Wednesday, 11 November 2009


In the run up to the Copenhagen conference on climate change, here's Melissa Leach from the STEPS Centre talking about how to pay the climate change bill.

Payments from industrialised countries to developing countries are one method of footing the bill (for example, to help them reduce emissions or invest in clean technologies). But how do these payments work? Will they help the poor, or worsen poverty?

The video is part of the Guardian's Climate Change and You site, which also features case studies, expert views and polls on climate change.
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Tuesday, 10 November 2009


"Rebooting development: Innovation policy in the age of technological abundance" was the title of the 13th Marie Jahoda Annual Lecture.

It was hosted by SPRU on 7 October 2009.

Calestous' deep knowledge is obvious, as well as his passion for the role of technology and innovation in Africa.

From the flier: "Developing countries are increasingly recognizing the role of technological innovation in fostering economic growth, enhancing global competitiveness and protecting the environment. This lecture explores the implications of exponential growth in scientific and technological knowledge for economic development policy and international cooperation. It emphasizes the role of scientific advice to heads of state and government, with particular reference to Africa."

Full lecture (
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Tuesday, 3 November 2009


The Water Symposium's all over now - photos from the symposium are on our flickr - but we're still digesting some of the debates and discussions.

For now, some highlights from Day One, which was mostly taken up by a healthy discussion on climate change:

Kirsten Hastrup from Copenhagen University said that water is an "elemental" or "elementary" factor. (I'm not an anthropologist, so apologies if i've misunderstood the terms, but it makes sense to view water as an "element", where if problems arise, crisis ensues.) We need certainty to act in a responsible way - but in many places, local certainties are being undermined by the fear and uncertainty caused by climate change.

Declan Conway from UEA talked about variability and uncertainty too, but focused on the problems this causes for allocating climate change adaptation funding, among other things. Climate change messes around with thinking based on "stationary" management systems, because we can't fully predict how things will be in 5 or 10 years' time.

Merylyn Hedger (IDS) replied that the science was a bit more certain than that implied (we know dry places will tend to get drier, for example). But she also raised the subject of climate change adaptation funding agreed by developed countries, who may be paying out a lot in the near future. However, this money may well be separated - almost boxed away - from Overseas Development Aid. So the development money and the climate change adaptation money may be in different hands and not co-ordinated in some developing countries - that's not necessarily a good thing.

Finally, the "wicked problem" of the EU Water Framework Directive was used by Laurence Smith (SOAS) to illustrate how many conflicting (and valid) voices there can be in policy planning - farmers, consumers, academics, government, the water industry... There's a long time horizon for "cleaning up" water (loosely, what the WFD is for), but the goalposts will shift over time with climate change - not forgetting the changes in the agricultural market. The best way to involve experts is through a process which keeps coming back and checking what the needs are over time.

That's just one session. More to follow on urbanisation, sanitation, disease, access rights, and ways forward for research/policy/practice, though not necessarily in that order...

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Monday, 2 November 2009


By Julia Day

An opportunity to break out of conventional thinking and forge new alliances has enticed more than 40 water and sanitation development experts gather in Brighton today for the STEPS Centre's Water Symposium.

As part of our on-going research in the water and sanitation, Lyla Mehta and Synne Movik have convened this meeting to bring together people with different perspectives in a bid to bridge the divides that are evident in many of the global forums.

During the recent World Water Forum in Istanbul, water and sanitation debates continue to be framed in rather technocratic terms, disconnected from the everyday needs of poor and marginalised women and men. Discussions often tend to be polarised and charged, e.g. revolving around whether water should be considered as an economic good or a human right, whether to adopt private versus public service provision, etc.

How can we break free of such conventional framings and polarisations, and start thinking more creatively around issues of access, complexity, uncertainty and governance in water and sanitation, bearing in mind health and agriculture linkages?

We believe there is a need for more interdisciplinary engagement on current hot topics such as water/sanitation and climate change and the water and sanitation 'crisis'. We also need to encourage 'blue sky' thinking in terms of research, analysis and action as well as to explore avenues for future research areas and collaborative efforts.

By critically examining uncertain dynamics, governance and learning/appraisal challenges in key policy areas such as climate change, urbanisation and water and sanitation governance, we hope to collectively start to address how alternative pathways can be found that meet the needs of the marginalised in a sustainable and just way.
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