Bringing the research community together: example from Bangladesh

13th May 2015
Clare Stott reflects on the recent Gobeshona Conference for Research on Climate Change in Bangladesh
Gobeshona is a knowledge initiative that has been established in an effort to bring together the climate change research community interested in Bangladesh, to encourage sharing and uptake of quality research, with the ultimate objective of informing appropriate policy. As a global leader in climate change, it is fair to say that there is a lot of research happening in Bangladesh, covering a range of themes related to climate change. Gobeshona brings this wealth of knowledge together to identify and strengthen synergies and collaborations.

The first Gobeshona Conference

The Gobeshona Conference for Research on Climate Change in Bangladesh represented a major milestone in Gobeshona’s efforts. It brought this wide ranging and large volume of research into one place, enabling interaction between both the researchers producing new knowledge, and with practitioners, policy makers and donors using the knowledge. The conference was an interesting event to co-ordinate; as an organiser, what really shone through was the enthusiasm of individuals to be involved and take part. Different institutions took responsibility for hosting individual sessions, coordinating with researchers and allocating knowledgeable chairs. These sessions examined research on themes such as migration, Loss and Damage, adaptation technologies, health and gender, in the context of climate change in Bangladesh.

The relevance of study findings was discussed with a session on ‘Research into Policy’ hosted by UNDP, which brought together the various themes of the conference, discussing how quality research can better influence policy. Researchers travelled to Dhaka from all over Bangladesh and other countries to participate. This was on a completely voluntary basis, people’s involvement being driven by their commitment to the cause, to the desire to see representation of Bangladeshi researchers on an international platform, and to share their expertise and knowledge. The final day was organised by the Government of Bangladesh, who had an entire day of technical sessions that examined the work they are undertaking in order to tackle climate change. The technical sessions were centered on natural resource management issues, focusing on agriculture, forests and water.

Bringing the national to the international stage

Gobeshona panel We had a range of international guests and VIPs attend, including the Bangladesh Ambassador for France, professional acquaintances from Bangkok and India, young researchers and lecturers from universities in the UK, USA and Sweden, among others, and the guest of honour, Dr. Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, the VC of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who delivered a keynote speech at the Closing Ceremony. The presence of these guests enabled us to highlight the significance of Bangladesh as a major player and leader in actively and successfully responding to the challenges of climate change, on the international stage. In fact, the conference really served to emphasise Bangladesh’s role as a warrior against climate change, rather than merely a vulnerable country, as it is often depicted. Gobeshona highlights Bangladesh’s ability to become resilient and to lead other countries in becoming resilient. Forming collaborations between national and international researchers is key to this quality.

Future Activities and Research

As a hugely successful event, the Gobeshona Conference for Research on Climate Change in Bangladesh will take place again next year, from 8-11 January 2016, at the Independent University. Following feedback and suggestions, researchers will be encouraged to think carefully about the needs of policy makers, and what research can be done that will really aid solutions to the problems faced by the country. At the same time, the research needs to be strong enough to lead policy makers to critically analyse the issues highlighted by the research community, who often have a stronger connection with people on the ground who are experiencing the impacts of climatic change. Some research needs identified in this year’s conference include evidence for solutions to safe water access, data to draw firm causative inferences for changes in health and research to identify the limits of urban areas in the context of increasing numbers of climate migrants. At next year’s conference, there will be a greater emphasis on identifying research needs and defining realistic targets for future research in order to ensure strategic progress in Bangladesh’s response to climate change..

Multi-level involvement and response

Working on Gobeshona since its conception a year ago, it has been interesting to get a comprehensive overview of climate change research in Bangladesh. It has been exciting to see commitment to the activities of Gobeshona growing. This includes a commitment to improving the quality of research, thereby strengthening the voices of young, national researchers, who will be leading the way on these issues in the years and decades to come. Moving forwards, I think Gobeshona has great potential to link with similar initiatives in other countries to encourage international knowledge sharing with the understanding that climate change must simultaneously be addressed at the local, national and international level. In this way, Gobeshona, the research community and other countries involved could thrive and contribute to a real, positive, sustainable and effective response to climate change in the years ahead.

You can follow Clare via twitter: @ClareStott

Image credits: Development Planning Unit at the University of London | Flickr; Clare Stott | Gobeshona