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Resilience as a vital strategy: From countering terrorism to building strong communities

Two resilience experts joined the Global Resilience Institute on Tuesday, for the first in an educational luncheon speaker series.

Brig. Gen. (ret.) Meir Elran, head of the Homeland Security Program of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University, and Maj. Gen. (ret.) Warren Edwards, a Senior Fellow at the Community and Regional Research Institute (CARRI), each presented to an audience of Northeastern students, faculty and staff.

From left to right: GRI Founding Director Stephen Flynn and Brig. Gen. (ret.) Meir Elran
From left to right: GRI Founding Director Stephen Flynn and Brig. Gen. (ret.) Meir Elran

“Resilience as a vital strategy to counter terrorism: The Israeli experience” was the topic presented by Elran. He defined terrorism as an ideologically-rooted and maliciously-motivated act of violence directed at civilians, as the weaker link of the national chain, so as to frighten the public, cause chaos and demoralize the systemic routine in order to pressure the leadership to succumb to the political demands of the perpetrators.

Presenting the differences between “resistance” and “resilience,” he told the gathered audience that though the concept of resistance can be more attractive to decision makers, as an easier sell and an often more tangible, visible project, it is investments in resilience which allow a system to bounce back faster and to a higher level of functionality, once a resistance strategy fails.

“Resilience is a platform for action,” he said, noting, “Resiliency isn’t just about bouncing back, it’s about bouncing forward too.”

Elran, who served in the IDF as a career officer for 24 years in senior command and staff positions, took an active role in the peace talks with Egypt and was an active member of the military delegation to the peace talks with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Following his retirement from the military, Elran served as chief of staff for the Tel Aviv municipality and afterwards as a senior consultant for strategic planning for several government offices, including the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Internal Security, and the National Security Council.

“Resilience is not a constant quality,” Elran said Tuesday. “It can and should be built and enhanced continuously.”

Warren Edwards at the Global Resilience Institute
Warren Edwards presents at the Global Resilience Institute

Elran concluded that resistance measures alone prove to be insufficient against severe terrorist threats – and that resilience is necessary for not only bouncing back, but the critical step of moving forward.

The next presentation focused on community resilience, and was presented by Edwards, who also serves as a GRI Distinguished Senior Fellow. His talk was entitled, “Why U.S. communities can’t be resilient: 4 things that inhibit progress and what we might do about them.”

Edwards stressed that resilience can’t be just about response, it must also be about recovery, calling resilience “an extraordinarily horizontal problem,” that touches many aspects of daily life.

Before suggesting solutions and a path to a more resilient future, Edwards named several barriers to resilience, including the inability to measure resilience, and the lack of rewards for implementing it. He identified the lack of incentives or payoffs as the biggest problem.

“Let’s begin to form frameworks and organizations that will allow us to get to agreements,” he proposed. “I believe that GRI is one of those things.”

GRI, a university-wide, interdisciplinary institute committed to advancing the security, sustainability, health and well-being of communities and societies around the world, will host a series of educational “brown bag lunches,” each semester as part of its educational outreach. The events are open to the public, and will be announced on GRI’s website (globalresilience.northeastern.edu) and social media.

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