Comment

19.06.15

Is Ebola helping to shape societal resilience?

Source: PSE June/July 15

Professor Lee Miles of Loughborough University, a leading international expert in the field of international crisis management, examines the growing need for societal resilience.

As programme director of the Masters in International Crisis Management at Loughborough University, I organised a special seminar recently on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa (‘Ebola and Emergency Preparedness: Is the UK Prepared?’), where we looked in-depth at the issue of Ebola and how it is being viewed around the world.  I feel strongly that we need to start looking at Ebola – and other similar global crises – as long-term challenges, rather than as short-term crisis management problems. 

Global crises can and often do occur without warning, which simply underpins the necessity of robust international responses. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a tragic example of this. In my view, Ebola is not simply an African problem that merits international crisis management. We should expect Ebola to be a persistent challenge that will require the UK to be resilient both in reducing susceptibility to cases inside the UK and in putting communicative diseases at the heart of UK strategies toward international crisis management. 

What remains essential is a continued, more longer-term, coordinated response to crises like this once the days of simple containment have already passed. 

Achieving societal resilience necessitates understanding the vulnerabilities of communities and societies.  As we know, the beginning of the 21st century has already presented the world with considerable global strategic and disruptive challenges: natural and environmental disasters, climate change, conflict and war, financial crises, terrorism, etc. 

In order to fully understand societal vulnerabilities we need to identify, through the application of an integrated risk management process, emerging and dynamic local and global risks and the causal issues that need to be addressed to ensure future resilience.  

Moreover, societal resilience research coupled with lessons identified from previous events could be used to inform policy and provide guidance for practitioners, thus helping communities to anticipate, prepare for, respond to and recover from societal disruption.  

Acknowledging the urgent need for practical training, based on the globally recognised research from our academics in the field, the School of Business and Economics has designed a new range of programmes aimed at managers in the area of crisis management and emergency planning to be launched between October 2015 and 2016. 

Loughborough University was the first in the UK to run a Masters in International Crisis Management – the only degree of its kind in Britain to examine international crisis management from a primarily international relations and foreign policy perspective. Since its launch, the programme has grown in popularity as the awareness of the need for resilient crisis response has increased year upon year. 

On the back of the success of that programme, and the increasing call for university-accredited programmes dedicated to this highly topical field, the School has decided to expand its range of programmes in Organisational Resilience. 

New programmes include: 

Healthcare

  • MSc/PG Dip/PG Cert in Healthcare Management and Governance
  • MSc/PG Dip/PG Cert in Healthcare and Societal Resilience
  • MSc/PG Dip/PG Cert in Occupational Health and Safety Management

Crisis and Emergency

  • MSc/PG Dip/PG Cert in International Crisis Management
  • MSc/PG Dip/PG Cert in Crisis and Emergency Resilience

Security

  • MSc/PG Dip/PG Cert in Security and Risk Management
  • MSc/PG Dip/PG Cert in Intelligence and International Security 

These programmes have been designed by our top academics and industry consultants to train emergency planners and crisis managers in longer-term resilience perspectives. They are innovative and unique programmes, with the aim of seeking to enable participants and organisations to anticipate, assess and prevent (or at least manage) disruption, including effective recovery measures, whilst remaining agile and able to adapt to disruptive challenges. 

The intended outcome is the development of resilient communities and organisations ably equipped to not just survive, but thrive in the future.    

Resilience remains central to tackling crises like Ebola, and if nothing else, it has forced us to become more aware of the urgent need for achieving societal resilience. 

About the author 

Lee Miles is professor of international relations and programme director of the Masters in International Crisis Management and the Masters in Crisis and Emergency Resilience at Loughborough University.

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