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UNU-EHS and UPEACE Online Course on Climate Change, International Law and Human Security

The University for Peace (UPEACE) and UNU-EHS are pleased to invite applications for a new certificate online training course on the topic of “Climate Change, International Law and Human Security”. This six weeks online course will be co-taught by experts from both institutions and will take place from April 8th to May 19th, 2015.

The course is intended for staff members of the United Nations and its agencies; staff members of other inter-governmental organizations, NGOs, and government agencies; academics; practitioners; and students, who are working or researching in fields related to climate change and environmental, human rights, international law, development, and migration, amongst others. UPEACE and UNU-EHS aim to ensure equal gender and geographical distribution across the selected participants.

The course has a limited number of seats available. Qualified participants will be admitted on the combined basis of first-come-first served, gender equality and regional representation.

To apply, please click here.

Credit: UNU-EHS

Post-2015 development goals should include resilience

ClaudiaDewald_iStockphoto-365x365As the UN launches its first report on the post-2015 MDG consultations, CDKN’s Amy Kirbyshire reflects on what the 5th Africa Drought Adaptation Forum taught us about how resilience can be measured and incorporated into the post-2015 development framework.

Disaster resilience in the post-2015 development framework

The failure of the Millennium Development Goals to take disaster risk into account is considered a major gap in the current development framework around the globe. This is one message to emerge from the report The Global Conversation Begins, presented by the UN last week, which documents initial findings from consultations around the world on the post-2015 Development Agenda.

While disaster resilience is much more difficult to measure than, say, disaster mortality, the consultations to date have clearly shown a preference for this more positive framing by the global Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) community. In addition, the consultations devoted to DRR have recommended a standalone goal on DRR, as well as incorporating DRR into other development goals. The standalone goal will ensure visibility of disaster resilience, and will also provide an opportunity to better address the interface between global development frameworks and those for DRR, climate change adaptation and conflict.

This presents a challenge. To have a standalone development goal on disaster resilience, some degree of consensus is needed on what it really means to be resilient and how we can measure it, among other things.

Last month, more than 250 participants from governments, regional bodies, UN agencies, NGOs and academia attended the 5th Africa Drought Adaptation Forum (ADAF5) in Arusha, Tanzania. Their discussion of methodologies and indicators for measuring community-level resilience to drought in Africa highlighted just how complex developing a new goal for disaster resilience will be.

As Catherine Fitzgibbon from UNDP Drylands Development Centre put it, resilience is the flipside of vulnerability. Couched in positive language, it encourages thinking about where we want to be, rather than what is missing. It is multifaceted, dynamic and constantly changing. It means different things to different people, so identifying it and measuring it is a real challenge.

Working with communities in drought-prone regions of Africa, the UNDP Drylands Development Centre has provided some answers to what it means to be resilient. Under the Quantitative Impact Assessment for Community-based Drought Risk Reduction Initiative, it asks groups within communities to think about what factors help people cope in times of drought and the characteristics that define a resilient community. The top ranked factors are taken to be that community’s resilience indicators.

To measure their resilience, the community estimates the proportion of households that meet the resilience criteria during a ‘normal’ and ‘bad’ period. By grouping the indicators under the five categories of the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework (SLF: physical, natural, social, human and financial capital), and by mapping the ‘normal’ and ‘bad’ values against those categories on a spider diagram, the community’s level of resilience becomes clear. More resilient communities exhibit less difference between a normal period and a bad period. The use of the SLF also helps to facilitate comparison across different communities.

Using the findings of the research, the UNDP Drylands Development Centre has developed a list of common indicators for governments to routinely collect data on, to help map and measure changes in resilience over time. This model, known as the Community Based Resilience Assessment (CoBRA), is best suited to communities that experience systematic shocks or disasters, as these are likely to present a clear consensus on what constitutes a ‘bad’ period. Common indicators include year-round access to water, education, health care, access to credit, social safety nets, peace and stability, and large cattle herds, among many others.

Assessment data collected so far suggests that the long-term key to building resilience is education, particularly the completion of secondary and tertiary schooling. This leads to better jobs and support for families by providing money to invest in other livelihood activities. Therefore, scholarships might be a good long-term resilience-building intervention.

While such initiatives could contribute to shaping a resilience-based development goal by helping to define what resilience is and how it can be measured, other questions also need answering. For example, agreement is needed on ‘what should we be resilient to?’ and should we be focusing on disaster resilience (i.e. to natural hazards), or resilience to all shocks? Furthermore, a community’s resilience will be preconditioned by wider governance and structures; how can we build this in?

