APN Convenes its First SA-SRC Meeting in Colombo, 27-28 July 2009

The APN, being a unique network of governments with participants from both the science and policy communities, welcomes new mechanisms that strengthen the links between these two groups, and very pleased that the First South Asia Sub-Regional Cooperation (SA-SRC) Meeting successfully convened in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on 27-28 July 2009. In order to achieve its mission of fostering global change research in the Asia-Pacific, the APN consider it very relevant that effective communications among the scientists and policy-makers is being achieved. This is one of APN’s main goals and the 1 st SA-SRC Meeting put the network one step forward in achieving this goal.

APN members/delegates from South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka); representatives from International Council for Science (ICSU) and Global Change SysTem for Analysis, Research, and Training (START); and guests/representatives from following organisations in Sri Lanka, attended the Meeting : Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (Air Resources Management and International Relations, Biodiversity Division, Climate Change Division, Natural Resources Management Division, Policy Planning Division), Central Environment Authority, Department of Meteorology, and Rubber Research Institute.

The event was honoured by the presence of Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources who gave an opening address at the Inaugural Session of the Meeting. Prior to this, Mr. M.A.R.D. Jayatilake, APN national Focal Point (nFP) for Sri Lanka and Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources delivered his welcome remarks. Dr. Amir Muhammed, APN Scientific Planning Group (SPG) Member for Pakistan, and former Chairman of South Asia START Committee (SASCOM) gave some background information on the mechanism for collaboration in South Asia.

Mr. Jayatilake and Dr. Muhammed were elected Chair and Vice-Chair of the Meeting. Following the election of officers was the presentation given by Ms. Perlyn Pulhin, Programme Officer for Communications and Development, APN Secretariat. She briefly explained about the background of the APN sub-regional cooperation and noted the meeting objectives. Short discussion on levelling expectations succeeded the presentation then the Chair sought adoption of the agenda.

An item on ‘Information Sharing on Country Experience’ generated interest among the participants. Each country representative (Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) shared about the national set-up in his country in dealing with global change issues such as about education and research in global change. This information sharing was considered important in learning from each country experiences and finding synergies for future undertakings. The topics also covered the preparation of institutions’ directory imparting training and research in global change. One output of this item was the up-to-date compilation of research manpower in the region on different aspects of global change.

The item on the ‘Development of APN in General: Perspective from the South Asia Sub-Region’ was actively participated not only by the members but also by the representatives from various organisations. The APN member countries shared to the group how they assess APN’s progress toward achieving its goal and implementing the second strategic plan. Areas that need more efforts were raised and the participants tackled how to improve these areas. The Meeting envisioned APN’s direction in the coming years and a number of suggestions were listed including those related to project management, funding and institutional arrangements.

Emerging research priorities, capacity building needs, scientific trends and issues in the South Asia sub-region with regard to global environmental change/climate change were discussed at the last session. New thematic areas and research gaps were identified and the group agreed on steps to be taken to address these gaps as well as how the plans and actions could be integrated into a regional effort. Training course on modelling was seen as essential area that needs further attention. It was also considered very useful to first develop zones in South Asia which will have similar patterns of climate change so the region could start planning its resource use and implement the resource development plans accordingly.

The group further suggested that a meeting of experts in South Asia should be organised to determine what is known in the region in terms of adaptation and mitigation to climate change. Representative from Monsoon Asia Integrated Regional Study (MAIRS) should be invited in this Meeting to provide information on the monsoon. The Expert Meeting and follow-up activities should be able to project what is likely to happen and an atlas, specific for South Asia should be developed (although it may take some time before a projection, specific for South Asia could be produced). Participation by r epresentatives from ICSU and START in this suggested Expert Meeting will be highly encouraged.

Finally, the participants had a brainstorming session on the best way forward in order to maintain contacts and strengthen the South Asia Sub-Regional Committee Membership. Setting up of local Secretariat and a Regional Headquarter at least for South Asia, as well as reviving the position of Liaison Officer, are among the institutional mechanisms that were strongly recommended by the group. They believe that establishing an institutional mechanism of sub-regional cooperation is the initial step to strengthen further the appropriate interactions among APN nFPs, SPG Members, Project Leaders/Collaborators, scientists, policy-makers and key players on global/climate change in the region.

The South Asia group conveys its appreciation to the APN Secretariat and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources for jointly organising the successful Meeting. The host country made wonderful arrangements. Heartfelt gratitude is extended by the APN Secretariat to all the participants for their valuable contributions in the Meeting, to the Chair and Vice-Chair for their input and excellent work, and to the host for full cooperation. A more detailed summary/report of the Meeting will be prepared in due course.