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Caribbean Rolls Out Plans to Reduce Climate Change Hazards

Dr. Mark Bynoe, senior environment and resource economist with the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC). Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Dr. Mark Bynoe, senior environment and resource economist with the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC). Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Climate change remains inextricably linked to the challenges of disaster risk reduction (DRR). And according to the head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Robert Glasser, the reduction of greenhouse gases is “the single most urgent global disaster risk treatment”.

Glasser was addressing the Fifth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in the Americas. Held recently in Montreal, the gathering included more than 1,000 delegates from 50 countries, including the Caribbean.

“We recognise that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is arguably the single most urgent global disaster risk treatment, because without those efforts our other efforts to reduce many hazards and the risks those pose to communities would be overwhelmed over the longer term,” Glasser said.

The conference, hosted by the Canadian government in cooperation with UNISDR marked the first opportunity for governments and stakeholders of the Americas to discuss and agree on a Regional Action Plan to support the implementation of the Sendai Framework for DRR 2015-2030.

The Sendai Framework is the first major agreement of the post-2015 development agenda, with seven targets and four priorities for action. It was endorsed by the UN General Assembly following the 2015 Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR). The Framework is a 15-year, voluntary non-binding agreement which recognises that the state has the primary role to reduce disaster risk but that responsibility should be shared with other stakeholders including local government, the private sector and other stakeholders.

“The regional plan of action you will adopt . . . will help and guide national and local governments in their efforts to strengthen the links between the 2030 agenda for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction as national and local DRR strategies are developed and further refined in line with the Sendai Framework priorities over the next four years,” Glasser said.

The Caribbean is a minute contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions but will be among the most severely impacted.

The region is already experiencing its impacts with more frequent extreme weather events such as the 2013 rain event in the Eastern Caribbean, extreme drought across the region with severe consequences in several countries; the 2005 flooding in Guyana and Belize in 2010.

Inaction for the Caribbean region is very costly. An economic analysis focused on three areas – increased hurricane damages, loss of tourism revenue and infrastructure – revealed damages could cost the region 10.7 billion dollars by 2025. That’s more than the combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of all the member countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

At the Montreal conference, Head of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) Ronald Jackson was a panelist in a forum discussing the linkages between disaster risk reduction, climate change and sustainable development. He said the region needs to marry its indigenous solutions to disaster risk management with modern technology.

“We’ve recognised that in the old days, our fore parents…had to deal with flood conditions and they survived them very well. There were simple things in terms of how they pulled their beds and other valuables out of the flood space in the house in particular. This contributed to their surviving the storms with minimal loss,” Jackson said.

“That knowledge of having to face those adverse conditions and surviving them and coping through them and being able to bounce back to where they were before, that was evident in our society in the past. It has subsequently disappeared.”

CDEMA is a regional inter-governmental agency for disaster management in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The Agency was established in 1991 with primary responsibility for the coordination of emergency response and relief efforts to participating states that require such assistance.

Another regional agency, the Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) is collaborating with other agencies on the Caribbean Risk Management Initiative (CRMI).

The CRMI aims to provide a platform for sharing the experiences and lessons learned between different sectors across the Caribbean in order to facilitate improved disaster risk reduction.

“We see disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation as two sides of the same coin because to the extent we are able to enhance disaster risk reduction we are also beginning to adapt to climate change,” Dr. Mark Bynoe, the CCCCC’s senior environment and resource economist said.

He explained that there are a range of activities carried out specifically in terms of climate adaptation that will also have a disaster risk reduction element.

“We are looking at enhancing water security within a number of our small island states. One of the things we are focusing on there is largely to produce quality water through the use of reverse osmosis systems but we’re utilizing a renewable energy source. So, on the one hand we are also addressing adaptation and mitigation.”

