In addition to challenges of size and remoteness, small states are especially susceptible to external shocks such as global financial crises and natural disasters – often with devastating socio-economic consequences. Quantifying the level of vulnerability, and developing the most appropriate policy response to threats however has never been easy.
Some vulnerabilities are easy to track through macro-economic indicators. In 2013, for example, average gross domestic product growth in Commonwealth small states stood at 2.23 per cent – well below the global average of 3.07 per cent. Other vulnerabilities related to the environment, governance and societal factors are more difficult to measure and must be understood in a broader context.
The Vulnerability Resilience Framework, established in 2004 in partnership with the University of Malta, developed indices to measure the ability of countries to absorb external shocks. Commonwealth experts expanded the framework in 2014 to cover areas such as governance, environmental management and social development.
International institutions can now use the Vulnerability Resilience Framework to take a country’s vulnerability into account when they determine its eligibility for concessional finance. At the same time, governments can use it to make decisions on the best policy interventions and adjust national priorities accordingly to meet the needs of their citizens.
Our pioneering Vulnerability Resilience Framework has helped countries to create viable national policies, secure international financing and build capacity to boost resilience.
The framework gives small states the evidence base they require to build international support and secure financing to create strong and prosperous societies. It is now used by international financial institutions and development partners such as the World Bank and United Nations, resulting in a wider recognition of the vulnerabilities of small states and a more tailored response to their needs.
While originally developed for policy-makers and researchers in small states, the framework is a valuable tool which can be used by other vulnerable countries around the world to measure their susceptibility and, ultimately, build their own resilience.