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Magazine of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change March 2008 路 Issue 1

ISSN 1727-155X

The IHDP Strategic Plan 2007-2015 The road to... IHDP Update



Social Challenges of Global Change

OM’08 OM’08

IHDP IHDPOpen OpenMeeting Meeting 2008 2008 7th 7th International InternationalScience ScienceConference Conferenceonon the the Human HumanDimensions DimensionsofofGlobal GlobalEnvironmental Environmental Change Change 15th-19th 15th - 19thOctober 2008, India 2008,Habitat India Habitat Centre,Centre, New Delhi, New India Delhi, India Co-organizer and local host: TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute)

The While IHDP still Open reaching Meeting out tohas thegrown large and since diverse 1995 into international the world’s human largest dimensions international community, social science it is expected conference that this dealing Open Meeting with social will aspects be highly of applicable global environmental to the Southchange. Asian region It determines generally theand state-of-the-art India in particular. of human Together dimensions with research the local and hostoutlines and co-organizer, the new research a unique agenda developing-country for the next decade institution as far with as theoretical a main focus frameworks on energy, and environment methodologies and are sustainable concerned, development as well as for on athe global science-practice perception and nexus a local and focus, policythe relevance IHDP will of social followscience up on on outcomes global from environmental the last Open Meeting change in in general. Bonn in 2005, which tried to outline the need for a more specific and selective scientific approach. For more Withinformation, the theme ofvisit the 7th Open Meeting, “Social or Challenges contact of Global Change,” IHDP wants to indicate the need to incorporate not only the general discussion about climate change, but also many other environmental changes which happen in our society: resource shortages, the destruction of ecosystem services, new threats to human health. At the first planning meeting of the ISPC, which took place in Bonn at the end of June this year, the planning committee agreed on four core questions, which should cover the widespread aspects of Social Challenges of Global Change: 1. How do we deal with demographic challenges? Imprint 2. How do we deal with limitations of resources and ecosystem services? 3. How do we maintain social cohesion while increasing (global) equity? IHDP Update4. is How published Secretariat of the International Human IHDP Update is published triannually. Sections of the Update do by wethe adapt institutions to address global change? Dimensions on Global Environmental Nations be reproduced EachProgramme of these questions will for the Change, crux atUnited one of the daysmay of the 7th OM.with acknowledgement to IHDP. Please send a copy of Campus, Hermann-Ehlers-Str. 10, D-53113 Bonn, Germany

any reproduced material to the IHDP Secretariat. This magazine is published using funds by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Contributions to features this conference will need to relate to oneResearch of the questions mentioned above and Foundation. the numerous The IHDP Update magazine the activities of the International and the United States National Science Humancross-cutting Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change and its issues and topics that intersect them, as laid out in the 7th Open Meeting concept note. research community. The views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the position of IHDP nor those of its sponsoring organizations. ISSN 1727-155X Errata: In the IHDP Update 2.2007, the table of contents states the incorrect Editor-in-Chief: Andreas Rechkemmer (V.i.s.d.P.) authors for the article "Climate change and the risks..." the correct authors Executive Litre , and Douglas F. Williamson are Gordon McGranahan, Deborah Balk and Bridget Anderson. Page 4, the ForEditors: moreGabriela information, visit or Layout:or Carolyn Louise Smith contact the secretariat at, note underneath the figure is incorrect, and should be taken out. Page 6, the caption is incomplete. "Sources:" should be "CIESIN 2006, Dilley et al. Cover photo Christophe Libert 2005."

Call for Contributions is open!


IHDP Update 1.2008

Table of Contents IHDP Update 1.2008



The IHDP Strategic Plan at Work

Oran R. Young

Guest Editorial


The Earth System Science Partnership: Societal Needs and Responsive Science

p. 14

Rik Leemans

IHDP Strategic Plan Implementation


The Road Ahead: an Introductory Note from the Secretariat

Ellen Pfeiffer

p. 23

Special Feature from the Secretariat

Implementing the Strategic Plan from within the Secretariat Ellen Pfeiffer


IHDP Strategic Plan, a Contribution for Growing and Sustaining African Human Capital

Lidia Brito and Jo達o Noronha

p. 27

Special Feature from the Secretariat

IHDP and Capacity Development


Andreas Rechkemmer

A New Charge: Engaging at the Science-Practice Interface Susanne C. Moser

p. 29

Special Feature from the Secretariat

Science-Policy Interaction

Gabriela Litre and Sarah Mekjian

New Initiatives


Earth System Governance, Report on a New IHDP Initiative

Frank Biermann

Special Feature from the Secretariat


IHDP Secretariat, Facilitating Cutting-Edge Research

Falk Schmidt

Core Science Initiative on Integrated Risk Governance

Carlo Jaeger and Peijun Shi


A New Initiative on Vulnerability, Resilience and Adaptation

Sander E. van der Leeuw


Contact Addresses

IHDP Update 1.2008


Introduction • The IHDP Strategic Plan at Work


The IHDP Strategic Plan at Work Oran R. Young

While IHDP cannot assign individual researchers to particular projects or prescribe courses of action for policymakers endeavoring to solve specific problems, the programme is in a position to chart an overall course for those seeking to grasp the role that the social sciences can play in understanding and coming to grips with largescale environmental changes and to maximize the prospects that their efforts will make a difference.

Meeting at the University of East Anglia in the UK during March 2006, the IHDP Scientific Committee (SC) embarked on the development of a Strategic Plan to provide programmatic guidance during the period 2007 through 2015. Emerging from extensive collaboration between the SC and the Secretariat, drafts of the plan were discussed in detail at the November 2006 meeting of the IHDP Officers and Project Leaders in Beijing, China and at the March 2007 meeting of the full SC in Rios dos Angras, Brazil. Following a phase of copyediting, layout, and design, the published version of the plan became available in September 2007. It is now in circulation not only within the human dimensions community but also in a variety of other communities. The fact that IHDP has not had such a plan in the past prompts the question: What motivated us to expend the considerable time, energy, and resources required to produce this Strategic Plan? Briefly, we undertook this effort in order to (i) reexamine our vision, mission, organizational arrangements, and programmatic priorities in preparation for embarking on the second decade of IHDP activities, (ii) respond to a strong recommendation coming from the IHDP External Review Committee, (iii) clarify some common misconceptions regarding the nature of IHDP as an international science program, and (iv) characterize in broad programmatic terms the major components of IHDP’s work during the coming years. The process was clearly helpful for those


already working within the human dimensions community. But equally important, we sought to provide insight regarding the nature of IHDP and its work for outsiders ranging from individual scientists who may wish to participate in the work of the programme in the future to potential funders of IHDP research as well as members of the policy community who may find the results of our research helpful in making, implementing, and evaluating public policies pertaining to largescale environmental issues like climate change and the loss of biological diversity. We began work on the plan with several points of departure in mind. First, and perhaps most important, is the need to recognize and understand the implications of the fact that IHDP is neither a funder of scientific research nor an employer of scientists in its own right. We are not in a position to assign individual scientists or groups of researchers to work on specific themes; we cannot induce scientists to devote their efforts to examining issues we deem important by offering them material incentives. What we can do is to provide leadership in identifying and framing cutting-edge research themes relating to largescale environmental changes and play a vigorous role in creating communities of scientists all over the world interested in joining forces to advance our understanding of these themes. Social scientists who believe that power and material resources are the primary determinants of the course of hu-

IHDP Update 1.2008

Introduction • The IHDP Strategic Plan at Work

IHDP's activities frame the work of researchers concerned with the human dimensions of global environemntal change.

man affairs will be inclined to conclude from this that IHDP has little capacity to influence the development of knowledge and therefore little to offer to scientists desiring to play a role in determining what happens in the world. Some economists and some political scientists have made precisely this calculation and consequently have shown little interest in the activities of IHDP.

For those who believe in the power of ideas, on the other hand, programs like IHDP appear in a different light.

For them, the opportunity to join forces worldwide not only to produce clear answers to specific questions but even more importantly to develop research agendas and the broader systems of thought that underlie such agendas is appealing. So also is the prospect of producing new knowledge that can feed into scientific assessments and ultimately into the policy process both within countries and at the global level. The remarkable influence of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change illustrates this process with regard to the contributions of the natural sciences. As we move deeper into the era increasingly known – at least to members of the science community - as the Anthropocene, the need to raise the profile of the social sciences concerning matters like climate

IHDP Update 1.2008

adaptation and mitigation is coming into focus. Additionally, while “big” science has a relatively long history in the natural sciences, the rise of largescale, longterm, transnational research projects remains a relatively unfamiliar phenomenon in the social sciences. Such research cannot and will not supplant the efforts of individual investigators pursuing research that is largely curiosity driven. But addressing systemic problems like climate change that are likely to have profound impacts of individual and social welfare during the lifetimes of people living today calls for a new variety of social science, one that drills down to the roots of human actions affecting the Earth as a system and that explores possible applications of its findings to efforts to avoid the most serious impacts of developments like climate change and to facilitating adaptation to these impacts once they become unavoidable. Here is where IHDP can make a difference. The programme provides scientific leadership and serves as a means to facilitate the efforts of sizable groups of scientists interested in collaborating in the interests of working on projects that can generate powerful conclusions applicable to the efforts of those seeking to come to grips with some of the most fundamental challenges of our times. What, then, is the role of the IHDP Strategic Plan in maximizing the effectiveness of IHDP? While we cannot assign individual researchers to particular projects or prescribe courses of action for policymakers endeavoring to solve spe-


Introduction • The IHDP Strategic Plan at Work

cific problems, we are in a position to chart an overall course for those seeking to grasp the role that the social sciences can play in understanding and coming to grips with largescale environmental changes and to maximize the prospects that their efforts will make a difference. To this end, the plan develops a series of four major propositions intended to provide general guidance for the work of those concerned with the human dimensions of global environmental change. We argue, in the first place, that the social sciences must take center stage during the next stage of efforts to understand and come to grips with global environmental changes. Whether we are concerned with emissions of greenhouse gases or over-harvesting of living resources and the destruction of vital habitat, human actions lie at the core of the relevant changes. We cannot understand the sources of problems like climate change and the loss of biological diversity without deepening our understanding of the actions of individuals and societies that drive (often unintentionally) the changes that concern us. Equally important, we cannot succeed in addressing these problems (e.g. the impacts of climate change or the costs of the disruption of ecosystems) without improving our understanding of the behavior of individuals and societies. Particularly critical in this regard are situations like the need to curb and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that will require far-reaching changes in existing lifestyles and social practices. Without denying the need for more research on the part of natural scientists, it is clear that we must now make a concerted effort to direct the attention of the best and the brightest social scientists to issues involving largescale environmental changes.

