Resilience has attracted criticism for its failure to address social vulnerability and to engage with issues of equity and power. This paper asks: what is equitable resilience? Its focus is on what resilience does on the ground in relation to development, adaptation and disaster management, and on identifying critical issues for engaging with equity in resilience practice. Using techniques from systematic reviews, with variants of equitable resilience as key search terms,  an analytical literature review was carried out which revealed four interconnected themes: subjectivities, inclusion, cross-scale interactions, and transformation.

Photo of woman by eroded river bank in Bangladesh - Taneesha Mohan
In the district of Kurigram, Bangladesh continuous rainfall often results in floods. As one bank of the river is eroded, new land known as ‘char’ lands is formed on opposing banks. Formally these lands belong to the state (called ‘khas’ land) and according to the law they are to be distributed to the landless people. In reality, however, people who have influence over the government administration occupy these lands. Photo – Taneesha Mohan, SEI

The analysis above , finds that ‘equitable resilience’ is increasingly likely when resilience practice takes into account issues of social vulnerability and differential access to power, knowledge, and resources; it requires starting from people’s own perception of their position within their human-environmental system, and it accounts for their realities and for their need for a change of circumstance to avoid imbalances of power into the future. Taking such an approach moves beyond debates that focus on the ontological disconnect between resilience and social theory, to provide a definition that can be used in practice alongside resilience indicators to drive ground level interventions towards equitable outcomes. Defined in this way, equitable resilience is able to support the development of social-ecological systems that are contextually rooted, responsive to change and socially just, and thus relevant to global sustainability challenges.


Sadly, our colleague Neela Matin, author on this paper, died before the manuscript was published. We would like to pay tribute to her life and work.