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Strauss Center Wraps Up Year One of CCAPS Program

AUSTIN, Texas-- June 2, 2010-- In its first year of operations, the Robert S. Strauss Center  for International Security and Law's program on Climate Change and African Political Stability (CCAPS) has made great strides in exploring the complex relationship between the growing threat of climate change and the ability of African countries to manage emergencies, disasters and violent conflict.

CCAPS is a five-year, Department of Defense-funded collaborative research program that aims to enrich the current body of scholarly literature, develop future generations of scholars and provide practical guidance to policymakers.

“We are fortunate to have such a strong, multidisciplinary team of researchers working on the CCAPS program,” said  Francis J. Gavin, Director of the Strauss Center. “They have already made great headway toward understanding the complicated set of issues involved in climate change and political stability in Africa.”

CCAPS kicked off with a planning meeting in Toronto, Canada, that gave its research team a chance to coordinate and refine the program’s three major research components: climate change, vulnerability and conflict; governance and accountability; and multilateral and bilateral aid to Africa.  It generated feedback on individual project design, methodology, resource allocation and event planning.  The meeting took place in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, which enabled the researchers to network with other social scientists in a range of related fields, including climate change, Africa policy and governance.

Throughout the year, CCAPS team members have conducted research resulting in the publication of papers and presentations at meetings and conferences.  For instance,  Joshua Busby, LBJ School assistant professor of public affairs and Strauss Center fellow, has developed map models to show where climate change may have the most dramatic effects.  By looking at issues such as governance, security, conflict and community statistics including access to health care and clean drinking water, Busby’s research team can determine where on the continent humanitarian needs and military intervention will be in highest demand.

“It’s not enough to say that Ethiopia is vulnerable,”  Busby said.  “We have to understand which parts of Ethiopia are vulnerable and why. Our first set of maps addresses that.”

This year, Busby and the CCAPS team has presented research at the International Studies Association conference and the Conference on Climate Change, Social Stress and Violent Conflict, as well as to U.S. government official, AFRICOM planning staff and Canadian foreign policy officers.

With the launch of the AidData database this spring, CCAPS researchers  Michael Tierney at the College of William and Mary and Dr. