Officials from UNU-EHS and a high-level delegation from the University of the Free State (UFS) in South Africa came together in Bonn to renew their longstanding collaboration in the field of vulnerability research and disaster risk management by signing a new Memorandum of Understanding. The UFS delegation included the rector and vice-chancellor, the dean, as well the director of the Disaster Management Training and Education Center for Africa (DiMTEC), one of the leading providers of disaster management training on the African continent.
The universities first started working together in 2007. In close cooperation DiMTEC and UNU-EHS developed an annual block course focused on reducing vulnerabilities and strengthening resilience. This training is not only offered to students and academic scholars, but also to practitioners and stakeholders, and it typically draws participants from provincial disaster management centers and first responders such as fire departments and health services. While the course was originally conducted at the site of UFS in Bloemfon
tein, it has since expanded and has been offered in other locations in South Africa, such as Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, and Buffalo City, and even in neighbouring countries such as Namibia (Windhoek). Aside from covering theory, the participants routinely visit local informal settlements where they complete a risk assessment and results are supplied to local authorities.
Over the years the collaboration between UNU-EHS and UFS expanded to joint scientific research and several new project-related partnerships were established, mainly in the field of drought research (UNU-EHS’ EvIDENz and GlobeDrought projects).
UFS is also involved in the new programme Global Mountain Safeguard Research (GLOMOS) that UNU-EHS is developing together with Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy. GLOMOS seeks to support the sustainable development of social-ecological systems in mountain areas and to increase the resilience of mountain communities towards hazards and disaster risks. At UFS the GLOMOS programme has found an excellent partner in the Afromontane Research Unit, which addresses sustainable development of the Maloti-Drakensberg area and other mountainous regions in Southern Africa.
The meeting in Bonn did not only involve signing the memorandum; it also provided the opportunity for an exchange with the University of Bonn and other UN agencies, such as UNCCD, UNISDR, and UN-SPIDER, in order to discuss future opportunities for collaboration. “Our long-term cooperation with UFS has been fruitful and successful in education as well as research, and it has grown into an excellent trustful partnership,” said UNU-EHS Director Professor Jakob Rhyner. ”It is my hope that it will continue and expand in the years to come.”