ESPA's All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) meeting: 7th February 2012
ESPA hosted an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) meeting on February 7th. The meeting was part of a series of meetings organised by the International Institute for Environment and Development in the lead up to Rio-2012.
Held in the Grand Committee Room in the Palace of Westminster, Paul van Gardingen, ESPA Director, was joined by Professor Katrina Brown from ESPA’s International Programme Advisory Committee and four of ESPA's researchers.
Professor Melissa Leech talked about her new project ‘Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa’. Dr Bhaskar Vira talked about his work in South Asia as part of his project called ‘Negotiating Tradeoffs: Making Informed Choices about Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation’. Dr James Kairo and Professor Mark Huxham talked about their in project in Kenya called ‘Swahili Seas’.
The highlight of the evening was the speech by Stephen O’Brien, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, who explained why the sustainable management and delivery of ecosystem services are so important both for poverty reduction and for conflict prevention.
Stephen O’Brien stressed how important the partnership between the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the UK’s Research Councils is in delivering high quality evidence that underpins development policy and practice especially looking forward to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio-2012) in June this year.
Paul van Gardingen presented on three themes. The first was that ESPA is all about people and the way that their lives are improved by the services provided by the ecosystems around them. The second was the importance of high quality research in generating new knowledge and evidence to build results from ESPA’s challenging research agenda. The third was that ESPA delivers results by working in partnership.
Paul stressed how important it is for ESPA projects to work with researchers from our partner countries, highlighting the contribution of Dr James Kairo to the Swahili Seas project, and noting that his scientific contribution was recently recognised by the President of Kenya with the Kenya National Award of Moran of the Order of the Burning Spear – one of the highest civil honours in the country.
Paul also recognised the importance of working with a range of other agencies to deliver ESPA’s results as evidenced by the wide range of public, private and civil society actors in the room. Some of ESPA’s partners attending the event included the UK Space Agency, World Wildlife Fund, and a range of private sector actors including Aviva, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Astrium and DMC International Imaging.
The Minister welcomed ESPA’s approach to working with the private sector and their support of the programme. Paul was pleased to be able to give many examples of the benefits of doing so. This included Aviva’s support of the ESPA project ‘Swahili Seas’ to establish a demonstration project of carbon offsets for mangroves in Kenya, and Cisco’s support to provide video conferencing technology to the whole ESPA community - a service that goes fully operational later this week. Paul welcomed the participation of members of the growing UK space industry noting that their contribution to ESPA could help fill data gaps which had been identified as a major constraint during one of the questions from the floor. At the same time Paul was able to highlight that ESPA would be able to help the industry to develop new products like monitoring systems for the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) programme, for example.
There was an overwhelming degree of interest in ESPA and the enthusiasm in our research and in the innovative ways that we work. A number of journalists present in the room wanted to know more about our work and to help us to tell ESPA’s story in the coming months.
After all, telling the ESPA story is ESPA’s strategy for communication.