Basic Premises of the Strategic Plan Once this first proposition is accepted, we must move on to bring the concepts and analytic tools of systems analysis to bear in thinking about the dynamics of socio-ecological systems. We now know that simple equilibrium models are grossly inadequate in efforts to understand the dynamics of biophysical systems or socioeconomic systems on their own. But socio-ecological systems of the sort that lie at the heart of problems like climate change and the loss of biological diversity are even more complex systems that are prone to changes that are non-linear and often abrupt, irreversible, and nasty, at least from the point of view of human welfare. This is a tall order. Still, we have no choice but to tackle this challenge head on if we are to make a difference in avoiding the destructive potential of problems like climate change. What is needed in this realm is an equal partnership between the natural sciences and the social sciences. Anything short


of this will leave one community feeling subordinated to the other, a condition that is not conducive to producing the kind of knowledge we need to succeed in addressing problems of global environmental change. A third proposition involves what we may characterize as a portfolio approach to the development of methods suitable for understanding global environmental changes. Casual observers often assert that the natural sciences are quantitative while the social sciences are qualitative or that the natural sciences rely on models while the social sciences use case studies. They are inclined to infer from these assertions that there is a profound – possibly insurmountable – methodological divide between the different sciences relevant to understanding global environmental change. The good news is that these assertions are inaccurate. There are long and strong research traditions in the social sciences that make good use of quantitative methods and formal models. But problems remain. Not only are our methods and models often based on fundamentally different premises (consider the game-theoretic models of public choice and the models underlying quantum physics as examples). But also largescale socio-ecological systems have essential properties that are difficult to measure and model by any standards. The Earth’s climate system, for instance, is fiendishly difficult to model. Yet the problem does not lie in any inherent differences in the models and methods of the natural sciences and the social sciences. The appropriate response to this problem is a portfolio approach in which multiple methods are used to tackle tough problems. When the findings emerging from different methods converge, we have reason to feel optimistic about our results. When findings diverge, on the other hand, we have clear signals regarding the need to redouble our efforts to understand the problems in question. Finally, we are convinced of the importance of promoting a rich dialogue between scientists and policymakers or practitioners more generally at all stages in the process

Basic Premises

1. The social sciences must take center stage to understand global environmental changes. 2. IHDP needs to bring the analytic tools of systems analysis to bear in thinking about the dynamics of socio-ecological systems. 3. IHDP must use portfolio approach to the development of methods for understanding global environmental change.

IHDP Update 1.2008

Introduction • The IHDP Strategic Plan at Work

of framing and conducting research on largescale environmental changes. It is not sufficient to concentrate only on finding better ways to communicate the findings of scientific research to members of the policy community. The research we carry out must address questions that come to the surface in discussions that involve both scientists and policymakers. The findings we present must be intelligible to those working in the policy community. Assessments of the implications of these findings must involve the responses of practitioners as well as fellow scientists. In fact, the divide between scientists and policymakers is not as wide as it is often made out to be. Once the ice is broken and trust among members of the two communities begins to develop at a personal level, we have found that a rich dialogue between scientists and practitioners is relatively easy to initiate and cultivate. These are the basic premises underlying the course that the IHDP Strategic Plan charts for the programme’s second decade. But how do we put the plan to work in the sense of moving from the programmatic level to the development of specific projects and focused activities? There is nothing cut-and-fried about this process; different patterns of interactions between the programmatic level and the project level are typical. Nonetheless, three examples dealing with current initiatives will serve to illuminate this critical element of IHDP’s work. The goal of the Earth System Governance (ESG) initiative is the establishment of a new IHDP project. Several factors operating together have propelled this initiative forward. As IHDP’s core project on the Institutional Dimen-

IHDP Update 1.2008

sions of Global Environmental Change (IDGEC) drew to a close in 2006-2007, many participants felt a desire to build on the success of this project and to continue to explore various aspects of environmental regimes treated as governance systems. At the same time, many of the Earth System Science Partnership joint projects and several projects operating under the auspices of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme were coming to the realization that issues of governance are prominent concerns in the systems they explore. A champion emerged who was able and willing to devote the time and energy needed to energize the planning process required to develop a new project with an expected lifespan of 8-10 years. Given my own history as the leader of the IDGEC project during much of its life, I have taken a strong interest in the ESG initiative since its inception. Taken together, these factors justified the creation in early 2007 of an ESG Scientific Planning Committee which is now hard at work on an ESG Science Plan that is expected to be complete sometime in 2008. There is a good chance that we will be able to launch the ESG project formally at the time of the Open Meeting in October 2008. A second example involves an initiative on Vulnerability, Resilience, and Adaptation (VRA) treated as a crosscutting theme of interest to all the IHDP core projects and, more recently, to the Earth System Science Partnership joint projects as well. VRA is one of four crosscutting themes identified some years ago by the IHDP SC in an effort to integrate the work of the programme and to identify topics suitable for focused attention on the part of members of


Introduction • The IHDP Strategic Plan at Work

the SC. In the meantime, a productive debate has grown up around this theme among geographers who find the concept of vulnerability particularly rich and ecologists attracted to the concept of resilience. Several major research groups, including the Resilience Center in Sweden, the Tyndall Centre in the UK, and Arizona State University in the US, have developed substantial programs of research addressed to the VRA theme. And issues of adaptation are coming to the fore in areas where the impacts of climate change are a present reality rather than a future prospect. Combined with strong and continuing interest on the part of IHDP SC members, these factors have energized a process that is likely to lead to a series of activities intended both to expand our general understanding of VRA and to bring knowledge about such matters to bear on specific issues like the capacity of human communities to cope with land degradation or the melting of sea ice brought about by climate change. A third example centers on the development of specific mechanisms to encourage a productive dialogue between members of the science community and members of the policy community. This initiative has been driven by a combination of internal forces (e.g. the engagement of several new members of the IHDP SC) and external forces (e.g. the recommendation of IHDP’s external review committee). It is also in line with the signals we have received from the International Group of Funding Agencies as well as funders located within individual countries (e.g. the National Science Foundation in the US). What has become clear in this connection is that research on global environmental change has an applied character that we must both recognize and cultivate as we initiate new activities within the overarching framework of the IHDP Strategic Plan. This has led to several new developments, including a series of policy conferences designed to provide forums for informal engagement


between the two communities regarding substantive issues (e.g. energy productivity) and the periodic Bonn dialogues that provide opportunities to obtain input from members of the informed public as well as policymakers regarding research needs in well-defined issue areas. The development of new initiatives, like those described in the preceding paragraphs, is an ongoing and dynamic process. Just as older activities (e.g. IDGEC) reach the synthesis stage and ultimately come to a close, new initiatives continue to arise and move forward through the developmental process. No two initiatives are alike, but all those selected for full-scale development must fit comfortably into the overall course that the IHDP Strategic Plan charts. Because the development of new initiatives is an ongoing process while the plan is meant to remain in place during the period 2007-2015, we have developed a system of replaceable inserts that make it possible to communicate about new developments without disturbing the basic structure and programmatic content of the IHDP Strategic Plan. This allows us to work back and forth between relatively stable programmatic commitments articulated in the plan and highly dynamic developments reflected in the new initiatives. The IHDP Strategic Plan is not a research plan in the sense of a document identifying specific projects, establishing priorities among them, and discussing suitable methodologies to be used by those who carry out the research involved in individual projects. It is a programmatic document that charts a course for IHDP as a whole during its second decade of activities and, in the process, establishes the context in which individual IHDP projects and other activities operate. Projects come and go; existing projects move through their lifecycle and enter the stage of synthesis, while at the same time new initiatives come into focus and enter the stage of scientific planning. Taken together, the IHDP Strategic Plan and the changing portfolio of focused projects are intended to give IHDP the right mixture of continuity and change needed to maximize the programme’s contribution not only to understanding global environmental change but also to assisting policymakers to make informed decisions about societal responses to the challenging problems brought into focus by far-reaching changes like the degradation of large ecosystems and escalating changes in the Earth’s climate system. Oran Young, Chair, IHDP Scientific Committee, is a renowned Arctic expert and a world leader in the fields of international governance and environmental institutions. His scientific work encompasses both basic research focusing on collective choice and social institutions, and applied research dealing with issues pertaining to international environmental governance and the Arctic as an international region. Contact:

IHDP Update 1.2008

Guest Editorial • ESSP: Societal Needs and Responsive Science

Guest Editorial

The Earth System Science Partnership: Societal Needs and Responsive Science Rik Leemans

The Earth System Science Partnership ( integrates the insights from the international global environmental change research programmes – IHDP, DIVERSITAS, IGBP, and WCRP. Although the past leadership of the chairs and directors was successful, it was decided that a more formal governance structure was needed. The resulting Scientific Committee, which I’m pleased to chair, met in October to discuss the ongoing projects on Carbon, Water, Food, and Health, and other activities, including START and the Monsoon Asia Integrated Regional Study (MAIRS). The Health Project’s science plan was also adopted by the IHDP and the Project is now co-sponsored by IHDP and its partner programmes, DIVERSITAS, IGBP, and WCRP. A preliminary ESSP vision emerged at this meeting: All new initiatives should involve a strong interaction with the end-users in society. The ESSP-projects are already doing this actively. The Global Carbon Project, for example, just published an update on trends in accelerating CO2 emissions, increasing carbon intensity (amount of C needed per unit GDP), and the decreasing strengths of natural sinks over the last few years. Their conclusions have consequences for climate policies. If these trends continue, mitigation efforts must be stepped up to limit climate change. These GCP results provide a timely update to IPCC’s fourth assessment report, which was published last spring. All other ESSP projects and the whole ESSP want to strengthen the links with international conventions, assessments, and research organizations. ESSP will strengthen the application of scientific understanding from all global environmental change programmes in such policy and assessment processes. ESSP can, through START, also help building capacity in developing countries to contribute to regional needs and assessments. ESSP will also develop a more coordinated communications platform of the latest scientific environmental change insights I am really pleased that several of those elements are also stressed in IHDP’s strategic plan. This means that many fruitful interactions and synergies between IHDP and ESSP will continue to develop and emerge in the coming years. Together, we will not only further develop cutting edge science, but also digest and apply it for society. Prof. Dr. Rik Leemans; Chair SC-ESSP. Contact: Environmental Systems Analysis Group, Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University & Research, PO Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen. Tel: +31 317 484919;

IHDP Update 1.2008


The Road Ahead: an Introductory Note from the Secretariat

The Road Ahead: an Introductory Note from the Secretariat Ellen Pfeiffer

As IHDP enters its second decade, so does the global change debate. Climate change conquered movie theatres and concert stages; the 2007 Nobel peace price for the IPCC and Al Gore was celebrated as an almost obvious choice. The battle for public attention has been won. Yet as politicians are called upon for action, and as scientists for clear recommendations, one piece of insight has been revealed as the most prominent “known unknown”: to decide and prioritise political action, governments need to know how societies are affected by global change, and more about how societies interact with environmental systems. To be able to implement any new regime for adaptation and mitigation of global environmental change, actors need more knowledge about how such regimes are brought to life. In one word, the “Human Dimensions” of global change receive more attention and have more practical relevance than ever before.


