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Resilient society, vulnerable people

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  • Nature Conservation And Landscape Management
  • Economics
  • Medicine
  • Political Science
  • Social Sciences


The study addresses resilience and vulnerability in relation to natural disaster. It is mainly an empirical study which draws on experience from the process of coping and recovery from the 1999 flood disaster in central Vietnam. As the conditions for coping and recovery varies between geographical and socio-economic contexts, the study looks at five villages in two districts, covering low land, hill land and mountain areas. Interviews and discussions with households and representatives of local organisations and local government have been conducted in the two districts of Hai Lang and A Luoi from 2000 to 2004. The study is multidisciplinary drawing on several disciplines from the social sciences. The Vietnamese context provides an example of a high level of social resilience. The concept is used to signify the capacity of households and communities to 'bounce back' after a shock, and also the capacity to adapt in order to be more resilient in anticipation of future shocks. The study looks at the roles of local government, local organisations and households in disaster response and finds that the strong relationships between these actors provides conditions for collective action to address the acute needs of the population. Although the level of resilience in general is high, there are several ways in which people are vulnerable. Constraints to recovery included production difficulties due to continued heavy rains, disease of livestock, limited access to land, reduced labour capacity due to health problems as well as the limitations of the social security system. Differences in capacity to recover became apparent over time, which emphasises the importance of the time perspective when looking at resilience and vulnerability. Vietnamese society is changing from a situation where the state had a high degree of responsibility for production and livelihoods, to a market economy in which risk is increasingly borne by the household rather than the collective. This gives rise to new types of vulnerability, which require new types of mechanisms for social protection.

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