Meantime, CCCCC’s Deputy Director Dr. Ulric Trotz said the agency is rolling out a series of training workshops in 10 countries to share training tools that were developed with the aim of assisting in the generation of scientific information and analysis to help in making informed decisions. These include the Weather Generator (WG), the Tropical Storm Model/ Simple Model for the Advection of Storms and Hurricanes (SMASH), and the Caribbean Drought Assessment Tool (CARiDRO).

The training will target key personnel whose focus are in areas of agriculture, water resources, coastal zone management, health, physical planning or disaster risk reduction.

“The CARIWIG [Caribbean Weather Impacts Group] tool is a critical tool in that it more or less localizes the projection so that for instance, you can actually look at climate projections for the future in a watershed in St. Kitts and Nevis. It localizes that information and it makes it much more relevant to the local circumstance,” said Dr. Trotz.

Training and application of the tools will allow decision-makers to better understand the potential impacts of drought, tropical storms, and rainfall and temperature changes. When combined with other data and information, they can help to build a picture of potential impacts to key economic sectors in the various countries.

Credit: Inter Press Service News Agency

Caribbean Scientists Work to Limit Climate Impact on Marine Environment

In the Turks and Caicos, the government is searching for new ways to manage the conch and lobster populations. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

In the Turks and Caicos, the government is searching for new ways to manage the conch and lobster populations. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

Caribbean scientists say fishermen are already seeing the effects of climate change, so for a dozen or so years they’ve been designing systems and strategies to reduce the impacts on the industry.

While some work on reef gardens and strategies to repopulate over fished areas, others crunch the data and develop tools designed to prepare the region, raise awareness of climate change issues and provide the information to help leaders make decisions.

As the oceans absorb more carbon, the region’s supply of conch and oysters, the mainstay of some communities, is expected to decline further.

In December 2017, the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) secretariat, with funding from the UK government, announced a Climate Report Card to help formulate strategies to lessen the impact of climate change on regional fisheries.

“The CRFM is trying to ensure that the issue of climate change as it relates to the fisheries sector comes to the fore… because the CARICOM Heads of Government have put fish and fishery products among the priority commodities for CARICOM. It means that things that affect that development are important to us and so climate change is of primary importance,” said Peter Murray, the CRFM’s Programme Manager for Fisheries and Development.

The grouping of small, developing states are ‘fortifying’ the sectors that rely on the marine environment, or the Blue Economy, to withstand the expected ravages of climate change which scientists say will increase the intensity of hurricanes, droughts, coastal sea level rise and coral bleaching.

In its last report AR5, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported: “Many terrestrial, freshwater and marine species have shifted their geographic ranges, seasonal activities, migration patterns, abundances and species interactions in response to ongoing climate change,” patterns that are already being noted by Caribbean fishers.

In an email to IPS, Murray outlined several initiatives across the Caribbean that ,he says are crucial to regional efforts. The Report Card, which has been available since March, will provide the in-depth data governments need to make critical decisions on mitigation and adaptation. It provides information covering ocean processes such as ocean acidification; extreme events like storms, surges and sea temperature; biodiversity and civil society including fisheries, tourism and settlements.

In addition, the 17-members of the CRFM agreed to incorporate the management of fisheries into their national disaster plans, and signed off on the Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy for the fisheries sector.

“It means that anything looking at climate change and potential impacts is important to us,” Murray says.

The IPCC’s gloomy projections for world fisheries has been confirmed by a 2015 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report indicating that for the last 30 years, world fisheries have been in decline due to climate change. In the Caribbean, reduced catches are directly impacting the stability of entire communities and the diets and livelihoods of some of the region’s poorest. Further decline could devastate the economies of some islands.

But even as climate change is expected to intensify the effects of warming ocean waters, pelagic species could avoid the Caribbean altogether, bringing even more hardships. So the regional plan is centred on a Common Fisheries Policy that includes effective management, monitoring and enforcement systems and tools to improve risk planning.

