Urban ARK programme: Tackling disaster risk in Africa

In an increasingly urbanizing world cities and their inhabitants are facing the highest losses from disasters. Leaders of the Urban Africa Risk Knowledge (Urban ARK) programme have thus emphasised the urgent need for more detailed and nuanced understandings of urban risk in Africa and how the nature and scale of these risks are shifting in the context of persistent poverty, urban growth and climate change (dx.doi.org/10.3828/idpr.2015.4). These were some of the major issues discussed at the Urban ARK Inception Meeting in Cape Town (19-23 April 2015) and subsequent discussions during the programme’s Inception Period.

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What does the Pope have to say about climate change?

On Thursday 18 June the Vatican issued the Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis titled ‘On Care for our Common Home’. There has been much comment on the news and social media about this papal statement, not least from climate change commentators, communicators and policy advocates welcoming the Pope’s engagement with the issue. I plan to write a longer essay about the Encyclical in due course, but in this short blog post I want to ask whether this Papal intervention really is about climate change – or about something else.

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Utilising Resilience for Improved Humanitarian Programming

Resilience offers a new opportunity to reopen the Linking Relief, Rehabilitation and Development (LRRD) debate and develop practical guidance for improved humanitarian programming. For decades practitioners, policy makers and academics alike have struggled with how to better align short term humanitarian aid and longer term development to reduce vulnerability and chronic poverty. Over the next year I will be visiting and researching up to 10 humanitarian and conflict response case studies and exploring exactly how resilience can be practically utilised to improve international assistance and strengthen community resilience.

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Sentinel-3 satellite – what it’s all about

Sentinel-3 satellite

Sentinel-3 satellite, with SLST at the top covered in black plastic to stop dust getting inside

Professor Martin Wooster has been involved with the preparations for the forthcoming launch of the European Space Agencies first Sentinel-3 satellite, currently scheduled to take place from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia on 10th October 2015 via a Rokot launch vehicle, a redesigned Intercontinental Ballistic Missile and a true example of ‘swords into plough shears’ technology. The primary mission of the 1.25 tonne Sentinel-3 satellite is to provide highly accurate, regular and operationally available information about the state of Earth’s land and oceans, and also to some extent Earth’s atmosphere.

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Mark Pelling on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction

Over the last week Professor Mark Pelling has been at the Sendai World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction as part of the UN Science and Technology major group delegation. The Conference has now passed the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. In addition to Mark, Geography at King’s was represented by PhD student Erin Roberts in her role as a climate change loss and damages expert. Most impressive perhaps was the presence of eight alumni from the MA Disasters Adaptation & Development (DAD) programme with leading roles in the NGO and government processes including Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Tearfund, Red Cross, Global Network for Disaster Reduction (GNDR), YCARE and Health England. A wonderful recognition of the contribution of the DAD programme to international policy development on disaster risk reduction – its core mission.

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Urban ARK – Mark Pelling leads new grant in Geography at King’s

The Urban Africa Risk Knowledge (Urban ARK) programme seeks to open up an applied research and policy agenda for risk management in Urban Africa. With £3.3m in support from DFID-ESRC this three year programme of work highlights urbanization processes that generate human vulnerability and exposure to hazard, as well as examples of capacity building and learning. Field work will be undertaken in sub-Sarahan Africa including Niamey (Niger), Dakar (Senagal), Nairobi and Mombasa (Kenya), Karonga (Malawi) and Ibadan (Nigeria). We focus on those at risk, especially in low-income and often informal or illegal settlements, but also on large scale planed urbanization projects and how these reshape the social and environmental geographies of cities and consequent risk profiles.  Disaster risk is our primary focus but we understand that from the perspective of those at risk avoiding – or suffering from – harm risks are multiple and we will contextualise our work on natural hazards alongside work on social and political violence and public health concerns. Research is a collaboration between city level researchers, international teams and practitioners.

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