Lauren Herzer is a program associate in the Environmental Change and Security Program at the Wilson Center.
She leads the planning, development, and implementation of seminars, workshops, and conferences focusing on climate change, natural resources, conflict, and peacebuilding as well as programming for ECSP’s work on health, environment, livelihoods, population, and security.
Prior to the Wilson Center, Lauren completed a Master’s degree in Environmental Security and Peace at the UN-mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica and worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bulgaria. Lauren also served as a Crisis Corps volunteer with the Peace Corps and FEMA in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. She has a BA in History from UCLA.
›June 12, 2014 // By Lauren Herzer
Rapid population growth can be a contributing factor to climate change vulnerability and should be considered in climate adaptation and peacebuilding efforts, said the Wilson Center’s Roger-Mark De Souza at a workshop on climate change adaptation and peacebuilding hosted by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Addis Ababa.
Despite “Greener Economy,” Extractive Industries’ Effects on Global Development, Stability Bigger Than Ever›
Despite the appearance of a new, “greener” economy, extractive industries – mining, oil, and natural gas – are now responsible for “moving more earth each year, just for mining and quarrying, than the global hydrological cycle,” writes the Transatlantic Academy’s Stacy VanDeveer in a recent paper, Still Digging: Extractive Industries, Resource Curses, and Transnational Governance in the Anthropocene. The costs of this activity are high and extend well beyond the wallet, he explains.
Ten years ago, a study was conducted in Mozambique to determine the impact of a new medicine for pregnant women with malaria. Over 1,000 women participated in a controlled trial of intermittent preventative treatment with sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine – half received a placebo, the other half received the actual drug. All were given an insecticide-treated net.
Does access to quality water and sanitation have an effect on maternal health outcomes? That was a surprising topic of discussion on day one of the second-ever Global Maternal Health Conference hosted this week in Arusha, Tanzania.
Surprising because, to be honest, I did not think there would be strong disagreements over the relationship between water and sanitation (WASH) and maternal health. In my work with the Comparative Urban Studies Project, the two seem to be clearly linked.
The number of urban slum dwellers worldwide is staggering. According to UN-Habitat, 827.6 million people live in slums around the world. Despite meeting a Millennium Development Goal to significantly improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020, the total number of people living in these areas still increased by 55 million between 2000 and 2010. By 2020, the world slum population is projected to reach 889 million. With the majority of people now living in cities, urban priorities are synonymous with human security and environmental sustainability and must be accounted for in the global development agenda.
›Huffington Post article that called for “smarter programming and a coordivenated response” to chronic crises. “A regional drought has been overlaid with instability stemming from the coup in Mali and conflict in the northern part of that country where armed militant groups have forced the suspension of critical relief operations” and led to refugee movement into neighboring countries simultaneously challenged by drought and crop infestation. Understanding the complexity of this type of crisis, let alone visualizing the multiple factors that come into play, is a growing challenge for policymakers and analysts.
Enter version 2.0 of a mapping tool created by the Climate Change and African Political Stability Program (CCAPS) housed in the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law, based at the University of Texas, Austin.
In collaboration with the College of William and Mary, Trinity College, and the University of North Texas, and with funding by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Minerva Initiative, CCAPS originally launched the mapping tool in March of this year. The map is powered by mapping and data tools from Esri and allows users to view any combination of datasets on international development projects, national governance indicators, incidences of conflict, and climate vulnerability data.
With an intuitive interface and compelling visuals, the mapping tool is a valuable resource for policy analysts and researchers to assess the complex interactions that take place among these environmental, political, and social factors. Advanced filters allow the user to identify a subset of conflicts and aid projects and there are nine base map styles from which to choose.
The mapping tool is anything but static. The team is constantly working to refine and enhance it through the inclusion of additional indicators and improvement of the interface. The updated version now includes CCAP’s new Social Conflict in Africa Database, which tracks a broad range of social and political unrest, and their partners’ real-time conflict dataset, the Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset (ACLED), which tracks real-time conflict data. Impressively, the ACLED data will be updated weekly.