In addition to the disaster plan and its other activities, the Community has over time installed a Coral Reef Early Warning System; new data collection protocols; improved computing capacity to crunch climate data; an insurance scheme to increase the resilience of fishing communities and stakeholders; as well as several tools to predict drought and excessive rainfall.

Worldwide, three billion people rely on fish as their major source of protein. The industry provides a livelihood for about 12 per cent of the world’s population and earns approximately 2.9 trillion dollars per year, the WWF reports. With regional production barely registering internationally, the Caribbean is putting all its efforts into preserving the Blue Economy, which the World Bank said earned the region 407 billion dollars in 2012.

The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, known regionally as the 5Cs, has coordinated and implemented a raft of programmes aimed at building systems that will help the region cope the effects of climate change.

Through collaboration with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the 5Cs has been setting up an integrated network of climate and biological monitoring stations to strengthen the region’s early warning mechanism.

And as the oceans absorb more carbon, the region’s supply of conch and oysters, the mainstay of some communities, is expected to decline further. In addition, warming sea water is expected to shift migration routes for pelagic fish further north, reducing the supply of available deep sea fish even more. Added to that, competition for the dwindling resources could cause negative impacts of one industry over another.

But while scientists seek options, age-old traditions are sometimes still pitted against conservation projects. Take an incident that played out in the waters around St. Vincent and the Grenadines a few weeks ago when whale watchers witnessed the harpooning of two orcas by Vincentian fishermen.

The incident forced Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves to announce the end of what was, until then, a thriving whaling industry in the village of Barouille. For years, government turned a blind eye as fishermen breached regional and international agreements on the preservation of marine species. The continued breaches are also against the Caribbean Community’s Common Fisheries Policy that legally binds countries to a series of actions to protect and preserve the marine environment and its creatures.

On April 2, five days after the incident, Gonsalves took to the airwaves to denounce the whaling caused by “greed” and announce pending regulations to end fishing for the mammals. The incident also tarnished the island’s otherwise excellent track record at climate proofing its fishing industry.

Murray’s email on regional activities outlines SVG activities including the incorporation of the regional strategy and action plan and its partnership with several regional and international agencies and organisations to build resilience in the marine sector.

Over in the northern Caribbean, traditions are also testing regulations and international agreements. In Jamaica, the Sandals Foundation in association with major supermarket chains has launched a campaign to stop the capture and sale of parrotfish for consumption.

Scientists say that protecting the parrotfish is synonymous with saving the reefs and mitigating the effects of climate change. And further north in the Turks and Caicos, the government is searching for new ways to manage the conch and lobster populations. While trade is regulated, household use of both, sea turtles, and some sharks remain unregulated; and residents are resistant to any restrictions.

And while many continue to puzzle about the reasons behind the region’s climate readiness, scientists caution that there is no time to ease up. This week they rolled out, among other things, a coastal adaptation project and a public education and awareness (PAE) programme launched on April 26 in Belize City.

The PAE project, named Feel the Change, is funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Project (J-CCCP) public awareness programme. Speaking at the launch, project development specialist at 5Cs, Keith Nichols, pointed to the extreme weather events from severe droughts to changes in crop cycles, which have cost the region billions.

“Climate change is not just sea level rise and global warming; climate change and climate variability is all around us,” he said.

Credit: Inter Press Service News Agency

Global conference renews call to reduce greenhouse gas

(Photo: AP)

The fifth Regional Platform for disaster risk reduction in the Americas began in Canada today with the United Nations (UN) reiterating a call for the reduction of greenhouse gases that it has labelled “the single most urgent global disaster risk treatment”.

Head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Robert Glasser told a gathering of more than 1,000 delegates from 50 countries, including the Caribbean, that climate change remains inextricably linked to the challenges of disaster risk reduction (DRR).

“We also recognise that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is arguably the single most urgent global disaster risk treatment, because without those efforts our other efforts to reduce many hazards and the risks those pose to communities would be overwhelmed over the longer term,” Glasser said.

