From the START Secretariat

Transdisciplinary Network on Indigenous Knowledge and Disaster Risk

Two years ago (December 2013) in New Zealand, 25 early career researchers from around the world met for an intensive two-week START seminar on Risk Interpretation and Action (RIA).

Participants reviewed the RIA framework under the theme of ‘decision-making under conditions of uncertainty’, and developed novel theoretical approaches to respond to and improve this framework which were published in a 2014 edition of the Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies.  Integrating indigenous knowledge into disaster risk reduction emerged as one of six key issues affecting risk interpretation and action, and a working group from the seminar was awarded a follow-on grant to continue their work.

The Indigenous Peoples and Disaster Risk Reduction Project is an outgrowth of this follow-on grant. The project aims to advance the formation of an international network and community of practice of indigenous and non-indigenous scholars. In addition to the website to connect global researchers, they have also produced a video about indigenous peoples affected by hydroelectric dams in the Amazon.

Click here to read more about the RIA Seminar outcomes and the Indigenous Peoples and Disaster Risk Reduction Project in a blog written by Dr. Simone Athayde, who is one of the working group leaders.



Zoomed in on Earth Observation and Governance

In Africa, complex relationships between modern and traditional governance systems and global change dynamics do not adequately address the gamut of human-natural system interactions.  In the past couple of years, START has coordinated two workshops that have resulted in recent publications on the issues of earth system governance and earth observation for sustainable development.

The first paper argues that examination of the governance-GEC nexus through the aid of the Earth System Governance (ESG) Framework would provide a much broader and more helpful insight. It's based on a scoping workshop organized by START and representing a diversity of disciplines, including political science, law, geography, natural resources management and environmental sciences.  The 17 attendees of the 2013 Earth System Governance workshop (all serving as authors of this article) developed a comprehensive strategy paper on key research needs in ESG research in Africa.  This article presents the key insights in an abridged version.

Senay is presenting this paper now at the Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA-V) conference in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. CCDA-V’s theme for this year is “Africa, climate change and sustainable development: what is at stake at Paris and beyond?”

The second paper stems from a 2014 workshop on the role of earth systems observations in environmental policy.  This paper addresses the issue of how geospatial technologies could play a significant role in the development and strengthening of national policy and decision-making. In developing countries, the uptake and usage of geospatial science and technology is constrained by capacity and institutional handicaps.

The impetus for this special issue publication were six case studies led by thought leaders from five countries in Africa on current use, and the potential for future use, of Earth observations in policy formulation and implementation in Africa. Case study authors came together with representatives from the NASA, USAID, the World Bank, US universities, GEOSS and AfriGEOSS to take part in a scoping workshop held by START last year.  This summary article presents a brief summary of insights on the environmental policy support role of Earth observations based on the case studies coordinated by START.


START Welcomes New Staff

In August, START welcomed two new Program Specialists, Dr. Mary Thompson-Hall (photo: left) and Ms. Niki West (right).

Mary has a master’s and PhD in geography from the University of South Carolina and a bachelor's in environmental studies from University of Tennessee. She has several years of experience conducting research related to vulnerability and adaptive capacity of social actors in Ghana and Malawi and managing a USAID project in Zambia. Mary was most recently a post-doctoral researcher at the Basque Center for Climate Change in Bilbao, Spain. Mary is the leader for START's Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) program.

Niki has a master's in environmental management from Duke University and a bachelor's in business from Alberta School of Business. Much of her international experience has been in Asia through program development and project management. Her last post was an Energy Policy Analyst at the David Suzuki Foundation in Vancouver, BC. Niki is managing START's Pan-Asia Risk Reduction Fellowships and other programmatic efforts.



Partnership with Future Earth

We are pleased to announce that the START Secretariat has signed a memorandum of understanding with Future Earth, a major international research platform providing the knowledge and support to accelerate transformations to a sustainable world.  START will collaborate with Future Earth in ways that embrace our common goals to build the capacity of climate change researchers and practitioners in developing countries.

From START Regions


ACCFP Round 3 Kicks Off in Tanzania

The inception meeting for the 3rd round of the African Climate Change Fellowship Program (ACCFP) recently took place in Tanzania in September 2015. ACCFP is a START-sponsored program that's implemented by our regional partner, the Institute of Resource Assessment at the University of Dar es Salaam. This event offered opportunities for the fellows to present their proposals and receive training on scientific writing from former ACCFP fellows who are now experts in their climate change fields. Read more about the ACCFP event here.


