• Why UK international development assistance should not be cut

    25 November 2020
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    Claire Short receives honorary deree

    Photo: Clare Short with Philip Dearden and Vice-Chancellor Geoff Layer


    There are no grounds for breaking legal commitments or for turning our backs on countries and people at a time of great need.

    News that the UK government is set to renege on its commitment to spending 0.7% of gross national income on foreign aid could not come at a worse time for the world’s poorest countries and people and for international cooperation more broadly.

    A few years ago, we in CIDT had the honour of presenting Clare Short for an honorary degree at the University of Wolverhampton. View the news feature about this  and the Encomium.

    It was Clare Short, when she was Minister of International Development, who set out a route map for the UK Government to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) target on international development assistance.  This target was achieved in 2013 and is enshrined in law.

    Until recently the moral, social and economic imperative for international Development Assistance that Clare Short outlined has been successfully maintained.

    Now however the threat of change is very real with a proposal to reduce the 0.7% to 0.5% released last week. In the light of this proposal CIDT is amongst the 19 bodies that have signed the Development Studies Association statement urging the Government to maintain its commitment:

    The UK government’s decision to reduce our UK aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national income represents a betrayal of our longstanding commitment to the world’s poorest people. The timing is abysmal. The pandemic is reversing decades of progress in reducing global poverty and this cut means that the poorest people will now be denied over £4 billion of what has been amongst the world’s best-targeted package of aid spending. Now is the time – amidst the threats of pandemic and climate change – to signal a renewed commitment to the international cooperation required to deal with these fundamentally global problems. Throwing the UK’s full weight behind efforts to reduce poverty, share vaccines widely and address climate change is not just the right thing to do but is clearly also in the national self-interest. Instead, this cut diminishes the prospects of meeting the SDGs and diminishes our legitimacy to play a leading role in these processes, including with regards to its G7 leadership and convening of COP26 next year. We understand the domestic fiscal challenges but the reason International Development Act sets this commitment in law is precisely to insulate our aid commitment from domestic policy priorities. While there are different debates about the political economies of aid, this is not the time to use such arguments to waver from our commitment to make a difference to some of the most vulnerable and marginalised communities in low income countries.

    We are also deeply concerned by the announcement of such far-reaching decisions before the conclusion of UK Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Foreign Policy and Development, which will now report next year. This suggests that decisions are being taken on the grounds of ideology without reference to evidence.

    The Development Studies Association urges the government to reconsider this punitive cut to UK aid. It calls on MPs from all parties to oppose the legislation required for these cuts to be enacted. Successive governments – Labour, Conservative-Liberal Democrat and Conservative– have invested heavily in building the UK’s reputation as a global leader in international development, with real benefits for poverty reduction. This government should not throw away these hard-won gains without a full and open discussion of the alternative pathways that remain available to the UK to play a leading role in making the world a more just, safe and sustainable place.


    Prof Sam Hickey DSA president, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester 
    Prof Uma Kambhampati DSA secretary, Department of Economics, University of Reading
    Prof Melissa Leach Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex 
    Prof Kathryn Hochstetler Department of International Development, London School of Economics 
    Prof Khalid Nadvi Global Development Institute, University of Manchester 
    Prof Zoë Marriage Department of Development Studies, Soas University of London
    Dr Elisa Van Waeyenberge and Dr Hannah Bargawi Department of Economics, Soas University of London 
    Prof Diego Sánchez-Ancochea
     Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford
    Dr Jonathan Fisher International Development Department, University of Birmingham
    Prof Laura Camfield School of International Development, University of East Anglia
    Prof Michael Walls The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, University College London
    Prof Alfredo Saad-Filho and Prof Susan Fairley Murray Department of International Development, King’s College London
    Prof Philip N Dearden Centre for International Development and Training, University of Wolverhampton 
    Prof James Copestake Centre for Development Studies, University of Bath 
    Prof Prathivadi Anand Peace studies and international development, University of Bradford 
    Prof Dan Brockington and Prof Dorothea Kleine Sheffield Institute for International Development, University of Sheffield
    Prof Jean Grugel Interdisciplinary Global Development Centre, University of York
    Prof Alastair Ager Institute for Global Health and Development, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
    Dr Namrata Bhattacharya-Mis International development studies, University of Chester
    Dr Mei Trueba Global health department, Brighton and Sussex Medical School 
    Dr Grace Carswell Head of international development, University of Sussex

    See this article on the Guardian website.

