The Cyprus Institute in collaboration with the International Council for Science (ICSU) organised on 3 – 5 June 2013 in Nicosia the ‘Future Earth’ Regional Workshop for the Middle East and North Africa. ‘Future Earth’ is a 10-year international research initiative aiming to develop the knowledge for responding effectively to the risks and opportunities of global environmental change and for supporting transformation towards global sustainability in the coming decades. It promotes the engagement of researchers across all fields of knowledge, policy-makers, businesses, civil society in the definition of research priorities and the production of knowledge that can effectively inform decisions and actions.
About 30 distinguished invited participants from 17 countries addressed the regional context of sustainability research in terms of scientific cooperation, the interface with policy-makers and practitioners, the funding landscape as well as tools and approaches for knowledge dissemination.
The Workshop was followed by a Round Table Discussion with the participation of representatives from The Cyprus Institute, the International Council for Science and the delegates. During the discussion entitled “Perspectives on Sustainable Development in Middle East and North Africa Region” the results of the ‘Future Earth’ Workshop were announced.
Results of the lively and constructive discussions include:
- The participants agreed that water- and food security, the utilization of renewable energy sources and the safeguarding of environmental integrity and the preservation of biodiversity are priority research themes to be addressed. Overall, research envisioned encompasses a strong developmental and applied orientation.
- The establishment of collaborative projects involving several countries in the region and the generation of research results of significance to the region, but also of relevance globally will constitute a successful implementation of Future Earth in the MENA region.
- With regard to the role of Future Earth for regional research activities, the participants highlighted the provision of methodologies and strategies for trans-disciplinary research, assistance to stakeholder- and decision-maker engagements and collaboration in training and capacity-building activities.
- There was agreement that there are numerous initiatives, organizations and institutions in the region that are of relevance to Future Earth.
- A number of models were proposed to implement a regional interface to Future Earth, including a regional council, formal and informal networks, standing groups etc.
- Interfacing between science and policy makers will take on different forms in the different countries of the region, where some countries will be more receptive to scientific advice and guidance than others. However, it was agreed that active engagement of stakeholders and decision makers, as envisioned by Future Earth will have a particularly high priority.
- With regard to funding opportunities for research activities of a regional Future Earth initiative, the participants identified a number of national, regional and international funding organizations that may be invoked in mobilizing funding.
- On a more general note, it became obvious that there are significant cultural, historic and political differences between the countries of the MENA region, which need particular efforts in implementing Future Earth. However, there was also a broad agreement.
On the occasion of the World Environment Day, which coincided with the workshop, a second Round Table Discussion entitled “Climate Change, Impact to the Environment and Mitigation Actions” was organised, with the participation of representatives from all parliamentary parties. The political representatives discussed the necessary actions and decisions that should be implemented to address climate change, reduction of air pollution, the destruction of the environment and the adoption of a sustainable development model for Cyprus.
The speaker’s panel included Demosthenes Asimakopoulos Professor at the Department of Physics and former rector - University of Athens and the Members of the Parliament Mr. Adamos Adamou – AKEL, Mr. Prodromos Prodromou - DHSY, Mr. Sophoclis Fittis – DHKO, Mrs. Roula Mavronikola – EDEK, Mr. George Perdikis – Cyprus Green Party and Mrs. Soula Kythreotou Zavou – Member of the Political Bureau - EVROKO.