TEA-START Contributes to UNEP Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6) Assessment

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has recently started its flagship Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6) assessment, and Professor Gensuo Jia, the Director of the Temperate East Asia Regional Centre for START (TEA-START), is appointed as coordinating lead author of GEO-6 to lead the Asia-Pacific outlook.

Using the "integrated environmental assessment" methodology, UNEP has produced five GEO reports since 1997, which have analyzed environmental state and trends at the global and regional scales, described plausible outlooks for various time frames and formulated policy options.

The upcoming GEO-6, expected to launch in 2016-2017, will build upon regional assessment processes and create a comprehensive picture of the environmental factors contributing to human well-being, accompanied by an analysis of policies leading to greater attainment of global environmental objectives and goals. The Global Environment Outlook is a consultative process, participatory process that builds capacity for conducting integrated environmental assessments and reporting on the state, trends and outlooks of the environment. GEO is also a series of products that informs environmental decision-making and aims to facilitate the interaction between science and policy.   


New Masters Program on Urban Governance

Our colleagues in Taiwan at the South Asia Regional Centre for START (SARCS) have an International Program on Urban Governance (IPUG) at National Taipei University that's accepting applications now until 30 October.  Read more about IPUG here.



Program Highlight: Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR)

Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) is one of START's newest programs.  ASSAR is funded through the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA), a major initiative to deepen understanding of vulnerability and adaptation in climate change ‘hot spots’ across Africa and Asia. Through CARIAA, four consortia will conduct research in three types of landscapes— semi-arid, deltas, and Himalayan river basins— where demographic trends and strong climate signals put large numbers of people and their livelihoods at risk.   START has partnered with the University of Cape Town, University of East Anglia, the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, and Oxfam on ASSAR for a five-year project span that aims to improve understanding of climate change in semi-arid areas across Africa and Asia. 

The Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) consortium works in Western, Eastern and Southern Africa and Western India; areas where vulnerability to climate variability and change is shaped by the intersection of a harsh climate regime and an array of non-climate stressors.  ASSAR’s regionally-rooted work focuses as much on processes as outcomes. While working to meet current stakeholder demands for knowledge and capacity, ASSAR is also committed to facilitating the development of a new cohort of local and international adaptation specialists whose expertise and experience will far outlive this project.

In the last several months, ASSAR regional teams in West, East, and Southern Africa as well as in India have been busy disseminating the findings of the Regional Diagnostic Studies. This diagnostic research is aimed at understanding what people in semi-arid regions currently know about climate change, and what they’re doing to adapt to these changes.  Check out this link to the START website for a more in-depth update on recent ASSAR activities.

Lawra District, Ghana RDS dialogue group participants in July, 2015. Photo Credit: Prince Ansah.

Alumni Spotlight: Raka Suryandaru

Outside of work, Raka enjoys running.

As a member of the Indonesia Association of Urban and Regional Planners (IAP), Raka Suryandaru first encountered START in 2011 at a science policy dialogue in Jakarta held in partnership by IAP and START. Since that fateful meeting, Raka has worked with START on several projects, including the 2012 Advanced Institute on Forensic Investigations of Disasters (FORIN) and most recently the Planning Integrated Coastal Adaptation Strategies for North Jakarta (PICAS) project.

Through participating in START programs, Raka has seen growth in his professional development, project management skills, and confidence. Just a few years ago, Raka viewed urban planning simply as a numbers exercise, but he recently noted, “START changed my perspective; now I see planning as a key tool for development.”

Raka credits START and the Advanced Institute on FORIN for his first professional experience outside of Indonesia, where he was given the opportunity to engage with an international community tackling like-minded problems. It opened his eyes to a wider network of international colleagues and opened doors for him to collaborate with other organizations. This exposure led Raka to pursue a scholarship MSc Planning for Sustainability and Climate Change at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, which he recently completed.

Now back home, Raka looks forward to developing even better plans for the people of Indonesia. Raka reflects that: “START has had a strong influence in my career as a professional… I’ve learned that there are people and communities we need to incorporate as partners in the planning process. We must be able to work with all different types of people from influential businessmen down to the most vulnerable.” Raka plans to embrace this approach in his current role at joint IAP-Mercy Corps research, as a part of Asian Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCRN) where he is working to develop tools to incorporate climate change into urban planning.

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