piece was originally posted on the Global Food Security Portal's Food for Thought blog.

In the face of price spikes, climate change, and other stressors from the national to the global scale, the promotion of resilience has gained traction in the development community as a means of insuring that populations vulnerable to food and nutrition insecurity are equipped with the tools to survive and even thrive in our unpredictable world. Engaging in risk management versus crisis management; improving farming methods and inputs to cope with reduced rainfall; creating social safety nets and improving public services—all of these efforts can contribute to the insulation of vulnerable populations against adverse conditions and in turn support economic growth and development in developing countries.

How does one measure resilience, and can this relatively new concept be assessed from existing data sources? These questions have implications not only for researchers but also for governments and organizations that allocate funding towards assessing and fostering resilience. The Food Security Information Network (FSIN), a global technical platform for exchange and capacity development on food and nutrition security measurement and analysis, has produced technical outputs aiming to fill this information gap. For example, the FSIN Resilience Measurement Technical Working Group’s publication “Household Data Sources for Measuring and Understanding Resilience” sets out some of the data requirements involved in assessing and operationalizing the concept of resilience; it also provides an overview of available data sources and the extent to which existing data sources can be repurposed to capture information on resilience.

In order to assess resilience, the FSIN’s working group recommends multi-dimensional, high-frequency, longitudinal data that allows for analysis of an array of contextual factors and the integration of geospatial information. For data collection, repurposing existing surveys is an option, but it depends on the survey’s flexibility. While a fully standardized model like the DHS survey is not the best candidate, there does need to be a level of standardization and uniformity in the interests of analysis and transferability. Additionally, ensuring public access to the data is important for being able to practically apply lessons from research on resilience.

On 17-19 November 2015, the FSIN and the African Union Commission (AUC) are holding a joint technical consultation “Food and Nutrition Security and Resilience Analysis: Are we effectively using the right data?” at the African Union Conference Center in Addis Ababa. The event will kick off the process of developing a framework for strengthening national food security and nutrition information systems and the statistical capacities needed to support evidence-based decision-making and monitoring.

The consultation will be structured around four thematic panels and include technical and policy experts from governments, universities, the private sector, the African Union Commission, and organizations such as the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). The discussion will cover data availability, access, and analysis regarding food and nutrition security as well as overall resilience. Data governance and institutional capacities will also be addressed, and innovations around data production, data collection and data sharing will be investigated to determine ways to fill existing information gaps.

With the SDGs indicator and monitoring framework in a continuing process of being defined and agreed upon for better designing, monitoring, and evaluating effective policies, this consultation fits into the larger context of preparation for implementation for the post-2015 SDGs. Last week, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) released a declaration for actionhighlighting the role of G20 countries in achieving the SDGs, calling on the G20 leaders “to support and contribute to effective international and national institutional architectures for pursuing the goals.” Evidence-based decision-making, fostered through open institutional networks engaged in sharing rigorously-collected data and encouraging the effective utilization of processed information, will be a tremendous asset for increasing food security and resilience.

For more information on the FSIN-AUC Technical Consultation, visit the event website.

Written by Rachel Kohn, IFPRI

Photo credit:Flickr: Neil Palmer/CIAT