Not only the debate and public attitude has changed. We have too. Over a decade, IHDP has concentrated on highclass research programs with results that have help to shape the debate. What are now common ideas about environmental regimes seemed utopian when IDGEC first identified them, and “Human Security” became a defined concept of environmental research through GECHS. Yet, as IHDP is heading into the next decade with its Strategic Plan 2007-2015 and the new projects and initiatives outlined in this magazine, we find that our approach to GEC research has changed. The experience from established core projects has taught us to broaden views further and ask questions even more holistically than before. Societies and the environment form complex socio-ecological systems, so the social challenges of global change gain relevance for environmental research as we understand more interdependencies

IHDP Update 1.2008

The Road Ahead: an Introductory Note from the Secretariat


Core Projects


Scientific Committee



New Initiatives





ESSP Joint Projects


Cutting-Edge Science Capacity Development

New Initiatives

new research agendas are cross-cutting themes and are thus relevant for all IHDP projects as well as for one another. Therefore, we need to build stronger inter-project-links into their structure. IHDP projects feature prominent overlaps with other research communities, such as those on human development. Therefore, systematic outreach activities could stimulate valuable synergies. Projects also address urgent questions of the political community. Therefore, constructive science-policy dialogue has to be embedded from the start. We do not know where this research will finally lead us, but we do know that all these topics, organically grown from our previous efforts, represent bottlenecks for sustainable environmental policies. The Strategic Plan provides the framework for this renewed perspective; the IHDP Secretariat is entrusted with the mandate to bring the new strategy to life.

Science-Policy Interaction

We have taken this opportunity to consider IHDP's structure as presented in the Strategic Plan brings great challenges but also allows plenty of opportunities for growth. The end of the road is not yet in sight, but the path is set, and we are ready to see where it will take us. Photo (opposite) Vladislav Bezrukov

and inter-linkages. The Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP) and its collaborative projects, (see page 9) represent the most visible result of this new focus on coupled systems. For the new IHDP research initiatives beginning at the dawn of the second decade, the most important word seems to be “beyond”. Earth System Governance (ESG, see page 23) moves the concept of governance beyond state actors. Integrated Risk Governance (IRG, see page 27) shifts risk assessment beyond specialized yet isolated analytical approaches. Vulnerability, Resilience and Adaptation (VRA, see page 29) looks beyond observable reactions to environmental change and to the structural dynamics which enable systems to survive. The Knowledge and Social Learning initiative investigates tools to foster large-scale behavioural changes beyond mere knowledge assessment and dissemination. Classic IHDP research has already raised many of the questions guiding these new initiatives. Yet, the envisioned

IHDP Update 1.2008

our role and the challenges ahead: The IHDP

research community needs room and resources to fulfil ambitious research goals.

Disciplinary diversity will necessarily increase, and ever more different communities need the conceptual equipment to productively collaborate. Geographical variety, especially including developing countries, has to play a bigger role in the Programme’s research. Impact-oriented Science-PolicyDialogue requires not only more platforms, but first and foremost better understanding and enhanced communication. The first tangible result of these considerations is the Secretariat’s first Business Plan (see "Implementing the Strategic Plan" page 13). Defining and clustering our activities reaffirmed the different roles our office is playing in the IHDP network – but it also created a strong sense of how they could and should be fulfilled. Science Management and coordination has always constituted our core function, but the new initiatives are changing needs and expectations. Capacity Development has for a long time been part of IHDP’s activities, but it needs to be more systematic and address a wider area of capacity gaps, be they regional or methodological. Science-Policy-Dialogue is a new core mandate, but IHDP is already engaged with political bodies on multiple levels that need better coordination. Right now, the Secretariat is developing distinct strategies for all three areas, framing our activities in terms of target groups, objectives, and priorities; some ideas for the different activity areas are outlined in the following pages. They


The Road Ahead: an Introductory Note from the Secretariat

IHDP Governance Bodies IHDP Secretariat

Publications, Information & Science-Policy

Capacity Development & Knowledge Networks

Sustainability Pathways

Human Dimension of Biophysical Change Patterns

Earth System Science

Social Challenges of Global Change

Science Management, Capacity Building, Knowledge Dissemination, Policy Dialogue

IHDP Scientific Community

will shape our work over the next years, and aim to make the Secretariat an effective and reliable partner in the implementation of the IHDP Strategic Plan. At the same time, its planning process highlighted the level of excellence we have to reach in order to fulfil our mandate. The IHDP Secretariat provides services to the global research community. But proactive programme development and leadership in science also means supporting the Scientific Committee to challenge the projects and keep them on their toes. Here, the asymmetry between the scientific network output and IHDP’s institutional set-up is striking: To be a pro-active facilitator, our academic staff needs to be able to provide meaningful feedback to ideas. To develop our network, we need a broad perspective and enough openmindedness to integrate further perspectives and disciplines. Building the intellectual and personal capacity for this will determine our success in filling the Strategic Plan with life. Three questions illustrate the decisions we face as we set the future direction: 1) To foster cutting-edge science in IHDP, we need to attract the best and most convincing projects and scientists in the field. How can we help to ensure that IHDP is a creative and supportive platform for excellent research on global environmental change? 2) IHDP is not only a collection of diverse activities; it adds a frame and leverage to those activities. We are honoured to name many eminent scientists as part of the network, but Human Dimensions research also involves a lot of bright young minds contributing excellent and innovative


work. IHDP did an excellent job in integrating emerging scientists in its own activities. How could we support their access to other platforms, and ensure new and sometimes risky ideas are brought to the global debate tables? 3) Science-Policy-Dialogue may be the most challenging area of our future activities. Politicians and practitioners of all levels are actively asking for input of the social sciences. It is a chance and a responsibility to engage in a debate that might at some point change the world for generations to come. In practice this requires a delicate balance: On the one hand, IHDP cannot sacrifice scientific quality to serve the fashion of the day. Our initiatives address politically “hot” topics because they are relevant in a programmatic and scientific context. This is the inherent strength of long-term, fundamental science and its advantage over short-term, ad hoc assessments. Many lectures we hear on global change buzzwords-of-the-day are no more than scientifically masked guesswork. When IHDP gives answers we are and should be aware of their context, and of the many unknowns surrounding every answer. On the other hand, academic communities often fail to meet the think tanks’ short reaction times. In addition, reports tailored to narrow topics usually receive more attention and have more impact in practitioner communities. Are we concerned enough about the reception of our communication? How can the Secretariat help to channel scientific insights and improve the impact of our communication? IHDP with its sizable network, experience and collective knowledge is not only well placed to play a prominent role in the global change debate—we also have a responsibility to do so. At a time of high public and political attention, the Strategic Plan 2007-2015 formulates a mandate that is both incredibly exciting and almost frightening in its scale and potential. We do not know where this journey will lead us to in 2015. But here at the IHDP Secretariat we decided to take the leap and face it head-on. Ellen Pfeiffer, IHDP Academic Officer, IHDP Secretariat. Contact:

IHDP Update 1.2008

From the Secretariat • Implementing the Strategic Plan within the Secretariat

Implementing the Strategic Plan Business Plan and Activity Portfolio

Vision, Mission, Objectives The mandate of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP) is to provide international leadership in framing, developing, and integrating social science research on global environmental change and to promote the application of the key findings of this research. The IHDP Secretariat facilitates the development of IHDP’s Programme and implements the strategic priorities. Its core functions encompass coordination of research activities, capacity building, organization of major events and policy dialogues, and dissemination of outcomes and results of IHDP activities.

Strategy and Sustainable Competitive Advantage IHDP was established to address critical gaps in international research, which gained wider attention over the years and by now lie at the heart of international science policy. This includes (1) the gap in contributions of the social, economic and cognitive sciences to research on global environmental change; (2) the gap in capacity for international and interdisciplinary collaboration in global change research; and (3) the lack of coherent long-term research strategies for policy-relevant research topics and enhanced sciencepolicy interaction. IHDP is well positioned to address and meet increased information needs of the polity.

Activity Portfolio and Priorities The IHDP Secretariat, as main implementation body of IHDP, will take action to incorporate the three strategic goals of the Strategic Plan 2008-2015 into operations throughout the network. Strategic focus during the initial phase until 2010 is the build-up of effective structures and capacities to meet the challenges set by the Strategic Plan. More than before, activities of the IHDP Secretariat will be clustered and structured, making the three-fold strategy visible both organizationally and financially. Reflecting the

IHDP Update 1.2008

strategic goals, the activity portfolio of the Secretariat is hence grouped into three activity clusters: Cluster 1 includes all activities generating new knowledge, both by framing the social, behavioral and economic science of global environmental change in conjunction with a variety of stakeholders and by creation of new conceptual frameworks and methods. Cluster 2 includes all activities with regard to the training of scientists, scientific networking and institutional support. Cluster 3 serves to disseminate the results IHDP research, develop effective information tools for different audiences and provide platforms for active science-policy dialogue. IHDP has three core groups of partners and clients, namely the scientific community, partner organizations and policy-makers. Policymakers at all levels need better knowledge of the demographic, economic, institutional, and technological roots of behavior, a clearer picture of the determinants of human responses, and a better understanding of the dynamics of the coupled human-biophysical systems. IHDP is committed to integrated research approaches, reflecting the interconnectedness of environmental changes with social systems. It is no longer sufficient to engage in research on the biophysical elements of dynamic systems on the assumption that human actions are largely exogenous to the workings of these systems. What is required is a science of socio-ecological systems in which the impacts of human actions are fully integrated. Core partner organizations include several international bodies, in particular bodies and conventions of the UN System, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD), and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA). Core concern for the next phase is to create reliable scientific input especially on climate change and sustainability pathways primarily in the energy sector. The IHDP scientific community aims to contribute major impulses to the scientific and political debate on Global Change. As international partnerships and are increasingly indispensable in addressing critical science problems, the community needs stronger international collaboration, access to international research infrastructure, comprehensive data, cutting-edge methodologies; as well as greater visibility to globally engage in the political debate. Ellen Pfeiffer, Academic Officer, IHDP Secretariat


IHDP Strategic Plan, a Contribution for Growing and Sustaining African Human Capital

IHDP Strategic Plan, a Contribution for Growing and Sustaining African Human Capital Lidia Brito and João Noronha

We are living through a very interesting period on the African Continent. We have witnessed the creation of the African Union, the design and implementation of the New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD), and the reform and strengthening of SADC and other regional organizations. We are also living in a period when the global market is growing in importance and African countries are showing continued positive growth. Furthermore, we live in a era that is seeing the individual and the collective look for something new as the feelings of frustration and the dreams for change are widespread and strong. In Africa, the citizens are searching for their identity in a process marked by deep political, social, and economic changes, in the short period of a few decades. At the same time, we face the threat of climate change and its unpredictable consequences, in particular for Africa due to our vulnerability to natural disasters. In this highly dynamic political, social, and economic context, the issue of Growing and Sustaining African Human Capital has become central for the Continent, and so we must develop: •• A deep understanding of factors influencing global policy making processes that affect us directly or


indirectly; •• Capacity to contextualize those policies at both the national and regional level; •• Capacity to critically analyze impacts; •• Capacity to develop alternative policies or, at least, capacity to influence the development of future global policies and •• Capacity of each one of the actors, at the individual level, to position him or herself as part of the solution to local and global problems. In order to address these complex issues, it appears important to highlight that any capacity development efforts have to be based on the understanding of the dynamics of social change, of the importance of social values, and of the long-term nature of the process. At the same time, it is vital to comprehend that capacity development is about increasing the number of choices for action, and potentially in scenarios where capacity has to be augmented in a very short period of time. The challenge is to design capacity development programmes based on strategies that support the notion that we need to rethink the development pathways we are following.

