Blogging From Benin–Brad Wraps Up His Trip

Pan-African Climate Change and the Coastal Zone

Last Day

Brad Brown

 

Today was the time to make recommendations and wrap up.  As this workshop was sponsored by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, it was important to target key resolutions to them.  I will come back to the recommendations, but first I write about a unique ending day session on developing linkages to the African Diaspora.   The organizer, UN-IOC scientist Justin Ahahanzo, originally from Benin but now based at IOC in Paris, had brought Lee Cherry President of the African Science Institute (headquartered in California and designed to link scientists in the diaspora in the broadest sense).  This is very important as the individuals involved in environmental development projects have tended to be a fairly closed group difficult to break into for African American scientists. 

 

Scientists raised in Africa working outside are also not well utilized.  All too often Africans studying in US graduate schools never have contacts with African American scientists.  Accompanying Lee Cherry was Dr. George Cooper, a senior NASA chemist.  Taking a lead role in this workshop was Dr. Jimmy Adegoke head of the Climate Center at the University of Missouri at Kansas City.  I presented on the work of the NAACP with its Climate Change initiative and its International Committee.  I have participated in many workshops in Africa and this was the first time I have seen this topic discussed.

 

Back to the resolutions….  I was chosen to chair this session so the country delegates were able to fully participate in the discussions with a neutral chair. The focus was on having influence on the funds promised at the Copenhagen Climate meeting by Heads of State, to assist the developing countries to address climate change.  Our group’s focus was on the Intergovernmental Ocean Commission of UNESCO (IOC).  The summary of our report with recommendations will be presented to the African ministers (In the US it would be Secretaries in the Cabinet.) and ambassadors heading their countries’ delegations to the IOC Executive Committee in its meeting later this year. Those delegates can bring our suggested resolutions to the floor. 

 

Some of the recommendations are technical for use by experts in Africa on climate issues, others were organizational, such as the need to maintain and build on the network begun at this workshop.  Critical in the coastal ocean area was our resolution for IOC to re-affirm and implement the previous resolutions it has passed concerning an emphasis on Africa.  We do not need new resolutions, but rather actions on those already adopted.  The potential availability of funds for climate change, a portion of which should be devoted to the coastal ocean science needed to guide management decisions along with the capabilities demonstrated at the Benin meeting, makes this approach feasible. 

 

Our second major recommended resolution was for the establishment of a dedicated fund for addressing climate needs in Africa, similar to the one UNESCO already has to preserve African cultural treasures.  With the emergence of the African Union and its New Program for African Development (NEPAD)  this is a the way forward, with Africa taking the lead in defining its needs and in partnering fully in addressing them.  

 

I see an important role for the NAACP in supporting this approach and ensuring that the US will lead in developing this new paradigm. An analogy for too many of the efforts in assistance in the past is the giving of a nice silk shirt to someone in the tropics when cotton is the fabric needed in that environment. True interactions with the receiver would have made that clear, and associated development would be enhanced by using cotton and tailors from the region to make the shirt.  With climate change the over arching fact is that we are one world, with one atmosphere and our future is intimately linked together. All must be partners in this effort. 

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