Fresh From Benin II-Brad Brown keeps us informed….

Pan-African Climate Change Conference

Cotonou, Benin

Brad Brown

I arose this morning and dressed in one of the three boubous I brought to the meeting similar to the one I wore to the international session at the last NAACP Convention.  This was appreciated by African participants even if they were wearing suits for the opening session.  That session in addition to the usual greeting from appropriate officials there was in the griot tradition a poet reciting the concerns of everyman about climate change and the future.  A group of school children sang and recited pledges on their concern for the environment and the intensity of their feelings was clearly evident.  If ever motivation was needed to address these issues it was in the voices of those young children.   The charge by the Benin Minister of Environment was clear evidence of the increasing awareness of the need for science for management.  

The mix of people was critically important as all too often there is little communication between the scientific community and those with political power.  The presence at this meeting of the chair of the committee in the Nigerian legislature responsible for dealing with climate change was very significant.

There was a period not very long ago where international funding agencies had policies de-emphasizing higher education.   The negative impact of this in the science area is now evident and the need to empower African Universities to address issues such as climate change was stressed at the meeting.

The awareness of the scientific community in Africa of the threats of changes such as sea level rise and increased flooding is strong.  When I was in Benin last June I visited fishing villages with Benin scientists and had to wade through water to get to them.  Yet they also felt that they did not have the requisite data and models to support the hand of the African negotiators in Copenhagen.  There is no institution for example in Nigeria that running state of the art regional climate models yet there are Nigerians in the US not only running, but developing such models for US regional areas.  Without the specific regional scientific information the African negotiators are handicapped in being taken as seriously as they need to be.  Capacity building needs to be re-defined in terms of capacity dynamics which involves capacity empower and capacity sustainability.  International donor agencies need to not separate “capacity building” from the work aspects of their projects but to build it into all effort s so it becomes empowerment of Africa and sustainable.  The NAACP in its advocacy efforts internationally should take this issue on.

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