    View Development Studies Association page.

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  • We delivered 2300 hours of training in 19 countries – what did we learn?

    30 September 2020
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    Caribbean workshop

    In the Caribbean Region, delivering results is one of the greatest challenges facing policymakers. In 2017, the rate of successful project implementation in some Caribbean countries was just 20 per cent.

    From 2017 to 2019, CIDT led the delivery of a large training and capacity development programme to strengthen capacity of Government officials in results-based tools and thinking around the project cycle.

    The training received 97 per cent satisfaction levels from the 1,273 senior government officials that participated from across 19 Caribbean countries.

    CIDT’s Ella Haruna and Daniela Baur look back on this successful programme and share reflections on some factors behind the success of the Caribbean Development Bank’s Project Cycle Management (PCM) Training Programme.

    This was a large significant training investment for the Bank; what were the unique features of this programme?

    Ella: The programme was intended to create a critical mass of skills in each country through a wide national training roll-out, and with priority to local, national and regional Caribbean experiences.

    CIDT responded by pairing international and regional experts for each training cycle and the training audience felt they were getting the best of both worlds.

    The training audience was mainly composed of mid-career professionals, many with decades of experience in civil service. A key challenge was how to make the training relevant across a range of levels and types of experience. How did you approach this?

    Ella: CIDT’s facilitated experiential training approach proved very popular here, as it allowed participants to focus on live projects from their real environment and simulate project teams.

    This made the learning very present and relevant; especially compared to traditional ‘chalk and talk’ training approaches in the region. However each country context was unique and every national training audience was different; one early challenge was how the team could meet the needs across these different contexts without reinventing the wheel each time.

    Daniela: We developed a core set of module materials with the potential to be ‘dialled up’ or ‘dialled down’ according to capacity needs in different settings and with different groups and again the role of regional associates in helping CIDT staff nuance the training design to local Caribbean contexts was critical.

    Our modular curricula included learning pathways whereby certain online and face-to-face modules were pre-requisites for other more specialised or advanced modules.

    Did everything go to plan?

    Ella: In reality it didn’t really go the way we planned! We often had participants that needed a grounding in basic tools and principles signed up to participate in more advanced modules.

    However inviting more experienced participants to orient these newer colleagues was one technique we developed in response.

    Did working with participants from different countries present any challenges?

    Ella: We initially struggled with the adaptation of materials and delivery to reflect a very regionally specific gender picture in the Caribbean, where attitudes and dynamics around gender are entrenched. Many Government officials perceived ‘gender’ as a donor-driven agenda for women’s empowerment. The trainers were able to use regional knowledge to defuse this tension, encouraging participants to apply a gender lens around the project cycle.

    Daniela: The programme faced its fair share of challenges! We delivered training during unrest and national demonstrations in Haiti, and in Dominica and the British Virgin Islands in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria.

    Ella: Even the need to deliver curriculum and training in French and Dutch as well as English posed something of a challenge!

    What were some of the helping factors through the project?

    Daniela: We found that senior management championship helped learning to be taken more seriously and emphasised participants’ potential to facilitate change.

    Then there were the elements that went beyond a one-off classroom interaction to embed the learning, for example the Virtual Learning Symposium (VLS) eight weeks after training offered a refresher on course material and a space to reflect on progress with personal action plans.   

    Ella: There was a clear programme commitment to sustainability via the train the trainer component – however TTT requires careful targeting to be meaningful and further time and resources were needed to structurally embed it. However a regional workshop with 18 national training coordinators to explore the scope of future PCM training and develop national action plans was a great step in the right direction.

    From 2013–19 the CIDT team undertook the successful:

    • Design and delivery of a large and complex Training Needs Assessment study across 18 countries of the Caribbean.
    • Design of a participatory Monitoring and Evaluation framework for the whole Capacity

    Development programme.