IHDP Update 1.2008

IHDP Strategic Plan, a Contribution for Growing and Sustaining African Human Capital

It is important that we choose and follow models of development that reflect visions of the world that are locally relevant, culturally appropriate, and environmentally sound, accepting, at the same time, that we live in a globalised world, and therefore, we are all dependent on each other. Capacity development is, therefore, a combination of interventions that strengthens the individual and the collective autonomy through the appropriation, utilization, and recreation of acquired knowledge. It is important that capacity development supports the transformation of mentalities and visions through a better comprehension of the world, the ability to act in pursuit of those visions, resulting in the conviction and commitment towards a more sustainable development pathway and a change in behavior and lifestyles. Capacity development interventions should concentrate on developing enough critical mass at national, regional, and global levels to initiate a movement for change, that is able to mobilize the natural social energy existing in society, helping focusing that energy on sustainability. Critical mass is fundamental for a realistic vision with ambitious objectives. Critical mass is fundamental for building a growth strategy with clear benchmarks that builds on previous successes and learns from past mistakes. Therefore, Capacity Development programmes require: 1. Multidisciplinary approaches to solve developmental issues; 2. The mobilization of different actors, through inclusive networks, that brings together researchers, practitioners, government institutions, media, civil society organizations, and businesses. Networks that tap existing knowledge inside and outside the community, through a continuous process of learning and relearning, and build the social contract with science needed for sustainable development; 3. Long-term investment and an increase of financial resources committed to capacity development programmes. Funding and time are important enablers for scaling-up Capacity Development programmes; 4. Coherence and perseverance in order to achieve the mentality transformation required, strengthening the ethical values and the empowerment of society: 5. Strong science based on strong research programmes that can feed and influence the movement for change. Clearly, the links among education-research are extremely relevant, as we need an acceleration of behavior and lifestyle changes to address

IHDP Update 1.2008

the challenges we face today. Professor Oran Young, Chair of the IHDP Scientific Committee states in the Preface of IHDP Strategic Plan 20072015 that “Human actions lie at the heart of global environmental changes.”, and that “The impacts of global environmental changes will depend upon human responses ranging from the actions of individuals to the creation of multilateral environmental agreements and the reactions of global civil society.” At the individual level, we consider that the responses and their timeliness imply three essential issues: to accept that changes are inevitable, to learn how to live with change by building a strong value basis that allows the actors to direct their actions and to find meaning even in difficult times, and to strengthen the vision everyone has to effectively create the capacity to choose the future they want to create for themselves and others. These statements, also, highlight the importance of the effects of human behavior on the environment, and the individual and collective responsibility to respond to those changes. It further strengthens the notion that

Africa, more then ever, needs capacity to participate in the global dialogue and decision making processes.

Throughout the Strategic Plan there is a focus on integrating social science research on global change, strongly articulated in the IHDP vision, and on development of capacity in developing countries. It is part of the programme mission to pursue not only social science research to better understand and address the challenges of global environmental change, but also to integrate social and natural sciences to better understand the interactions between humans and the environment and their impacts of those interactions. The mission also clearly articulates the capacity development role of IHDP and its goal in promoting communication between science and policy. The IHDP Strategic Plan, therefore, clearly identifies capacity development as a core part of IHDP work, articulating the main activities planned in three major targets (from the IHDP Strategic Plan): • IHDP will not only develop new capacities but also strengthen and further develop existing capacities. • IHDP’s capacity development strategy gives priority to individuals from developing countries and countries in transition but also includes scientists from developed countries when;


IHDP Strategic Plan, a Contribution for Growing and Sustaining African Human Capital

Furthermore, the new Award Programme and the development of a database on scientists will enhance the visibility of IHDP capacity development efforts and will strengthen its networks.

From an African perspective, the new IHDP

Strategic Plan will unquestionably support the growing and sustaining of African ca-

pacity in better understanding the impacts of human behavior in global environmental

change, will develop capacity to understand

the effects, especially for Africa, and will, in the long run, give the Africans a chance • IHDP’s targets the individual researcher per se, with the understanding that in the long-term their institutions will also be strengthened. The way IHDP will fulfill its capacity development goals will be through: • International Human Dimensions Workshops; • Pre-Open Meeting training seminars; • Open-Science Conferences; • Distance-learning and Video Conferencing; • National workshops, and • Regional network activities. The principles orienting the strategy are the integration of young scientists in international networks, their exposure to thematic or regional capacity development activities, and with the understanding that everyone in the network will learn and relearn from the experiences and perspectives that a diverse geographical and cultural setting can offer. Furthermore, multidisciplinarity is a main principle, exposing social scientists to multidisciplinary perspectives and findings of the social and natural sciences. The new strategy will also focus on the decision-makers, practitioners, and the media, with the goal of raising their capacities too. Finally, the capacity development activities will be expanded from the international to the regional, sub-regional, and national levels, strengthening the IHDP national committees. This will be done through networking and collaboration between scientists in the regions. Another interesting and promising move is the partnerships between IHDP and selected institutions of national, regional, or international nature, increasing the connection between scientists and increasing IHDP connectivity to scientists in those institutions.


to fully participate in international debate and decision making.

In addition, the networking approach involving other stakeholders, such as decision makers, practitioners, and the media will ensure that an informed dialogue can take place in several parts of the world, an important step forward in addressing the challenges posed by climate change. The success of these networks will depend, essentially, on the promotion rate of rapid cycles of knowledge utilization, re-creation, and re-utilization inside the networks. This is particularly important due to the speed of learning and relearning, an essential part of today’s world, where time has become an essential variable for development. This implies that practitioners have to be included in the capacity development programmes for young researchers, completing, in this way, the knowledge cycle in society. The remaining challenge will be to better inform society, at all levels, so that the transformation of mentalities, behaviors and lifestyles will occur. It is too big a task for only one programme, but IHDP has the vision and the capacity to promote a wider dialogue and foster networks that will ultimately ensure that we see a global change in human behavior that will help us all to address the challenges of our changing world. Lidia Brito; Former Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Assistant Professor in Wood Science, Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique João Noronha; Senior Partner and Consultant on Change Management and Institutional Development – Eurosis, Mozambique

IHDP Update 1.2008

From the Secretariat • IHDP and Capacity Development

IHDP and Capacity Development An enhanced mandate under the Strategic Plan

The International Human Dimensions Workshops (IHDWs) have become an established institution and form the flagship of IHDP’s capacity development activities. The IHDW brand has received growing interest and awareness in the past and is now well-known in the community. IHDWs are organised every 18 months in a region-related, decentralised manner. Held just before the October 2008 Open Meeting in New Delhi, India, the 6th IHDW focus on sustainability pathways in Asia. Regional Cooperation Frameworks are currently carried out with the Inter American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) and the Asia Pacific Network (APN), so that, IHDP’s community building activities are already well-advanced in Asia and Latin America. While capacity continues to be strengthened in those regions, Africa will receive much attention, making it a top priority for the next two years. The overall goal is to establish an equivalent regional structure for Africa through training activities and networking at the subregional level. Key partners are the African Network for Earth System Science (AfricaNess) and the Earth System Science Partnership’s System for Training, Analysis and Research (START). IHDP’s capacity development activities, however, are not limited to developing countries but reach out to developed research communities as well, aiming to train and network with young scholars in particular. The National Committees (NCs) remain a prime tool and important target. Tremendous work has been done in this field over the past years, with more than 60 NCs, many of which social science committees, established or linked to our global network. NCs play a key role as they form the basis of the research communities’ existence and activities. They lie at the heart of IHDP, forming another cornerstone of the Programme’s Capacity Development Strategy. Enhanced assistance to the foundation and functioning of developing countries’ NCs is done through IHDP’s Seed Grant Programme, which is currently being re-launched as a global initiative for training, knowledge networks and science-policy tools. As a recent addition to our capacity development portfolio, the IHDP Visiting and Resident Scholarship Programme is already taking off with remarkable results. Postgraduates, PhD students, post-docs, as well as established

IHDP Update 1.2008

IHDP is undertaking capacity building activities in its Secretariat, inviting visiting and resident scholars to work with them in the Langer Eugen tower in Bonn. Top: Falk Schmidt works with Maria Cândida Mousinho, IHDP's first visiting scholar Photos (top) Gabriela Litre, (below) Magalie Armand.

and senior scientists are provided with the opportunity to exchange their findings with our global community and contribute to the Programme’s intellectual development in the various domains of our research portfolio. Bilateral agreements exist with a growing number of countries and research institutions. Currently, five Visiting and Resident Scholars are posted at the IHDP Secretariat in Bonn, Germany. The logic of our Capacity Development Strategy suggests that strong links be maintained with IHDP’s other strategic pillars: cutting-edge science and science-policy interaction. As a key to success, continuous cooperation with international partner agencies lies at the very foundation of our dealings. Andreas Rechkemmer, Executive Director, IHDP


A New Charge: Engaging at the Science-Practice Interface

Delegates watch the opening of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali, December 2007. The UNFCCC has become a platform for two-way dialogue between scienctists and policymakers on the world stage. Photo Ng Swan Ti/Oxfam

A New Charge: Engaging at the Science-Practice Interface Susanne C. Moser

At the core of the International Human Dimensions Program’s (IHDP) revised mission are two goals that explicitly focus on the interaction of the human dimensions scientific community with the world of policy and practice, namely: • To strengthen the capacities of research and policy communities [to gain] a shared understanding of the social causes and implications of global changes, and • To facilitate dialogue between science and policy.1 For the first time, the IHDP addresses these goals explicitly in its new strategic science plan for the coming decade.2 In fact, facilitating exchange and dialogue across the science/policy divide is one of the three strategic legs of the IHDP “stool,” with cutting- edge research and capacity development forming the other two. This elevation of communication, outreach, and interaction between scientists, policymakers, practitioners, and various publics to unprecedented prominence is also reflected in the concept note guiding the


7th Open Meeting in New Delhi, India, which observes that the human dimensions research community has evolved significantly in recent years, shifting its focus “from [merely] understanding the dynamics of global environmental change to using that understanding to devise ways to meet the challenges that we see emerge. This has pushed the scientific community to pay more attention to the relationship between science and policy, to include more useinspired and policy-relevant research, and to improve communication with government, business, NGO’s and the civil society at large.”3 At the beginning of the next IHDP decade thus stands a new (and welcome) mandate that asks members of our research community to consider more seriously the ways in which our research can be made more policy and manage-

IHDP Update 1.2008

A New Charge: Engaging at the Science-Practice Interface

ment-relevant, to engage with practitioners in shaping the research agenda, identify policy-relevant outputs and ensure delivery to relevant publics, and to explore, build, and seek more deliberately the forums and pathways for exchange and collaboration with those in positions to put our insights to practical use. This bold call for active engagement and practical relevance may not come as a surprise – especially after the award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Price for the scientific and outreach efforts of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Nor is it astonishing to those who have been involved for decades in such work, or to those who have contributed to the growing understanding of effective communication, decision support, and science-practice interactions. In the relatively conservative halls of academia, however, this overt sanctioning of engagement between scientists and non-scientists is far from mainstream, and much less wholeheartedly embraced and supported by academic social norms, reward systems, or graduate training. Clearly, such engagement is also not free of challenges and controversy. This article tries to roughly chart this science-practice territory in the context of social science global change research, highlights the need for engagement but also some of the potential pitfalls, and suggests ways to successfully further the goal of effective science-policy dialogue and interaction in the next IHDP decade.4