“The regional plan of action you will adopt this week will help and guide national and local governments in their efforts to strengthen the links between the 2030 agenda Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction as national and local DRR strategies are developed and further refined in line with the Sendai Framework priorities over the next four years.”

The March 7-9 conference, hosted by the Canadian government in cooperation with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), marks the first opportunity for governments and stakeholders of the Americas to discuss and agree on a Regional Action Plan to support the implementation of the Sendai Framework for DRR 2015-2030.

The Sendai Framework recognises Global and Regional Platforms for DRR as key mediums for its implementation, building on the pivotal role that they have already played in supporting the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005 – 2015.

It also underscores the need for the Global Platform and the Regional Platforms to function as a coherent system of mechanisms in order to fully leverage on the potential of collaboration across all stakeholders and sectors to provide guidance and support in its implementation.

The main focus of the conference will be to discuss how governments, ministers, civil society leaders, technical and scientific institutions, private sector, media could drive the implementation and measurement of the expected outcomes of the Sendai Framework in the Americas.

Glasser said the work of adopting and implementing the Sendai Framework is “important for the rapid urbanisation taking place across the region which brings with it new challenges for risk governance and disaster risk management.”

He said Latin America and the Caribbean is the most urbanised region of the world as over 80 per cent of its population live in urban areas and that it could increase to 90 per cent within a few decades.

The conference is being held under the theme “Resilience for All”.

In his welcome remarks, Canada’s Minister for Public Safety Ralph Goodale told the gathering they need to make good use of their time together to move forward on a robust regional action plan that can increase the open exchange of research and technology that can save lives worldwide.

“A plan that is grounded in the Sendai Framework’s guiding principles that can help strengthen and organise, prepare, budget and govern; and how we engage critical partners…and a plan that can let us use our collective influence to increase the number of countries and territories and organizations that do have strategies in place to reduce the risks of disasters.”

Among the topics to be discussed over the next three days include “Understanding the risks in the Americas, Empowerment of women and girls and gender Equality in Disaster Risk Reduction and High Risk Populations as Agents of Change for Disaster Risk Reduction”.

Credit: Jamaica Observer

Jamaican communities better able to address emergencies and climate change with Canadian support

Abacus for Communities and the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM) recently completed the projects in Jamaica which have helped communities across the island to reduce their vulnerability to natural hazards and climate change.

Jamaica’s largest environmental conservation area, Portland Bight, is now better equipped to deal with climate change with the completion of The Portland Bight Protected Area Disaster Risk Reduction Project. C-CAM, which is responsible for the area that is home to birds, iguanas, crocodiles, manatees, marine turtles, and fish, received over CAD$15,000 and made additional contributions of more than CAD$8,000 to plant mangroves and train community members and students on their care.

Under the Community Emergency Communications for Natural Disaster and Climate Change Adaptation in Jamaica project, implemented by Abacus for Communities, emergency telecommunications systems were provided to 10 communities across Jamaica and 321 individuals were trained in the use of the equipment. This equipment and training has enabled these communities to have emergency communications during hazard events, thereby allowing emergency agencies to be able to access the information needed to plan their response and recovery efforts. This project totaled over CAD$175,000, with CAD$80,661 coming from the Government of Canada.

The Canadian High Commissioner, Mr. Sylvain Fabi, was delighted to be able to present both organizations with plaques to commemorate the successful implementation of these community-based disaster risk reduction initiatives.

Mr. Fabi commented during the presentation that “we have all seen the devastation that can be caused by natural disasters and climate change. With these projects, it is our hope, that Jamaica will be more resilient and prepared for future events.”

Rising sea levels, coastal erosion, and an escalation in the frequency and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes threaten homes and businesses across the Caribbean. This can result in loss of life and has a significant negative impact on sustainable economic growth. To be able to respond to the increased threat of natural disasters and climate change, communities must build their resilience. The Canada Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Fund is a CAD $3 million fund designed to support Caribbean-based non-governmental organizations, community groups, and governmental agencies working at the community level.