I asked CCAPS program manager Ashley Moran to clarify how the governance indicators work in the model. She explained:
The national governance indicators are included in one of four baskets that make up the climate vulnerability model…and represent four potential sources of vulnerability: physical exposure to climate-related hazards, population density, household and community resilience, and governance and political violence. They used the term “basket” since most include several indicators that reflect the full dimensions of that source of vulnerability. The fourth basket includes five national governance indicators and one indicator of political violence.Moran also shared plans to add more detailed national governance data to the map:
We are developing a mapping tool specifically for the climate vulnerability model, which will allow users to see the component parts of the model. It will allow users to re-weight the baskets (e.g. if a user thought governance should have more weight within the model since the government response to climate hazards is key), and it will also allow users to examine an area’s vulnerability to just one or two baskets of the user’s particular interest (instead of all four baskets combined as the tool does now). When we launch this, a user will essentially be able to see the vulnerability model disaggregated into its component parts, so they’ll be able to map just the governance data in the model, if they want.In the coming months, the CCAPS team will add more detailed historical and projected data on climate vulnerability, data on disaster response capacity, as well as international aid projects coded for climate relevance.
Each of these datasets on their own are a wealth of vital information, but understanding how they intersect and the potential impact of their interactions is crucial to improving our understanding of them individually and collectively and creating responses that are timely and long-lasting.
If you’re in the San Diego area next week, check out Ashley Moran’s presentation of the mapping tool at the Esri International User Conference and the Worldwide Human Geography Data Working Group.
Sources: The Climate Change and African Political Stability Program, The Huffington Post.
Image Credit: CCAPS
›Recent history has shown that no country, developed or developing, is immune to the effects of a natural disaster. The catastrophic tsunami that struck Indonesia in 2004, the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Japan in 2011, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and Hurricane Katrina in the United States in 2005, are all reminders of the deep and long-lasting impacts that disasters can have from the local neighborhood all the way up to the national level. Each of these disasters also garnered international attention and response, showing that globalization is a game-changer in the worldwide response to community or regional-level crises.
And yet, as evidenced by the continued challenges faced by each of the places above, the disaster response community still struggles with how to contribute most effectively to local level recovery. Recognizing this, the Wilson Center’s Comparative Urban Studies Project and Environmental Change and Security Program, and the Fetzer Institute recently brought together an international group of practitioners, policymakers, community leaders, and scholars to identify best practices and policy in disaster response that are based on community engagement. A subsequent publication, After the Disaster: Rebuilding Communities, highlights the complex nature of disaster response and explores ways to overcome the inherent tension between those responding to disasters and the local community.
Voice, Space, Safety, and Time
A key theme that emerged during the workshop was the importance of identifying the strengths of the post-disaster community and building responses based on those. So how can one identify the strengths of a community? In a previous Wilson Center/Fetzer Institute workshop on community resilience, participants emphasized the importance of civil society voice; the creation of space, both physical and political; and the assurance of safety and time.
Not surprisingly, all of these aspects of resilience emerged in the post-disaster response discussion as avenues to access the strengths of a community. Finding and listening to the voices of the community, identifying the physical spaces or “centers of gravity” around which the community operates (often spiritual and cultural activities, or gatherings that bring women together), and providing safe and sustained support for healing, are necessary steps to engage with and meet the needs of communities.
Having a voice means that people “feel that they have some way to participate meaningfully in decisions that are being made about their lives…[that] they have access, points of influence, and conversation,” explained John Paul Lederach, professor of international peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame.
Key to listening to the voices of the local community is acknowledging them as first responders. “An involvement and control of the relief and rehabilitation process empowers communities,” wrote Arif Hasan, founder and chairperson of the Urban Resource Centre in Karachi, Pakistan. “It improves their relationship with each other, makes it more equitable with state organizations, and highlights aspects of injustice and deprivation that have been invisible.”