    • Design and delivery of a Project Cycle Management curriculum of eight tailor-made modules to and a follow-up webinar series.
    • 255 trainers trained and facilitation and logistical support to regional programme conferences.

    “The trainers utilised an action learning approach which really sparked our interest and helped to highlight the relevance of what was being taught, to our work. They kept us on our toes both literally and figuratively. For those of us who sit off in our cubicles or offices, the opportunity to learn alongside our colleagues in a very hands on and interactive manner was really appreciated, and emphasised the importance of teamwork…”

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  • Could COVID-19 have severe effects for Civil Society?

    18 August 2020
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    CIDT has worked with civil society organisations for over 40 years, most recently in the context of a large EU and DFID funded four year programme in the Congo Basin. This project Citizen Voices for Change supports non-governmental organisations in Cameroon, Gabon, Central Africa Republic, Congo Brazzaville and the Democratic Republic of Congo to strengthen their capacity in independent forest monitoring and more recently the Illegal Wildlife Trade.

    We are particularly concerned about the unfolding impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on civic space and the enabling environment for civil society. Some effects may be superficial or short-term in nature, but others may have profound and potentially long-term implications for civic space and the potential of civil society actors to occupy and defend it.

    One profound effect could be calibration of citizen-state relations and impacts on rights. Citizens across the world are inevitably looking to governments for strong leadership in responding to the Coronavirus pandemic. The need for fast and decisive action, which in most countries includes the passing of emergency legislation, has entailed fundamental changes to the rights and freedoms previously enjoyed by citizens.

    All of us hope and most of us assume that the loss of rights will be temporary. However, some may rightly fear that ‘states and security sectors will find emergency powers attractive because they offer shortcuts’ and that in some cases such powers will, therefore, tend to ‘persist and become permanent.

    Additionally, the postponement of democratic elections in countries across the world and the suspension of political debate in response to the crisis are a threat to the civic space, who reply on these to achieve their goals. At the date of writing (14thAugust 2020) at least 69 countries and territories across the globe have decided to postpone national and subnational elections due to COVID-19.

    A further concern is the likelihood of a worsening funding environment for civil society. The global economic recession which will inevitably follow the pandemic is likely to have a devastating impact on the funding opportunities that NGO platforms and their members depend on for their survival.

    Coordinated efforts within and between countries will inevitably remain difficult, threatening positive initiatives such as those demonstrated in the Citizen Voices for Change (CV4C) project stories of change, which show regional advancements in independent forest monitoring. Sharing successful practice and lessons across between countries is crucial to the advancement of civil society activities.

    There is a risk that the pandemic will further weaken forest governance and law enforcement systems in project countries in the Congo Basin. Whilst national civil society organisations must remain vigilant, international agencies must ensure that resources are available during and after the pandemic so that forest illegalities remain in check and organised crime groups held to account.

    The CIDT team supporting partners to counter trade in illegal wildlife are cognisant of a potential watershed moment, provoked by the links between illegal wildlife trade and the virusThere is no going back. In twelve weeks the world has changed completely.” Cristian Walzer, Wildlife Conservation Society.

    With these and many more issues coming into view, we will be watching and acting vigilantly as the effects of the pandemic no doubt continue long after lockdown restrictions are eased.

    Sarah Thomas, CIDT


    Photo: Civil society led forest monitoring is crucial to ensuring legality of timber in the Congo Basin. Credit: CIEDD.

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  • Sustainable Development Goals Lessons to Date

    24 July 2019
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    In my short, 10 minute presentation to the SDG round table discussion on the SDGs, chaired by Myles Wickstead, Kings College, London and Mathew Foster, Open University  I made three main points about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Download the full presentation.

    1. The process of setting the SDGs is a lesson for us all working in development.

    I see the SDG Framework with its 17 Goals, 169 indicators and 223 targets as the top end of a rather colourful logframe on steroids.  I want to emphasise the importance of the participatory process undertaken in developing the SDGs.