For more details, contact the Public Affairs Section, Canadian High Commission, 3 West Kings House Road, Kingston 10, Jamaica  Telephone: (876) 733-3253

Salt River, Clarendon in the Portland Bight Protected Area. (My photo)

Salt River, Clarendon in the Portland Bight Protected Area. (My photo)

Credit: Petchary's Blog

Japan and UNDP launch climate change project in eight Caribbean countries

undp_japan.jpg

Members of the J-CCCP Project Board following the project launch

The government of Japan and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched the US$15 million Japan-Caribbean climate change partnership (J-CCCP) on Thursday, in line with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The launch follows a two-day meeting with more than 40 representatives from eight Caribbean countries, including government officials, technical advisors, NGO and UN partners to set out a roadmap to mitigate and adapt to climate change, in line with countries’ long-term strategies.

The new initiative will help put in practice Caribbean countries’ actions and policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change, such as nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) and national adaptation plans (NAPs). It will also boost access to sustainable energy and help reduce fossil fuel imports and dependence, setting the region on a low-emission development path, while addressing critical balance of payments constraints.

“The government of Japan is pleased to partner with UNDP. It is envisaged that the project will also contribute to building a platform for information sharing in developing and implementing climate change policies and promoting the transfer of adaptation and mitigation technologies. Japan expects, through pilot projects and information sharing, the project will enable the Caribbean countries to enhance their capacity to cope with climate change and natural disasters,” said Masatoshi Sato, minister-counsellor and deputy head of mission at the embassy of Japan in Trinidad and Tobago, stressing that the partnership will also promote South-South and North-South cooperation, including study tours to Japan for government officials and technical advisors.

Participating countries include Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname, benefitting an estimated 200,000 women and men in 50 communities.

“This partnership comes at a critical time in our nation’s sustainable development programme,” said Gloria Joseph, permanent secretary in the ministry of planning, economic development and investment in Dominica. “Dominica has experienced firsthand the devastating and crippling effect that climate change can have on a nation’s people, their livelihoods and economy, risking losing up to 90 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) due to a tropical storm or hurricane. Dominica stands ready and welcomes the opportunity to benefit from early response warning systems, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction measures as it seeks to restore and ‘build back better’.”

Climate change is recognised as one of the most serious challenges to the Caribbean. With the likelihood that climate change will exacerbate the frequency and intensity of the yearly hurricane season, comprehensive measures are needed to protect at-risk communities. Boosting resilience is crucial for the region’s development and is a clear part of UNDP’s global strategic plan of programme priorities.

Negative impacts on land, water resources and biodiversity associated with climate change have also been predicted with the potential to affect shoreline stability, the health of coastal and marine ecosystems and private property, as well as ecosystem services. Increasing coastal erosion and severe coral reef bleaching events are already evident in some locations.

“UNDP has been championing the cause of climate change in the Caribbean for many years and we are pleased to partner with the Government of Japan toward the implementation of climate change projects in eight Caribbean countries,” said Rebeca Arias, regional hub director for UNDP’s Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean. “In light of the COP21 agreement, these projects are timely in assisting countries to respond more effectively to the impacts of climate change and to increase their resilience through actions today to make them stronger for tomorrow.”

Credit: Caribbean News Now

CDB advances climate change and disaster risk management of member countries

CBD’s Vice President of Operations Patricia McKenzie shared some camera time with Steven Hillier (2nd Left), Disaster Risk Reduction Adviser of the Department For International Development of the United Kingdom. Also in photo are Ronald Jackson, Executive Director of CDEMA, and Andrew Dupigny (right), Acting Director of Projects at CDB

CBD’s Vice President of Operations Patricia McKenzie shared some camera time with Steven Hillier (2nd Left), Disaster Risk Reduction Adviser of the Department For International Development of the United Kingdom. Also in photo are Ronald Jackson, Executive Director of CDEMA, and Andrew Dupigny (right), Acting Director of Projects at CDB

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) agenda for reducing risks and building resilience in the region got a much-needed boost recently. Twenty-three disaster risk management and community development professionals from 15 countries gathered at the headquarters of Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) for an intensive five-day workshop on project design and implementation organised by Community Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (CDRRF).