Technology is playing a growing role in giving local communities voice and helping relief workers to identify those centers of gravity. “Whether in conflict or even post-conflict reconstruction, technology gives us a possibility of having a collective history but also collective memory,” noted Philip Thigo, a program associate at Social Development Network in Nairobi. “I spoke in a conference where communities were able to map what was important for them and bring it to the public domain: This is who we are and what we are saying, therefore you, the government, have to interact with us within this space. In that sense technology begins to enable communities to say we exist.”
Connecting to Community Points of Power
At the same time, new technology isn’t paramount to connecting with a community, and just having the technology is not sufficient. Leonard Doyle, country spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), shared the story of a simple but effective effort to encourage a national conversation in Haiti by enabling “a flow of information between affected communities, humanitarian actors, and local service providers.”
IOM set up more than 140 information booths, complete with suggestion boxes, among the 1,300 camps where more than 1.5 million homeless people were housed after the 2010 earthquake. There was some doubt that the suggestion boxes would attract letters in a country with just a 50 percent literacy rate, but it didn’t take long for the letterboxes to fill up. In just three days, 900 letters were dropped into a booth in one of the poorest communities, Cité Soleil.
“Amid the flotsam of emails and text messages that dominate modern life,” wrote Doyle, “these poignant letters had an authenticity that is hard to ignore….Urgent cases received a quick response; others became part of a ‘crowd-voicing’ effort to listen to those who had been displaced by the earthquake.”
In the end, “the problem is when we NGOs [or other outside bodies] try to create new systems,” observed Thigo. “We do not look at what exists in the community as knowledge. We do not see how to plug our formal thinking into a structure that we may not understand but that we could perhaps simply try to enhance, to provide better services. We think power doesn’t exist in those communities. But there’s a structure of power. It could be leadership that is not necessarily within the formal context that we understand. The fundamental point is: How can we, even during disasters, connect to these points of power?”
Download After the Disaster: Rebuilding Communities from the Wilson Center.
›The Woodrow Wilson Center’s Comparative Urban Studies Project, USAID, the International Housing Coalition, the World Bank, and Cities Alliance are teaming up a third time to co-sponsor an academic paper competition for graduate- and PhD-level students focused on challenges facing urban centers in the developing world.
The themes of this year’s competition are land markets, global climate change, and youth.
Land Markets: The absence of efficient land and housing markets and lack of secure tenure for both renters and owners are impediments to urban and economic development in developing cities. Papers on this topic should explore strategies and approaches that would enable property markets to function better and would provide increased security of tenure and strengthened property ownership rights.
Global Climate Change: Papers should examine how urban populations, especially the poor, are coping with the impacts of climate change, and provide strategic policy analysis to better understand how cities can become more resilient to climate change impacts.
Youth: Most of the youth of the developing world are now or will soon be living in urban areas. Unfortunately, they are often growing up in the poorest urban areas – informal settlements and slum communities where their opportunities for advancement are limited by a variety of negative factors. Papers focused on youth should explore ways to build capacity so that you can develop knowledge and skills, find gainful employment, and participate more fully in society to advance economic growth and social development.
Winning papers from each category will be published and the authors invited to Washington, D.C. in the fall of 2012 for a policy workshop with subject matter experts. Additionally, one grand prize winner will be asked to present his or her work at the World Urban Forum (WUF). WUF was established by the United Nations to examine rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change, and policies. The sixth WUF will be held from September 1-7, 2012 in Naples, Italy and will be focused on “The Urban Future.” In addition to the Washington conference and publication of his or her paper, the grand-prize winner will be invited to present his or her winning paper on a panel at the World Urban Youth Assembly at WUF on September 1st and 2nd.
The deadline for the submission of abstracts is February 20, 2012.
For detailed competition guidelines and requirements, and further information on the sub-topics, please see the full call for papers.
Image Credit: “Split by yelowcap,” courtesy of flickr user yelowcap (Vladimir Kaštier).