    The important point for me around participation is to “walk the talk” or “to do what you say you are going to do”.  If you say you are going to work in a “participatory manner”, firstly define what you mean by this, and then do so. e.g. if you say you are going to consult stakeholders then simply do so. In setting the SDG Framework the UN undertook the world’s largest ever consultation exercise.  This expensive participatory exercise took many months.

    No other multilateral framework can claim to have such broad global ownership, thanks in part to the extensive consultation phase.

    2. The SDGs are for everyone and are slowly helping redefine “international development”.

    I noted that the theme of this Development Studies Association conference was “Opening up Development” and that in the SDG context this is really important. I want it noted that the SDGs are really universal and are, for example, as important in the UK as they are in Malawi or Nepal or Papua New Guinea.

    The SDGs need be applied locally in the UK as well as globally.  Development is required everywhere, not just “over there”.

    The SDGs challenge us all to look at what I have called working “glocally” i.e. locally as well as globally. See this example of University of Wolverhampton SDG initiatives.

    3. The SDGS are slowly being picked up by a variety of Stakeholders.

    It is widely recognised that for the goals to be reached, everyone needs to do their part: governments, the private sector, civil society and people like you and I.

    As a result of an inadequate UK government response to the SDGs in the UK there has been a really interesting development. The UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD), a cross-sector network of stakeholders working towards the SDGs in the UK, have come together to fill the vacuum created by the current government. Last year they published their report on the SDGs in the UK “Measuring up”.

    Many private sector companies have become engaged with the SDGs and that many companies are now using the SDGs for reporting purposes e.g. the 2017 Price Waterhouse Coopers report entitled the “Challenges of Reporting on the SDGs”reported that from their analysis of almost 500 companies in 17 countries, three-in-five businesses now deemed the SDGs to be important enough to include in their corporate reporting.

    Finally, I note that in the past year the Times Higher Education new global Ranking of “Impact and Innovation” has been published. This new and innovative ranking looks at how Universities are delivering against the SDGs.  In the first year, 11 SDGs out of the 17 have been used with 47 metrics out of a possible 199 metrics and 111 measurements chosen out of 223 targets.  Next year all 17 SDGs will be used.  The new ranking system looks at three ways in which Universities contribute to society. Through:

    • Research – Creating knowledge to address the world’s problems
    • Stewardship – managing resources, teaching well – the good university.
    • Outreach – directly acting in society.

    In summary, in this 10 minute session, I tried to give three quick take away messages

    • “Process” is important. The way the UN established the SDGs is a positive example for all of us working in international development.
    • The SDGs are helping redefine “international development” as we know it. “It’s not over there anymore, it’s everywhere”. While the UK government has seriously stumbled with the SDGs, many other Governments are moving ahead with them. We in this country have lessons to learn.
    • The SDGs are being picked up and used. There have been a variety of initiatives arising from them – some of these really innovative and interesting.  The private sector is moving ahead with the SDGs, Civil Society are moving ahead with the SDGs, and now thanks to the Times Higher Education new global Ranking of “Impact and Innovation” some Universities are slowly waking up to the SDGs.

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  • Is targeting international development projects to women enough?

    8 March 2019
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    On International Women’s Day, Professor Rachel Slater considers a long standing question in gender and international development – will targeting women lead to gender equality and women’s empowerment?

    Each year, International Women’s Day comes a week or so before the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations. The CSW was established by the UN in 1946 to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women, and was expanded in 1996 to lead both monitoring and the review of progress and problems in the implementation of major UN declarations and actions on gender.

    What CSW achieves is quite a feat: it brings together the vastly varied countries of the United Nations and tries to get them to agree on a text about gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Of course, countries have divergent views on core feminist issues – from reproductive rights and health, to equal pay and employment rights – and these views are deeply embedded in cultural and religious norms. The result? That elements of the CSW may be watered down to be more palatable. However, this year reading between the lines of the draft text shows that, despite the difficulties of getting an awful lot of diverse people to agree, progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment can be made.

    This year the CSW focus on social protection, services and infrastructure brings it close to my own work. It’s clear – particularly from the report of the CSW Expert Group – that some of the things that we’ve known for a long time as researchers are starting to make it into the mainstream of policy-making and programme design, and will be taken up at the highest levels by governments.