As was clear from break-out group discussions at the ADAF5, such consensus does not yet exist. Fundamentally, delegates disagreed over whether it is possible to have a globally applicable ‘meta-indicator’ for resilience generally, or whether resilience necessarily relates to specific hazards such as drought or to specific contexts.

The prevailing view among delegates was that there could be a meta-indicator for disaster resilience in the post-2015 development framework, but it would need to be a composite of sub-indicators, to reflect the wide variety of factors that influence the overall picture. We need a resilience index, they said, that includes a number of factors and can be tailored to specific contexts.

The group favoured a composite linked to physical, natural, social, human and financial capital, as in the SLF. This resonates with calls from the post-2015 DRR consultations for a resilience framework, the implementation of which would involve a multidimensional risk index reflecting different themes and integrated risk assessment models.

While the development agenda cannot address all DRR concerns, it is clear that DRR must be incorporated into the next iteration of the MDGs. Past experience has helped us recognise what is needed, and why. If resilience is to be the vehicle, as experts seem to broadly agree, discussions such as those held in Arusha have much to offer proponents on the ‘how’ that will be required to bring the new goal to fruition.

Published by CDKN Global | on: 8am, April 01st, 2013

Global biodiversity awareness tops 75% for the first time

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The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which is within the United Nations Environment Programme, says 75% of consumers surveyed worldwide are aware of biodiversity, while 48% can give a correct definition of the term biodiversity. These are some of the findings contained in the 2013 Biodiversity Barometer report launched today in Paris by the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT). Consumers in Brazil, China and France, according to the study, show a particular awareness about biodiversity.

“The Biodiversity Barometer is an important source of information on global trends in biodiversity awareness. The results not only demonstrate a growing consciousness, they also show that respecting biodiversity provides tremendous opportunities for business around the world” said Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary for the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Very high biodiversity awareness in China
This year’s special focus on China reveals interesting results: Apart from a very high biodiversity awareness (94%), Chinese consumers surveyed also show high knowledge of biodiversity: 64% could define correctly what biodiversity means. “The survey results do not come as a surprise. In recent years, the government as well as civil society organizations in China has undertaken tremendous activities for communicating and raising awareness of biodiversity issues” says Zhang Wenguo, Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People’s Republic of China.

Biodiversity offers branding opportunities
Responses to the question “What are the three brands you consider are making the most efforts to respect biodiversity?” were manifold and often country-specific: In Brazil, there is a clear leader with Natural (49%). In the USA, most mentioned food brands, including Kraft, Starbucks and Ben & Jerry’s. UK has two leading companies: Bodyshop and CO-OP (23% and 20%). In France Yves Rocher, Nestle and Danone top the list, while in China the perceived leaders are Yili, Mengliu and Amway. “There are clear opportunities for brands to position themselves around the issue of biodiversity, and anticipate increasing consumer interest on this issue” concludes Rémy Oudghiri, Director of Trends and Insights at IPSOS.

Biodiversity reporting is growing, but still weak
“Today 32 of the top 100 beauty companies in the world refer to biodiversity in their corporate communications such as sustainability reporting and websites. This is considerably higher than in 2009, but much lower than what we found in the top 100 food companies” says Rik Kutsch Lojenga, Executive Director of UEBT. In 2013, 87% of consumers say they want to be better informed about how companies source their natural ingredients, and a large majority of consumers say they would to boycott brands that do not take good care of environmental or ethical trade practices in its sourcing and production processes.

Youth is the future of biodiversity
For brands interested in reaching consumers on biodiversity, the 2013 Biodiversity Barometer offers the following insights: Young people tend to have the highest awareness of biodiversity (80%), as well as more affluent and well-educated people. Traditional media remain by and large the key sources of awareness: 51% of all surveyed consumers learned about biodiversity through television, 33% through newspapers and magazines.

On the UEBT Biodiversity Barometer
The UEBT Barometer provides insights on evolving biodiversity awareness among consumers and how the beauty industry reports on biodiversity. It also illustrates the progress towards achieving the targets of the Strategic Plan of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and its results will be reflected in the next edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook as a midway point analysis of the achievement of those targets. Since its first edition in 2009, the global research organisation IPSOS, on behalf of UEBT, has interviewed 31,000 consumers in 11 countries (Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Peru, South Korea, Switzerland, UK and USA). In 2013, the biodiversity barometer survey was conducted among 6,000 consumers in six countries – Brazil, China, France, Germany, UK and USA.