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the workshop, CDB’s vice president for operations emphasised the need for a broader reach and deepened relations with borrowing member countries (BMCs).

“We want to optimise the facility provided by CDRRF to assist in building capabilities at the community level. We see the need for CDRRF when we consider the fact that communities can be affected extensively by the impact of natural hazards. That they can be displaced, experience disruption in livelihoods and even have security and personal safety reduced. The need to help build community resilience becomes quite evident. CDB is keen on consolidating its relationship with BMCs,” stated Patricia McKenzie.

CDB’s commitment to strengthening national mechanisms for community resilience building was bolstered by the synergies created with the support of international development partners with a shared vision for the region. The harmonisation has resulted in increased investments in initiatives for disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA).

The region’s disaster management agency echoed those sentiments.

“Communities are the first line of defence in preventing disasters. It is, therefore, essential to deepen engagement beyond disaster management offices. There is an urgent need to participate with community actors to reduce risks and build capacity and resilience,” noted Ronald Jackson, executive director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).

He went on to make a case for more targeted investments in CCA.

“The Caribbean accounts for less than one percent of greenhouse emissions yet most climate change-related projects are heavily concentrated on energy emissions. Resources must be more effectively used. Focus must be shifted to dealing with the every-day present and future risks to lives and livelihoods. Strengthened and sustained community resilience is one of the key priority areas within the comprehensive disaster management strategy. It is an area in which CDEMA has made significant investments in the past and continues to support based on requests from member states,” Jackson said.

The aim of the workshop, which was facilitated by David Logan, was to broaden participant’s view of CDRRF and increase their capacity to assist community groups to design local solutions that meet CDRRF’s funding criteria.

As such, participants were exposed to exclusive content for the design and development of CDRRF projects. Topics included the development of performance measurement framework and the importance of identifying correct indicators. Other areas of learning covered designing work breakdown structure and procurement plans as well as undertaking social and gender analyses as participants were exposed to the project management cycle.

The workshop further allowed for some focus on environmental impact assessment, project costing and scheduling; all within the framework of DRR/CCA projects. The trainees also benefitted from rich experiences as they delved into live project ideas.

As BMCs move to capitalise on the skills passed on by CDB, it is expected that there will be an influx of innovative and transformative projects with tangible results that can produce lessons for DRR/CCA.

“While you were exposed to CDB’s way, the range of topics remain very useful. The skills garnered will suit the design and implementation of development projects across the board, not just CDB-funded projects”, remarked CDB’s acting director of projects, Andrew Dupigny as he closed the workshop proceedings.

The project design and implementation workshop is the first of its kind for the CDRRF. They will form part of the knowledge management efforts of a wider US$25.78 million grant facility funded by CDB; Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development of Canada and Department For International Development of the United Kingdom. CDRRF aims to build community capacity for disaster risk management through adaptation to climate change and reduction of vulnerabilities and building resilience to the impacts of natural hazards.

Credit: Caribbean News Now!

Vacancy at DFID Caribbean – Senior Programme Officer

The United Kingdom (UK) Department for International Development (DFID) Caribbean is now accepting applications for the post of Senior Programme Officer. The post-holder will support the Climate Change and DRR team in delivering a portfolio of climate change and disaster risk reduction programmes and policy initiatives in the Caribbean.

Applicants are required to complete DFID’s application form, which is available on the British High Commission website 29th August 2014.
Review the official call for applications here.
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