International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE)

Date of Award


Degree Type

Research Paper

Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Development and Social Change (IDSC)


International Development, Community and Environment

Chief Instructor

Ken MacLean

Second Reader

Edward Carr


This paper analyzes resilience policy employed by the United States’ Agency for International Development (USAID). First, by situating USAID’s resilience policy within a historical context of the 2011 Horn of Africa Famine, and by drawing on existing literature, I show that USAID’s understanding of resilience, and thus its resilience-based policies, are inherently flawed by focusing solely on recurrent crisis. While recurrent crises pose a potential threat to resilience, communities that are exposed to chronic shocks have resilience mechanisms in place against those shocks. Rather, stochastic, or unplanned crises, are larger risks to livelihoods that USAID’s resilience policies do not address. While USAID’s definition of resilience is broad, encompassing aspects of adaptation and mitigation, it provides a narrow understanding of resilience that renders those that are faced with unplanned and stochastic shocks invisible.



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