The Union for Ethical BioTrade
The Union for Ethical BioTrade is a non-profit association that promotes the ‘Sourcing with Respect’ of ingredients that come from biodiversity. Members, which include many beauty companies, commit to gradually ensuring that their sourcing practices promote the conservation of biodiversity, respect traditional knowledge, and assure the equitable sharing of benefits all along the supply chain.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
Opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and entering into force in December 1993, the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty for the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of the components of biodiversity and the equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the use of genetic resources. With 193 Parties, the Convention has near universal participation among countries. The Convention seeks to address all threats to biodiversity and ecosystem services, including threats from climate change, through scientific assessments, the development of tools, incentives and processes, the transfer of technologies and good practices and the full and active involvement of relevant stakeholders including indigenous and local communities, youth, NGOs, women and the business community. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is a subsidiary agreement to the Convention. It seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology.To date, 163 countries plus the European Union have ratified the Cartagena Protocol.

The Secretariat of the Convention and its Cartagena Protocol is located in Montreal.

For more information visit: http://www.cbd.int.For more information, please visit: http://www.ethicalbiotrade.org. You may also visit: http://www.ethicalbiotrade.org and contact Union for Ethical BioTrade bia phone at +31-20-223-4567 or email using info@ethicalbiotrade.org
*** From the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity

Environmental Psychologist: Uncertainty Drives Inaction on Climate Adaptation

Environmental Psychologist and Geographer Dr. Stefanie Baasch says uncertainties about climate change impacts, especially at the local and regional level, could drive inaction. Read more in her exclusive contribution to Caribbean Climate.

Adaptation to climate change is a new and challenging task on the political agendas. Developing strategies and measures for

Environmental Psychologist and Geographer Dr. Stefanie Baasch

Environmental Psychologist and Geographer Dr. Stefanie Baasch

adaptation are not easy to find because adaptation takes place under conditions of uncertainty, complexity and dynamic developments. On the scientific level there are still deep uncertainties in predicting climate change impacts especially at the local and regional scale.

Also, climate change impacts may interact with each other and may furthermore have a greater adverse effect when acting together compared to when they’re acting in isolation. But even if this data would be available in the future, adaptation still remains challenging because of its high complexity and its dependence on dynamic and interacting societal and natural framework conditions. For example, adaptation capacities are highly dependent on economic and demographic developments.

Simultaneously, adaptation is closely linked to local adaptation needs which are based on locally diverse vulnerabilities. This means that adaptation not only calls for strategies which are focusing on changing natural conditions, but also for integrative strategies that takes both societal and natural conditions into account. Adaptation to climate change is a cross cutting issue that interacts with and influences many policy fields, including nature protection, biodiversity and societal development.

From a psychological perspective, dealing with uncertainties is difficult because people in general feel much more comfortable in decision-making based on certainties, as such uncertainty could lead to justifying inaction. Therefore, dealing with these uncertainties is a crucial task for adaptation to climate change. This includes methodological developments and implementation of flexible approaches which enables stakeholders and decision makers to find solutions and strategies towards adaptation.

Effective and efficient adaptation is calling for governance approaches that involves both public and private actors in the process. The integration of regional and local knowledge and the high local responsibility for supporting and implementing adaptation measures  will foster cooperation needs between a variety of actors. Adaptation to climate change is a policy challenge which consists of balancing multi scale, short- mid- and long-term and conflict-ridden (e.g. water and land use) factors.

In general, adaptation is much more a continuous social learning process in which a wide range of actors (policy makers, sectoral stakeholders, citizens, NGOs, researchers etc.) define options for adaptation and negotiate their priorities. That means, adaptation needs methods which are addressing or enabling such social learning processes between diverse actors and therefore have to be participatory and inclusive.

Dr. Baasch is a senior researcher at the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Department of Environmental Politics currently conducting research in Belize on how NGOs and other key actors, including community based organizations integrate adaptation to climate change in their programs, as well as  how they are producing and integrating different kinds of knowledge about local adaptation needs. This study is supported by a travel grant from the Fritz Thyssen Foundation in Germany. 

Tell us what you think of Dr. Baasch’s commentary in the comment box below. To contribute to Caribbean Climate email: Tyrone Hall at thall@caribbeanclimate.bz.

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