The Need for Science-Practice Interaction and the Special Role of the Human Dimensions Community Whether the issue is large-scale transformation of our industrial systems, poverty reduction in developing countries, technological leap-frogging in rapidly developing nations, local vulnerability reduction and adaptation in the face of increasing climate disruption, establishing effective governance mechanisms for the management of small-to-global scale social-ecological systems, or achieving the Millennium Development Goals in the face of environmental degradation and social disruption – the human dimensions (HD) research community holds important insights in each of these areas. At the same time, as IHDP Scientific Committee chair, Oran Young states, “Policy makers at all levels need better knowledge of the demographic, economic, institutional, and technological roots of behavior leading to increases in emissions of greenhouse gases and the destruction of

IHDP Update 1.2008

ecosystems essential to the survival of species. They also need a clearer picture of the determinants of human responses – both individual and collective – to global developments like climate change and the loss of biodiversity. Above all, they need a better understanding of the dynamics of the coupled human-biophysical systems that give rise to global environmental changes and constrain efforts to deal with their consequences.”5 Clearly then, the increasing need and active seeking of scientific input from the practitioner community, and the availability of potentially relevant scientific knowledge and willingness of researchers to engage beyond the ivory tower are set for a “match made in heaven.” But are they really? Sarewitz and Pielke6 and McNie7 in recent commentaries and reviews of the pertinent literature suggest that there often is a compelling case and seemingly obvious fit between the demand and supply of scientific knowledge. Yet that match is rarely achieved as well as it might be – sometimes because the available science is not far enough advanced to answer the questions policy-makers need answered, and more often because scientists and practitioners do not communicate and negotiate well enough with each other what knowledge is in fact relevant or salient, and what can be produced credibly and legitimately.8 This begs the question why communication and interaction between scientists and practitioners either does not take place at all or so often turns out unsatisfactory.

Possible Challenges and Pitfalls at the Science-Practice Interface To be sure, the disconnect is created by both sides. Those in the world of practice (policy-makers at all levels, and public and private sector decision-makers, such as resource managers, planners, or service providers, and non-governmental and civic society actors) frequently have a limited understanding of the scientific process and may lack technical depth on any specific scientific issue. Moreover, practitioners’ professional norms and expertise are different from those of scientists, as are sources of accountability, standards of liability, and knowledge needs. And even when there is a modicum of understanding for scientists’ ways of knowledge pursuit, their need for credibility among peers, and of disciplinary or paradigmatic traditions and scientific jargon, practitioners work in very different institutional settings and


A New Charge: Engaging at the Science-Practice Interface

decision timeframes that can make ongoing interaction and collaboration with researchers difficult. Scientists on the other hand, have been socialized traditionally in their professional contexts to keep a certain “objective” distance from the world of practice – one frequently perceived as being messy, political, and value-laden, where engagement potentially undermines scientific credibility. Just like their practitioner colleagues, scientists’ systems of incentives, rewards, training, accountability, and cultural norms favor interaction amongst themselves and sharing and advancing understanding within the small world of experts like themselves. While the common challenges addressed in the HD research community and in the corresponding world of policy- and decision-making increasingly require multi- and inter-disciplinary scientific and interagency collaboration, and funding sources often demand it, the hurdle to cross over the science-practice line seems even higher than that between scientific disciplines or decision-making bodies, respectively. What results is a persistent misunderstanding of how the “other side” works, what actually is needed and possible to give, and how best to communicate and interact at the science-practice boundary. As Colleen Vogel and colleagues observed in a recent paper discussing the need for collaboration in the context of vulnerability, adaptation, and resilience,9 HD researchers frequently hold misleading metaphors such as “bridging the science-practice gap” by way of a unidirectional, linear “knowledge transfer” process. These simplistic mental models of what occurs at the science-practice interface do not account for the real-world, spider weblike actor networks, the ambiguity of roles, and the complexity of interactions. They also don’t help in fostering mutual understanding of needs and feasibility of knowledge production and use, and they can undermine the building of trusted relationships among those involved and ultimately may impair a productive relationship where use-inspired research10 does in fact serve the pressing needs of decision-makers.

Ongoing Interactive Dialogue

Eminent Scientists

Policy Makers & Practitioners

Other Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

Sustainable Capacity Development

IHDP lays out a strategy for continuous interactive dialogue and capacity development Scientific and between scientists, policy-makers, and other stakeholders in its Strategic Plan

The lack of mutual understanding and simplistic notions of why and how to interact are frequently confounded by a lack of communication skills and little more than intuitive appreciation for the communication process and the need for dialogue. Not surprisingly, inadequate time and resources are often given to the interaction, frustration accrues from the repeated need for education in foundational knowledge, the slowness of scientific progress, and the seeming futility of scientists’ efforts when their input is either not (immediately or directly) used, or worse, misused in the policy process. How easy then to return to the work bench and leave the transmittal of knowledge to the world “out there” up to others, and resign to frustrated commentary on misinformed policy developments from the sidelines of action. While a range of institutional (e.g., through so-called boundary organizations) and less formal mechanisms are being used at present to help overcome the hurdles between science and practice, the deeper change that will make science-practice interaction a “normal” practice has yet to be tackled. Through patient and persistent efforts among those already inclined to engage with practitioners, a wider sharing of lessons learned, a common canon of graduate education in the policy and communication processes and the sciencepractice interface, as well as hands-on practice and training in requisite skills, the HD community can position itself to play a far greater and more effective role in affecting realworld decisions in a rapidly changing world.

Implementing the Science-Practice Interaction Goals: Some Opportunities We Should Not Miss There are several key opportunities that the IHDP, in its role as facilitator and enabler of science-practice dialogues, and individual members of the HD research community, should not miss. Each falls within the fundamental priority areas of the IHDP strategic plan for the coming decade. First is the critical opportunity to advance our scientific understanding of the processes, practices, and circumstantial factors that make science-practice interaction both effective, the definition and measurement of effectiveness, the barriers that impede effective interaction, and insights on how to overcome them. At the same time, questions of expediency and effectiveness can not be separated from questions on the ethics of science-practice interactions. HD researchers should be actively and more broadly engaged in this serious dialogue. Such research and dialogue would have important links to broader social scientific endeavors and discourses, e.g., in the social studies of science, sustainability

Administrative Staff


IHDP Update 1.2008

A New Charge: Engaging at the Science-Practice Interface

IHDP participated in the UNFCCC by presenting a side event on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change. Left: Falk Schmidt presents at the UNFCCC in IHDP's side event Photos (left) Earth Negotiation Bulletin (right) Falk Schmidt

science, policy sciences, or in the emerging field of decision support. Second, the IHDP may consider as part of its capacity development efforts to focus not only on fostering substantive knowledge of IHDP program areas or building research skills, but also on educating and training both established and younger researchers in effective communication and dialogic skills to enable them to conduct audience-sensitive outreach to policy-makers and interested publics, and to work effectively with practitioners in participatory or applied settings. Model programs (e.g., the Aldo Leopold Leadership or the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship programs) exist to inform the shaping of such trainings. Third, there is a tremendous opportunity in the planned promotion and facilitation of actual dialogues between scientists and practitioners on global change topics. The IHDP secretariat will gain invaluable practical experience with where, when, and how to foster such engagement for mutual benefit. An even greater benefit to the broader HD community may unfold if trained observers attend these dialogues and synthesize and disseminate the practical lessons for us all. Maybe more importantly, the IHDP could play an ongoing match-making role in actively connecting interested and willing HD community members to policy outreach opportunities at any level of governance, and pointing policy-makers to the tremendous knowledge resources available within our networks. Such a service may lead to deeper changes within our community than the occasional meeting of a small group of individuals or the periodic science digests for policy-makers. Finally, the IHDP could play an influential role in contributing to a cultural shift in academia itself. As the program considers establishing a widely visible and prestigious award program for emerging scholars, it could publicly underline its seriousness about the science-practice dialogue by also rewarding those scientists who engage in such outreach ac-

IHDP Update 1.2008

tivities, and thereby help make such work a more common and respected part of the scholarly portfolio. This would also more concretely advance the envisioned goal for the next decade of fostering “a new generation of communicators able to disseminate knowledge regarding the human dimensions of global environmental change.”11 The course for the next decade is charted. The onus is now on us to carry out the charge! Susanne C. Moser, GECHS Associate Researcher, Research Scientist II at the Institute for the Study of Society and Environment at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, USA. Contact: smoser@ References 1. See: About us at 2. See: IHDP (2007). Strategic Plan 2007-2015: Framing Worldwide Research on the Human Dimensions of Global Change. Bonn, Germany. Available at: 3. See: 7th Open Meeting of the International Human Dimensions Research Community in New Delhi, India, Concept Note,, p.2, emphasis in the original. 4. This article borrows from a longer, recently published paper on this topic. See: Vogel, C., S.C. Moser, R.E. Kasperson, and G.D. Dabelko (2007). Linking vulnerability, adaptation, and resilience science to practice: Pathways, players, and partnerships. Global Environmental Change 17: 349364. 5. Oran R Young, Preface. In: IHDP Strategic Plan 2007-2015, p.7. 6. Sarewitz, D. and Pielke Jr., R.A. (2007). The neglected heart of science policy: Reconciling supply and demand for science. Environmental Science and Policy 10: 5–16. 7. McNie, Elizabeth C. (2007). Reconciling the supply of scientific information with user demands: An analysis of the problem and review of the literature. Environmental Science and Policy 10: 17-38. 8. Mitchell, R., Clark, W.C., Cash, D.W. and Dickson, N.M., eds., 2006. Global Environmental Assessments: Information and Influence. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 9. Vogel, C., S.C. Moser, R.E. Kasperson, and G.D. Dabelko (2007). Linking vulnerability, adaptation, and resilience science to practice: Pathways, players, and partnerships. Global Environmental Change 17: 349-364. 10. Stokes, D.E. (1997). Pasteur’s Quadrant. Washington, DC: Brookings Institute. 11. IHDP Strategic Plan 2007-2015, p.10