    Rachel Slater presents at the Forest Governance Forum
    Rachel Slater presents at the Forest Governance Forum

    Most important of all is that we have to do far more than just target programmes to women in order to achievement women’s empowerment. Research demonstrates that targeting social protection programmes to women has good results – such as improved nutrition and health, and more children enrolling in and attending school – but it doesn’t, by itself, do much to tackle gender inequality or women’s empowerment.  To tackle this, the CSW calls for us to move beyond just targeting women. For example, they propose ensuring that social protection systems take into account workers outside the formal sector (especially women doing unpaid care work) whose contributions often go unrecognised.

    Professor Rachel Slater

    So, watch this space. If UN members sign the CSW declaration, there’s a risk that they’ll then do little to action its commitments. But UN Women will review progress in about three years’ time, and I will be back to reflect on how countries, including the UK, have performed on social protection and gender equality in 2022.

    This blog post originally published at the University of Wolverhampton website.

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  • Can social protection help ensure the most vulnerable women are included in disaster response?

    7 March 2019
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    Dani Baur interviews women who felt excluded from the flood response in Nepal in 2017’ © Rachel Slater 2018. I think this is good because it’s showing few faces (and so protecting anonymity of vulnerable people).
    Dani Baur interviews women who felt excluded from the flood response in Nepal in 2017’ © Rachel Slater 2018.
    Dani Baur interviews women who felt excluded from the flood response in Nepal in 2017’ © Rachel Slater 2018.

    Today, on International Women’s Day, Dani Baur and Rachel Slater reflect on CIDT’s research in Nepal on how social protection can support disaster risk management.  

    Last year, we reported on a remarkable experience when carrying out research in the Nepal Himalaya. Throughout the year, CIDT’s research team worked with the World Bank and Government of Nepal to explore how far Nepal might use social protection systems and programmes in their efforts to manage disasters. Early this year, our report was launched by the World Bank which also produced a briefing paper that situated the findings of the report within the Bank’s own framework for Adaptive Social Protection.

    So, why reflect on this work today, on International Women’s Day? During the work we found that social protection could potentially play a key role in ensuring that women – especially very vulnerable women such as single parents and widows – are not excluded from support during a disaster response. Here’s why:

    Although survey data shows that social protection reaches a reasonably large share of households in Nepal – for example the old age allowances reach nearly 12% of households – households receiving social protection don’t substantially overlap with those that are affected by disasters. So, our initial assessment was that trying to route a disaster response through existing social protection systems, i.e. paying an emergency ‘top-up’ payment to existing social protection beneficiaries, would not reach enough of those who are affected by flood or earthquake or drought.  

    However, interviews in communities affected by disasters both confirmed the lack of overlap between social protection receipt and exposure to disasters, AND provided a new angle to consider. Between April and June, we interviewed people right across Nepal – from urban to rural, and from the high mountains of the Himalaya to the terai where the vast of Nepal’s agricultural production takes place on seasonally flooded land. We interviewed beneficiaries of social protection programmes – from those receiving the old age, disability or widows’ allowances, to those doing road construction in return for a daily wage. All were affected by disasters – the 2015 earthquakes, repeated floods on the terai, landslides in the mountainsand successive droughts in the mid and far west of the country.

    What did we find? Many of those receiving social protection found it difficult to get their names on the list for humanitarian support following a disaster. This was particularly the case for households who were affected by the 2017 floods when hundreds of lives, thousands of homes damaged and agricultural livelihoods destroyed. In the immediate aftermath of the flood, displaced households received food, utensils, tarpaulins and sleeping mats but after that assessments were made at community level to decide who need support. Some were excluded automatically because they were social protection recipients, but, more commonly, others – especially single women, widows and elderly women – didn’t have the social networks or relationships to ensure they got on the list of disaster relief beneficiaries. Essentially, they were invisible in their communities and in the eyes of humanitarian actors doing needs assessments. This led us to recommend that, in situations where vulnerable women are routinely or systematically excluded from accessing disaster relief, routing a share of the disaster response directly to them through social protection, might prove an effective way of achieving a more equitable disaster response. On International Women’s Day the lesson for us is that we need to look carefully at our mechanisms for needs assessment and how women access support, if we want to ensure they aren’t excluded from disaster responses.