From the Secretariat • Science-Policy Interaction

Science-Policy Interaction The interaction between science and policy is as complex as it is vital. Challenges surrounding the science-policy interaction are especially evident in environmental issues, which are typically complex and emotionally heated. Where policymakers, the media and the public, demand hard and fast answers, many of the difficult questions faced by science, and thus, the resulting findings, are inherently rife with uncertainty. Additionally, scientific conclusions are often poorly communicated to policymakers, who then fail to take these conclusions into account. A mutually beneficial dialogue between science and policy requires that research objectives be framed and carried out with policy considerations in mind. At the same time, policymakers should be aware of the science available and encouraged to take policy relevant research into account. Areas of high uncertainty must be acknowledged by researchers and policymakers alike, who, instead of focusing on this uncertainty, should emphasize crucial issues and ranges of possible developments. An open dialogue between the scientific and political communities is necessary not only for the development of well-guided policies but also for the formation of pertinent research agendas. IHDP recognizes this need, reflected in its mission to promote effective and mutually beneficial communication between scientists, policymakers, the private sector and society at large. By extending IHDP’s original mandate to disseminate knowledge, the new Strategic Plan 2007 – 2015 has lent an even greater significance to the science-policy interaction, making it a strategic pillar of IHDP’s activities. In general, scientific conclusions must be more effectively communicated – a fundamental goal of IHDP’s science–policy interaction initiatives for the next decade. In fulfilling its science-policy mandate, IHDP will organise a number of capacity development, communication and outreach activities over the next decade. Some of these will be events involving direct cooperation with UN bodies and activities such as UNESCO, the IPCC, the followup to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) and the Advanced Institute on Global Environmental Change and the Vulnerability of Water Resources in the Context of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Striving to bring members from the scientific and political communities to-


gether, Science-Policy Dialogue Workshops, set to be held on an annual basis, play an integral role in IHDP’s sciencepolicy interaction activities. The second of these dialogues will be held in June 2008 in Santa Barbara, California, and will focus on hotly debated energy security issues. The Bonn Dialogues, another newly established workshop series held biannually, concentrate on the anthropogenic drivers and consequences of global environmental change. The next Bonn Dialogue event will take place in May 2008. Taking place every three years, one of IHDP’s most extensive flagship events, the Open Meeting, will be held in October 2008 in New Delhi, India. The Open Meetings are the world’s largest international science conferences on the social aspects of global environmental change. In addition to proceedings and follow-up publications for the aforementioned conferences, IHDP will continue to produce other publications focusing on aspects of the science-policy research agenda. These publications will have a special concentration on areas of cross-cutting interest such as environmental governance, resilience, vulnerability and adaptation. Knowledge dissemination to those in the field of global environmental change will be accomplished through a new book series, a set of policy briefs, science plans under the IHDP Report series and though synthesis reports, which provide more concise summaries of findings. Broader public outreach will be achieved via the publication of IHDP’s UPDATE magazine and eZine newsletter, annual reports, inserts adding to the Strategic Plan as well as improvements to the IHDPs website and online database. Brochures, posters and targeted information packets will also continue to be distributed in an effort to enhance communication. These sciencepolicy initiatives will reach a broad audience, composed not only of internal IHDP members and partners but also of external scientists, policymakers, partners and the general public. It is IHDP’s hope that intense efforts in these endeavours will, over the next decade, contribute to improving the essential communication between science and policy. Gabriela Litre Academic Officer & Communications Manager, IHDP Secretariat, Contact: Sarah Mekjian, Associate Communications Manager, IHDP Secretariat

IHDP Online We are proud to announce the relaunch of our website, The new platform is designed to serve the informational needs of our partners, sponsors, researchers, and policy-makers. It presents news about IHDP activites, and all relevant information about the human dimensions of global environmental change.

IHDP Update 1.2008

Earth System Governance, Report on a New IHDP Initiative

Earth System Governance, Report on a New IHDP Initiative Frank Biermann

Earth System Governance entails decision-making about human and environmental interaction from the smallest to the biggest scales: in grass-roots, non-profit, and non-governmental organisations, and city, country, and world-wide governments. Photo (top) Cambodia Trust Photo (below) Wiebke Herding Photo (page 24) DSB Nola Photo (page 25) Kim Pierro

IHDP Update 1.2008

In 2001, the four global change research programmes declared in their joint Amsterdam Declaration an “urgent need” to develop “strategies for Earth System management”. Yet what such strategies might be, how they could be developed, and how effective, efficient, and equitable they would be, remained unspecified. The International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP) took up this challenge in March 2007 by mandating an international group of governance experts to develop a science plan for a new international, long-term research project within IHDP—the Earth System Governance Project. The drafting group has opted for the concept of “governance” instead of “management”. For social scientists, “management” is a term more closely related to notions of hierarchical steering, planning, and controlling of social relations. “Earth system management” brings connotations of technocratic interference in social processes: the “manager” who controls, plans, and decides. From a social science perspective, “earth system management” as an analytical or normative concept is both infeasible and—in its connotation of hierarchical planning—undesirable. Global stewardship for the planet is different from centralized management. Instead, it must be based on non-hierarchical processes of cooperation, coordination, and consensus building among actors at all levels. It must include state and non-state actors. It must include complex architectures of interlinked institutions and decision-making procedures, but also different forms of collaboration, such as partnerships and networks. In a world of diversity and disparity, earth system “management” is no option. Instead, we argue, we hope to observe the emergence of a new, different paradigm: earth system governance. We understand earth system governance first of all phenomenologically: as a description of an emerging social phenomenon that is expressed in hundreds of international regimes, national policies, international and national agencies, local and transnational activists groups, local commu-


Earth System Governance, Report on a New IHDP Initiative

nity initiatives, and expert networks. At the same time, we understand earth system governance as a political project that engages more and more actors who seek to strengthen the current architecture of institutions and networks at local and global levels. And, in both meanings, we see earth system governance as a demanding and vital subject of research for the social sciences. Yet such research is no easy undertaking. It must bring together a variety of disciplines in the social sciences—including political science, sociology, policy studies, geography, and law. It must span the entire globe because only integrated global solutions can ensure a sustainable co-evolution of natural and socio-economic systems. But it must also draw on local experiences and insights and offer solutions to local governance problems. In other words, research on institutions and governance in times of earth system transformation must be about people who are drivers of global environmental change and at the same time part of any solution. It must be about places in all their variety and diversity, yet seek to integrate place-based research in a global understanding of the overall challenge to steer human interaction vis-à-vis earth system transformation. Eventually, this research will need to be about our planet. It is the task of developing integrated systems of governance, from the local to the global level, that ensure the sustainable development of the coupled socio-ecological system that the Earth has become. The development of theories to understand, and of strategies to advance, earth system governance evolves today into one of the most important but possibly also most difficult tasks for the social sciences. It involves questions of the emergence, design, and effectiveness of governance systems as well as the overall integration of global, regional, national, and local governance—that is, the quest for effective architectures of earth system governance. It also requires understanding the actors that drive earth system governance and


that need to be involved—that is, the question of agency in earth system governance. Third, earth system governance must respond to the inherent uncertainties in human and natural systems; it must combine stability to ensure longterm governance solutions, with flexibility to react quickly to new findings and developments, and to learn. In other words, we must understand and further develop the adaptiveness of systems of earth system governance. Fourth, the more we confer regulatory competence and authority upon formal and informal institutions and systems of governance—especially at the global level—the more will we be confronted with questions of how to ensure the accountability and legitimacy of the governance systems that are created and made more effective. Simply put, we are faced with the need to understand the democratic quality of earth system governance. Fifth, and finally, earth system governance is, as is any political activity, about the distribution of material and immaterial values. It is, in essence, a conflict about the access to goods and about their allocation—it is about justice, fairness, and equity. The novel character of earth system transformation and of the new governance solutions that are being developed puts questions of access and allocation, debated for millennia, in a new light. It might require new answers to old questions. The Earth System Governance Scientific Planning Committee believes that these five A’s—the problems of architecture, agency, adaptiveness, accountability and legitimacy, and access and allocation—are the key questions of a new research effort on the theory and strategies of earth system governance. We see as the core research interest of this programme the question of how integrated systems of governance can support a co-evolution of nature and human societies that leads towards sustainable development. The five A’s are the central analytical problems of this research programme. A research programme on earth system governance, in all its complexity, must build on the interaction and collaboration of many colleagues in the social sciences all over the world. On the one hand, it will need to build on the achievement of the individual researcher or of small teams that succeed in shedding new light on one aspect of the theory and practice of earth system governance. On the other hand, cumulative progress in the social sciences can only occur when individual research efforts draw on a common set of questions, concepts, and methods. The Science Plan currently developed is meant to provide such an overarching outline. We see it as a proposal of a common set of questions that could stand, we argue, at the centre of the emerging research agenda on earth system governance.

IHDP Update 1.2008

Earth System Governance, Report on a New IHDP Initiative

In developing this new research activity, the scientific planning committee can rely on the results from a related earlier research programme, the IHDP core project Institutional Dimensions of Global Environmental Change. This programme—headed for most of its duration by the political scientist Oran Young—ended in 2006 in a major Synthesis Conference in Bali, Indonesia, and its core findings—four book volumes and a series of journal articles—are currently under review for publication (see IHDP Update 1/2007). The Earth System Governance Project will build upon, and further develop, the legacy of this successful predecessor programme. In addition, the Earth System Governance Project will be designed to cut across the Earth System Science Partnership community. Most IHDP projects, as well as the ESSP joint projects, touch upon questions of governance and institutions. Many projects are therefore consulted in the drafting process to this Science Plan, and the Plan itself seeks to strengthen the knowledge base on governance issues in other global change research programmes. Although the Earth System Governance Project will be social science-oriented, it will also be relevant for natural scientists and the entire global change research community. The Project will contribute to methodological progress in integrated assessments through investigating methods for the integration of governance mechanisms—institutions, partnerships or legal agreements—in modelling exercises. Yet the Earth System Governance Project will also strengthen the critical role of the social sciences in the global change research community. An inherent part of our research agenda is the study of global change research in itself, and the analysis of science as an inherently social activity. Core questions will be how scientists frame their problems and how particular worldviews shape the scientific research progress, for example in the construction of models or scenarios; or how scientists deal with problems of uncertainty and lack of quantifiable knowledge of human behaviour; or how the governance of science influences and structures the production of knowledge. For these reasons, the Earth System Governance Scientific Planning Committee envisages and supports direct collaboration with colleagues from other global change programmes in the joint projects of the Earth System Science Partnership. It is in these issue-specific research networks where practical interaction between different disciplines is most likely to bear fruit, hopefully leading back to general methodological progress in interdisciplinary research. Our drafting group thus includes representatives of, and makes every effort to collaborate with, the many joint projects in

IHDP Update 1.2008

the Earth System Science Partnership. For all its activities, the Earth System Governance Project will need to rely on a large network that reflects the interdisciplinary, international, and multi-scale challenge that lies ahead. To the end, the Project will spend substantial resources on building a network and implement a project design that is as open as possible. In addition, the planning committee organizes a variety of roundtables and conference side-events to solicit the views from the research community as well as from practitioners. Among other things, the 2007 Amsterdam Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change was held under the overall theme of “Earth System Governance: Theories and Strategies for Sustainability” and served as the launch event of the planning process for this Science Plan. More than 350 researchers participated in these deliberations. In addition, the planning committee has organized, among other things, four roundtable consultations at the 2007 Amsterdam Conference, side-events at the 2007 Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and at the 2008 Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, a series of annual Earth System Governance summer schools, along with numerous presentations and lectures by members of our group. Any comments, suggestions and ideas for this emerging initiative are more than welcome (e-mail: Frank Biermann is chair of the Earth System Governance Scientific Planning Committee. He is head of the Department of Environmental Policy Analysis at the Institute for Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and director-general of the Netherlands Research School for the Socio-Economic and Natural Sciences of the Environment. For further elaboration of the concept of earth system governance see F. Biermann, “Earth System Governance as a Crosscutting Theme of Global Change Research”, Global Environmental Change, vol. 17, no. 3-4, 2007, pp. 326-337. A project website is currently being developed.