    Images: Social protection beneficiaries often find themselves at the bottom of the list for receiving disaster relief © Rachel Slater 2018.


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  • The University of Wolverhampton working ‘glocally’ for the Sustainable Development Goals

    17 December 2018
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    SDG icons with University logo

    The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are slowly becoming part and parcel of what we do. This is how the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) describes the SDGs:

    “with these new Goals that universally apply to all, countries will mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind.”

    Each Goal identifies a series of short or long-term targets to be achieved and further guidance on how to meet them, thereby providing additional support for making the sustainable transformation we need. The 17 SDGs of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development were actually adopted in September 2015 and came into force on 1 January 2016.

    The UNAI then adds:

    “The new Goals are unique in that they call for action by all countries, poor, rich and middle-income to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. They recognize that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and addresses a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection.”

    Two years ago the role of businesses in delivering the SDGs was presented at the University of Wolverhampton 2016 Crystal Lecture. Since then the ‘glocal’ work of the University of Wolverhampton, including several large projects, has been mapped against the SDGs and presented to several large audiences.

    Recently, Wolverhampton City Council has taken a lead and is now reporting on their Sustainability Strategy and Implementation Plan against the SDGs.

    Earlier this year the first report on UK progress against the SDGs compiled by the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD), ‘Measuring up’ was presented in Parliament. 

    Alignment between the SDGs and the University of Wolverhampton Strategy

    There is considerable alignment between the SDGs and our University Mission and Values:

    Our mission is Maximising opportunity through generating knowledge, innovation and enterprise.

    Our core values are that:

    • We will behave respectfully and ethically, in all that we do.
    • We will be inclusive and fair in our interaction with each other and with our wider community.
    • We will act professionally, transparently, confidently, collaboratively and challengingly when engaging with our communities both locally and globally.

    These all align well with the SDGs.

    The Times Higher Education is currently developing a new global university ranking that aims to measure institutions’ success in delivering the SDGs. Wherever possible we as a University need to be referencing the SDGs in delivering our strategy and in our actions.

    Let’s take a quick look at some of the things we are actually doing, both globally and locally, (i.e. ‘glocally’) towards achieving the SDGs.

    Current university initiatives supporting the Sustainable Development Goals

    Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

    Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

    Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

    Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning

    Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

    Goal 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all

    CIDT’s work in fragile and conflict affected Somaliland to bring Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) service delivery to populations that have lost water through conflicts and/or who are vulnerable to drought. CIDT will support project teams so that WASH projects are inclusive for women, youth and disabled and other vulnerable groups and are designed and carried out with conflict sensitive methodologies.

    Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

    Goal 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all

    Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation

    Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries

    • University of Wolverhampton Strategic Plan.
    • CIDT’s global work on Social Inclusion.
    • ICRD’s work with the City of Wolverhampton Council, to support the wellbeing of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children.
    • Women Rough Sleepers work to support homelessness.

    Goal 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

    Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

    Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

    Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources

    Goal 15: Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss

    Goal 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies

    Goal 17: Revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development

    Looking ahead we want to monitor and showcase the work and impact of our university for the SDGs ‘glocally’. I suspect there are many things missing here. If you know of other University initiatives that fit the SDGs please contact Philip Dearden ( P.N.Dearden@wlv.ac.uk).

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  • Sponge cities, an SDGs rap and insurance in ‘sachet’ form: Reflections from #APAN2018

    4 December 2018
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    I spent last week in Manila at the 6th Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum (@APANAdapt) and on a steep learning curve – from sponge cities (where rainwater in urban areas is used, stored, purified, re-used, re-purified and eventually released back into the natural system) to using green spaces to achieve climate change ‘resilience for free’, and a rap to help us remember the SDGs.

    My first reflection (because this so often comes last) is about gender. The only sessions that I attended where women outnumbered men on the panel of speakers were, predictably, those on gender and on social protection. There might have been more representation of women’s experiences, knowledge, capacities and voices in other parallel sessions but I was left thinking that there’s a lot of work to be done bringing together gender equity/empowerment with climate change action. Surely we can do better?

    Second, there were lots of calls for building resilience to the worst impacts of climate change from the bottom up, and for working at the local level. An example are financial products that can support poor and vulnerable households such as insurance in ‘sachet’ form from Alagang Cebuana in the Philippines that reaches those who can’t otherwise access or afford orthodox insurance products. At the same time, though, there was simultaneous recognition of the challenges that working locally from the bottom up can create for building resilience and adaptive capacities at scale – the challenge of working locally for global effects, so to speak. My key take-away for this was that we need to shift away from thinking about ways of doing infrastructure as an ‘either-or’: either large-scale, machinery-intensive or locally-designed and build through community participation. A more hybrid approach that brings together these two ways of doing things might help us better find ways of making the local operate at scale.

    Finally, there was clear agreement on the importance of science and scientists, but this this didn’t seem to extend to political scientists. There was very limited discussion of the politics that underpin decisions that governments make about tackling climate change. Following the withdrawal of the USA from the Paris Accord under the Trump administration, it’s clear that scientists and technical experts in infrastructure, ecosystems and nature are not enough. Finding ways of influencing governments, understanding policy processes and how to navigate political change and realignments requires a different set of skills. I found the discussion focused on science and technology, at the expense of how to get policy and legislative frameworks in place, and how to include the voices of excluded communities. And, although a scientist at the Forum remarked to me that he didn’t think the meeting was very scientific at all, I think we need to make more space for discussions about policy processes and entry points if we want to make faster progress.

    Prof Rachel Slater

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  • A map, a photograph and a chance encounter in the Nepal Himalaya

    18 June 2018
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    Nepal social protection project

    CIDT’s Rachel Slater reflects on a surprising fieldwork experience in Humla, Nepal, during a recent visit as part of the project ‘Review of policies, systems and programs in social protection and shock response for adaptive social protection’

    Nepal social protection projectWe’ve walked for about 90 minutes along a gravel track from where are staying – a small town perched on a steep slope, nestled below the triangular peak of Chhote Kang and with a perilous drop off to the mightly Karnali River below. We are there to interview people about their experiences of disasters – especially drought and landslides in this remote part of Nepal – and are trying to work out whether we could ‘piggyback’ disaster response funding on existing systems like social security to get money out to households in need as quickly and efficiently as possible.

    We climb ladders – old tree trunks with notches cut out of them for steps – to the roof of a villager’s house, and settle down on a tarpaulin as the house owner calls across the village for her neighbours to join us.  I gaze across the valley at snow covered ridge, for a moment wishing I was here trekking rather than working.  I pull out my map, wondering what route I could take up to the highest point and then something remarkable happens.  The house owner snatches the map from me excitedly and exclaims ‘that’s me!’

    Nepal social protection projectIt takes me a while to understand but it turns out our respondent is one of four women in the photograph on the front of the map. We try and work out the odds – that we visited this village, in this rural municipality, in this one of 75 districts in Nepal.  They are long odds indeed.  The photo was taken maybe five years ago as Nepal sought to open up tourism in Humla district to trekkers. Anita, our Nepali research partner, and I immediately change the plan for the interview.  We ask how much has changed in the last five years: weather; access to services – especially children’s education; and whether making a living is getting easier or harder.  There’s a recognition that ‘all good things don’t always go together’, for example, more children are attending school but that means there’s no-one available to tend buffalo, goats, and zhos / zhomos (yaks bred with cows) so less manure for people’s fields. But the overwhelming story is of changes to climate: less snow and more drought (the barley and wheat around the village are about two months behind in their development); and unpredictable weather including devastating hailstorms that destroyed crops three years ago.

    As we return to our guest house later in the day we follow the road newly constructed as part of a programme to guarantee households 30 days of paid work each year.  And although we are still struggling walking at this altitude we have renewed energy for our work.  Given what we have heard about the climate-related disasters that people in Humla are increasingly facing, our attempts to use social protection to support disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery seem all the more important.  All this thanks to our change encounter over a map and a photograph in Nepal’s remote Himalaya.

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