From the Secretariat • Facilitating Cutting-Edge Research

Facilitating CuttingEdge Research The Secretariat implements decisions taken by the IHDP Scientific Committee, assists research projects, pro-actively supports the development of new research initiatives, fosters cross-linkages between its projects as well as organises and coordinates scientific workshops and conferences. It also ensures up-to-date communication and monitors work carried out in the IHDP network on an ongoing basis. The Strategic Plan 2007-2015 has provided the Secretariat with concrete guidance for its work, which will help IHDP to meet challenges and make use of opportunities that will arise during the next decade. IHDP’s guiding principles are its vision and mission as outlined in the plan, as well as its implementation strategies and expected outcomes. A major component of IHDP’s work, facilitated by the IHDP Secretariat, consists of core research projects that are identified in consultative bottom-up processes and implemented under the guidance of the Scientific Steering Committees and the International Project Offices. IHDP is currently running five core projects (GECHS, GLP, IT, UGEC, LOICZ). LUCC, IDGEC, two former core projects that have already completed their project cycle, have set high standards in quality of process and outcomes. Two more projects, GECHS, and IT, will complete their project cycle within the next two years. In addition, IHDP is currently sponsoring four joint projects under the auspices of ESSP that strive for a high degree of multi-disciplinarity (GCP, GECAFS, GECHH and GWSP). As a second component, IHDP’s Scientific Committee has identified four cross-cutting research themes that are currently being explored (Vulnerability, Resilience and Adaptation, Governance and Institutions, Social Learning and Knowledge, Thresholds and Transitions). Some follow the “logic” of the core research projects while keeping the special cross-cutting nature of these themes in mind, as in the case of Earth System Governance and its cross-cutting theme of Governance and Institutions). Other cross-cutting themes, such as Vulnerability, Resilience and Adaptation are expected to be implemented by an alliance of leading science institutes whereas some, such as Knowledge and Social Learning, might follow yet a different track. Due to their highly integrative function and potential for IHDP as a interdisciplinary Programme that goes beyond a single project’s interest, the


Secretariat pays particular attention to these themes and invests special time and energy in their implementation. Apart from a distinct effort to foster the cross-cutting themes, other new research initiatives are currently being developed or envisaged. Besides the well established scheme to develop classical IHDP core projects such as Integrated Risk Governance, two directions are explored simultaneously. First of all, an even stronger outreach is being undertaken to attract scholars from major social science disciplines and beyond whom, as of yet, have not been involved in the global environmental change (GEC) community. Secondly, an increase in activities such as integrated modelling that are jointly carried out with our Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP) partners is planned. Thirdly, the Strategic Plan 2007-2015 urges the GEC community to reflect on methodologies used in research carried out under the auspices of IHDP. The plan does not aim to imposing a single methodology on the projects. Quite the contrary, it highlights the fact that several social science methodologies are being used in ongoing research. If research based on different methodological foundations comes to similar conclusions, findings might be particularly robust. If conclusions diverge, founded dissent can lead to new, possibly path breaking insights. Given that social science research builds upon a plurality of approaches and given that it is not only interested in but also relies upon socially constructed research subjects and theories, it is paramount that the methodological basis is reflected continuously. The Strategic Plan 2007-2015 explicitly links IHDP’s science pillar to the pillars of Capacity Development and Science-Policy Interaction. Even if activities in these areas have been carried out since the IHDP’s beginnings, the plan provides valuable guidance and suggests that each IHDP research initiative should, in one way or another, contribute to all three pillars of the plan. It is one of the main tasks for the Secretariat to ensure, in close collaboration with the Scientific Committee and the projects, that these links are established and effectively used. An IHDP that is strengthened by its new Strategic Plan is an even stronger partner within the GEC research community in general and ESSP in particular. The Secretariat is committed to ensuring that IHDP’s potential is fully utilised and to position IHDP so that the current momentum for human dimensions research is translated into cutting-edge research in and for an ever more quickly changing world. Falk Schmidt, Academic Officer, IHDP Secretariat. Contact: schmidt@ihdp.

IHDP Update 1.2008

Core Science Initiative on Integrated Risk Governance

Core Science Initiative on Integrated Risk Governance Carlo Jaeger and Peijun Shi

In September 2007, 18 scholars from six countries met in Beijing to discuss research needs about Integrated Risk Governance (IRG). In the past years, the risk analysis community has made tremendous progress in dealing with a wide array of practical and theoretical issues. Two broad strands of research can be distinguished. On the one hand, scholars from economics, mathematics, and decision sciences have developed tools for assessing and managing of financial risks. A key insight here concerns the possibilities to reduce the overall risk of a portfolio by diversifying its components. Among other things, this can lead risk managers to include instruments dealing with currency risks and instruments dealing with natural disasters in the same portfolio. Insurance and re-insurance companies as well as banks and other financial operators are using these tools on a routine basis and are continuously improving them. On the other hand, scholars from psychology, geography and other social sciences have developed an

IHDP Update 1.2008

in-depth understanding of processes of risk communication and decisions about what risks are deemed acceptable or unacceptable by different people. A key insight here concerns the difference between risks chosen by the exposed person – as in car driving or mountain climbing – and risks depending mainly on decisions by others – as with train accidents or failure of power plants. Recently, however, the risk community has realized that a new kind of risk issues will become increasingly salient in the future: issues of Integrated Risk Governance. An instructive example is given by the current combination of increasing food as well as oil prices with the economic slowdown triggered by the crisis on the American mortgage market and the risks of global climate change. The combination of these risks makes it difficult to deal with any of them in isolation, but


Core Science Initiative on Integrated Risk Governance

Devastations of a flood in Kota Tinggi Johor, southern Malaysia Photos (p. 27-28) Kamal Sellehuddin

current risk governance procedures make it equally difficult to address them in an integrated way. In this situation, the CNC-IHDP/RG (Work Group of Risk Governance, Chinese National Committee for International Human Dimension Program of Global Change), supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China, has proposed to IHDP to develop a core science project on Integrated Risk Governance. As a result, the Core Science Initiative on Integrated Risk Governance has been formed at the mentioned meeting. A scientific committee2 (chaired by Profs. Shi and Jaeger) has been established and work on a science plan has started. The purpose of this initiative is to study the risk governance issues arising in the context of global environmental change and globalization. In particular, the initiative strives to understand new challenges resulting from the combination of different scales, governance styles and risk events, and to develop policy advice in order to deal with those challenges. We will focus on the relations between science, technology and management in order to identify ways of improving risk governance internationally. The knowledge generated by the integrated risk governance initiative shall foster policies that effectively reduce the vulnerability of individuals and communities to complex risks while avoiding the pitfalls of moral hazard and rent-seeking. Building upon existing work carried out by the Academy of Disaster Reduction and Emergency Management, MOCA & MOE, China at Beijing Normal University, but also by other research institutes and major re-insurers, opportunities will be explored to build an international network of databases on risk governance. Such a network can enable governments to design comprehensive risk maps in order to develop strategies for integrated risk governance. These strategies may be implemented in various ways, perhaps including the appointment of government chief risk officers in analogy with the approach taken by risk professionals in other areas.


However, it is clear that in order to develop knowledge on integrated risk governance, including a network of databases, it will be appropriate to start by focusing on a few selected cases. Large-scale risks will be at the center of the integrated risk governance initiative, bearing in mind that many of these risks are rooted in regional or even local circumstances. Attention will be paid both to sudden events and creeping crises. Concrete risk areas to start with are currently being identified. Potential candidates include • water-related risks, • spread of diseases such as malaria or avian flu under conditions of global environmental change, • risks bound to new technologies and their “mainstreaming”, e.g. wind power and power grid failures, • possible linkages between climate risks, other global environmental risks and financial crises. The selected risk areas will be investigated in view of the following research questions: a. How is risk governance implemented across scales, and how could multi-level governance of risks be improved? b. Are accountability, participation, and responsibility necessary/crucial conditions for effective risk governance? c. How can resilient institutions for effective risk governance be designed / what are necessary building blocks? In order to successfully address these questions, original research is needed, research that will confront the basic issue that has emerged out of decades of risk studies and is re-emerging in the more recent field of vulnerability research: how can received notions of rationality be improved in view of the limitations they have shown in the face of complex risks? These notions include the strict separation of facts and values, of logical consistency and empirical content, and the belief that Western-style science can settle questions of consistency and factual accuracy in an objective manner even in the face of complex risks. This is a fascinating research challenge because those notions have shaped the concept of rationality that informs not only much of received decision theory, but actually key elements of modern thinking. A dialogue between researchers with widely varying cultural background is certainly useful, perhaps indispensable to tackle this research challenge. It is an urgent practical challenge, too, because improved notions of rationality are needed to establish global procedures of integrated risk governance that are both legitimate and effective.

IHDP Update 1.2008

A New Initiative on Vulnerability, Resilience and Adaptation

A New Initiative on Vulnerability, Resilience and Adaptation Sander E. van der Leeuw

Photo BCMom

IHDP Update 1.2008

In the winter of 2005, at the initiative of Elinor Ostrom and the IHDP Scienctific Committee, I organized a meeting at Arizona State University on the theme “Vulnerability, Resilience and Adaptation”. The papers presented at the meeting – as well as a collective paper – were published in the autumn of 2006 in a special issue (vol 16:3) of Global Environmental Change, edited by Elinor Ostrom and Marco Janssen. On the basis of that result, in March 2007 the Scientific Committee decided to create a transversal theme across all IHDP core projects on this theme, and asked me to initiate that effort. This short contribution is intended as a brief report to the wider IHDP community, as well as an effort to reach out to all those researchers in our community that might be interested. To clarify our main concerns and to set this article in a broader context, we resume a discussion of key concepts that was presented in the special issue. A broader discussion of these and similar concepts can be found elsewhere (Adger 2006; Folke 2006; Gallopin 2006; Janssen et al. 2006; Smit 2006). In the literature that concerns us, the ideas of adaptation and adaptability are somewhat older than resilience and its sister concepts, robustness and vulnerability. In the life sciences, adaptation has a lengthy tradition, and was brought to prominence by Darwin and others in attempting to explain the genesis of diverse forms of life. In the social sciences, it dates back at least to the cultural ecology of the 1940s and 1950s (e.g. White, 1949; Steward, 1955). In these contexts, adaptation refers to the process of structural change in response to external circumstances. Adaptedness, then, refers to the extent to which a particular dynamic structure is effective in dealing with its environment, and adaptability refers to the capacity to adapt to future changes in the environment of the system concerned. Adaptation and adaptability have, moreover, a connotation of reaction to changing exogenous circumstances, whereas resilience, robustness, and vulnerability are more often used in a setting in which society and its environment are deemed to be interactive and, so, dynamic. Adaptation and adaptability are rather general concepts that do not point to the why and how of the underlying system dynamics. Resilience, robustness, and vulnerability point to structural characteristics of the systems concerned and to whether or not change is necessary for survival. The concepts “resilience,” “robustness,” and “vulnerability” can only be understood in relation to one another (van der Leeuw, 2001). All three are properties of the combined socio-ecological system. Robustness is the most recent of these terms. Its intrinsic meanings are still under (sometimes heated) discussion (cf.


A New Initiative on Vulnerability, Resilience and Adaptation

In the present context, it seems to refer to the structural and other properties of a system that allow it to withstand the impact of disturbances with or without change (Anderies et al. 2004). Current levels of robustness, resilience, or vulnerability may be based on past adaptations. If these adaptations were highly specific, the system may need to adapt again upon encountering new types of disturbances (Carlson and Doyle, 2002). As defined by Holling (1973), by contrast, resilience refers to “the capacity of a system to absorb and utilize or even benefit from perturbations and changes that attain it, and so to persist without a qualitative change in the system’s structure.” Such a system may take new external conditions into account by absorbing them into its mode of functioning (Holling 1986). The difference between the two concepts thus seems to lie in the extent to which (non-structural) changes in dynamics may be introduced into a system under the impact of perturbations. Resilience allows for temporary changes in functioning and dynamics, as long as the system remains within the same stability domain. Vulnerability refers to situations in which neither robustness nor resilience enable a system to survive without structural changes. In such cases, either the system does change structurally or it is driven to extinction. All three terms express a temporary condition of the interaction between a system and its environment.

The terms resilience, vulnerability, and

adaptability can be, and commonly are, used at all spatial and temporal levels in

a dynamic structure, whether societal, environmental, or socio-ecological. They may refer to capacities of the system as a whole,

but also to those of any one (or more) of its components, even down to the level of the individual actor.

To understand what makes a Social-Economic System (SES) resilient, robust, vulnerable, or adaptable, one must pay particular attention to two properties. The first is that in most systems, whether social or biophysical, external or internal disturbances trigger a number of reactions at different spatial and temporal scales. Which of these reactions eventually overcomes the disturbance, and what the impacts of the episode will be on the future dynamics of the system, depends on the persistence of the disturbance as well as on the size of its impact.


A clear example of the impact of an external disturbance on a Social-Economic System involves an agro–pastoral society experiencing drought. The impact of a drought is determined in part by the extent of the water shortage experienced by the crops, the animals, and the human population. One could say that the size of its impact can be quantified in terms of the “missing” amount of water at any one time and place, and the disturbance this lack of water causes in the subsistence and growth patterns of the plants, animals, and people involved. The duration of the drought is another important variable. Ethnographic, historical, and archaeological observations confirm that in the first year, the population usually can survive even a serious drought by dipping into grain reserves and other resources. In the second year of a drought, those reserves are generally insufficient, and people will begin to slaughter some of their animals. Generally, in the third year they slaughter so many of these that, in the fourth year, the long–term survival of the group is threatened. Unless they migrate to better lands, or disband as a group, or institute other structural changes (“borrowing” from a neighboring group, for example, which generally leads to long-term exchange relations), they face collective death. Thus, if in the first year, the group’s subsistence dynamics are sufficiently robust to cope with the drought with only minor adjustments, in the second year the group survives on its resilience or, in other words, by relinquishing part of the resources that serve as a long-term “backbone” to its way of life. In the third year, the group becomes vulnerable to further mishaps, and if nothing structural is done, the group ceases to exist in the fourth year. Thus, the temporal scale of a perturbation, as well as the scale of the system’s own dynamics, is an important measure of the system’s adaptive capacity, robustness, resilience, and vulnerability. In this respect, SESs do not differ from purely biophysical or purely social systems. In addition to the temporal scale, the spatial scale of the phenomenon determines how many people (or animals, crops, etc.) are involved in the disaster, and, indirectly, how long it will take for natural restorative processes (demographic processes, re–colonization of the vegetation, etc.) to overcome the damage done. Compared with the problems we must come to terms with today, this example is extremely simple. Yet its very simplicity helps to clarify the meaning of resilience, vulnerability, and adaptability in coupled socio-ecological systems. In improving our understanding of the differences between anthropogenic and biophysical system dynamics, an important difference is that people and organizations are capable of learning, and learning how to learn (Bateson 1972). They communicate by means of self-referentially negotiated

IHDP Update 1.2008

A New Initiative on Vulnerability, Resilience and Adaptation

symbols (Luhman 1985), and act individually as well as in conjunction with others. They have the capacity to create objects, informing a wide range of substances, and substantiating a wide range of forms. Relative to their lifespans, human societies, therefore, have a variety of very rapid adaptive dynamics at their disposal. These have enabled them to insert themselves into the dynamic structure of biophysical systems to the extent that the latter have, in the true sense of the word, become socio-ecological. In the process, many human societies have exchanged external (environmental) for internal (societal) complexity. They have homogenized parts of their environment in order to bring their dynamics under control, as in the cases of deforestation, cultivation, and grazing. Over the last 10,000 years, the survival of SESs has therefore become increasingly dependent on the resilience of their social dynamics in contrast to their purely biophysical dynamics. This is particularly clear in “old” settled areas, such as the Mediterranean Basin (Naveh & Liebermann, 1984; van der Leeuw 1998) and the Swiss Alps (Netting, 1981). The counterpart to this is that they have transformed the spectrum of dangerous or threatening situations in which they intervene (van der Leeuw, 2001). This is due to the fact that they have acted to dampen or remove risks that occur frequently. Such interventions are based on a reduced image of the dynamics involved, in which the short time-scales predominate. In the process, a range of new (unknown) dynamics at different timescales may be introduced, including (very) long ones that are hard to detect in the short run. The net effect is that more and more frequent threats are brought under control, while new, infrequent dangers are created. Though this may for some time create an appearance of control, the accumulation of longer–term threats undermines that stability “unseen.” Eventually, the longer–term dangers emerge, leading to what may be perceived as a “crisis,” such as the fluctuations of world oil prices in the face of perceived scarcity. Such crises are inevitable in Social-Economic Systems, because the substitution of complexity internal to social systems for external complexity will remain incomplete. Mismatches, discontinuities, non-linearities, and thresholds are likely to be revealed as this process of substitution unfolds.

Alliance and in IHDP, that there are complementary reasons to launch such a joint initiative. On the side of the Resilience Alliance, there is the desire to approach a wider international audience of potentially interested scientists, while on the side of IHDP, this move aims to further development of one or more unifying conceptual approaches to the work that is being done in the Core Projects and the Projects co-sponsored with partner organizations (IGBP, WCRP). It seems most efficient to initially grow this theme from three existing research centers heavily involved in thinking about resilience: the Stockholm Resilience Centre (Sweden), the Tyndall Centre (Norwich and Oxford, U.K.) and Arizona State University (U.S.A.). In effect, these are among the centers most heavily involved in both IHDP and the Resilience Alliance, and have many members in both organizations. Two evident occasions offer themselves to give more visibility to this initiative in the coming year. First of all, the Stockholm Resilience Centre is holding a major conference on Resilience on April 14-17, 2008. IHDP is planning to coorganize a workshop session there, together with the Resilience Alliance. IHDP will also draw attention to this initiative in one of the plenary sessions, and have a presence in one of the poster sessions. Conversely, IHDP, the Resilience Alliance and the Stockholm Resilience Centre will organize a joint session at the IHDP Open Meeting in Delhi (India), 15-19 October 2008, and offer poster and booth facilities to the Resilience Alliance. We are currently in the process of preparing for both events. IHDP-affiliate researchers are encouraged to consult the above-mentioned issue of Global Environmental Change and the website of the Resilience Alliance (www.resalliance. org) to learn more about the conceptual framework involved. Officers and participants in any of the IHDP Core Projects who are interested in the approach and intend to attend either of the two meetings mentioned, are encouraged to email me (, or consult the Resilience Center’s ( or the IHDP’s (either www. or websites, depending on the conference they plan to attend. Sander E. van der Leeuw, Arizona State University and Santa Fe Institute. Contact: School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, P.O. Box 872402, Tempe, AZ 85287-2402, USA. E-mail: vanderle@

How are we proposing to launch the initiative?

In conversations with the Resilience Alliance and the Stockholm Resilience Institute, as well as various members of the IHDP SC, it appeared that on both sides, in the Resilience

IHDP Update 1.2008


Contact Addresses IHDP Secretariat IHDP Secretariat Andreas Rechkemmer Executive Director Hermann-Ehlers-Str. 10 53113 Bonn, Germany ph. +49 228 815 0600 fax +49 228 815 0620 _____________________________________

Joint ESSP Projects GECAFS Global Environmental Change and Food Systems

Katrina Brown School of Development Studie, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK

c/o John Ingram, Executive Officer GECAFS International Project Office, Envrionmental Change Institute, Oxford University, Oxford, UK

Carl Folke

IHDP Core Projects

GCP Global Carbon Project

Gernot Klepper

GECHS Global Environmental Change and Human Security

c/o Pep Canadell, Executive Officer GCP International Project Office, CSIRO, Canberra, Australia

c/o Linda Sygna, Executive Officer GECHS International Project Office Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo, Norway

GLP Global Land Project c/o Tobias Langanke, Executive Officer Institute of Geography, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

IT Industrial Transformation c/o Anna J. Wieczorek, Executive Officer IT International Project Office, Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU), The Netherlands

LOICZ Land Ocean Interaction in the Coastal Zone c/o Hartwig Kremer, Executive Officer Institute for Coastal Research GKSS, Geesthacht, Germany

UGEC Urbanization and Global Environmental Change c/o Michail Fragkias, Executive Officer Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA _____________________________________


GWSP Global Water Systems Project c/o Lydia Dümenil Gates, Executive Officer International Project Office GWSP, Center for Development Research, University of Bonn, Germany _____________________________________

IHDP Scientific Committee (SC) Chair Oran R. Young Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California at Santa Barbara, USA

Centre for Research on Natural Resources and Environment, CNMm Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden

Kiel Institute of World Economics, Kiel, Germany

Tatiana Kluvankova-Oravska Institute for Forecasting, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovak Republic

Leena Srivastava Execuive Director, The Energy and Resources Institute, New Dehli, India

Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker Dean, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California at Santa Barbara, USA _____________________________________

Ex Officio Members IHDP Scientific Committee ICSU Thomas Rosswall

Treasurer Sander van der Leeuw

Executive Director ICSU Paris, France

Department of Anthropology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA

ISSC Heide Hackmann

Vice Chairs Roberto Guimarães

Secretary General ISSC Paris, France

Fundacao Getullio Vargas, Rio de Janiero, Brazil

UNU Konrad Osterwalder

Geoffrey Dabelko Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP), Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, DC, USA

Hebe Vessuri

Rector UNU

ESSP Rik Leemans Chair, ESSP SC Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands

Diversitas Michel Loreau École Normale Superieure Labortoire d’Écologie Paris, France

IGBP Carlos Nobre Centro fr Previsao de Tempo e Estudos Climaticos - CPTEC INPE - Intituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, Brazil

WCRP John Church Antarctic CRC and CSIRO Marine Research Hobart, Tas, Australia

IHDP Andreas Rechkemmer Executive Director, IHDP United Nations Campus, Bonn, Germany

GECHS Karen O’Brien Institute for Sociology and Human Geography, Universit of Oslo, Norway

GLP Anette Reenberg Institute of Geography, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

IT Frans Berkhout Director, Institute for Environmentat Studies (IVM), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands

LOICZ Josef Pacyna Center for Ecological Economics, Norwegian Institute for Air Research, Kjeller, Norway

UGEC Roberto Sanchez University of California Riverside, Riverside, CA, USA

Departmnet of Science Studies, Instituto Venezolano de Investiciones Cientificas, Caracas, Venezuela _____________________________________

IHDP Update 1.2008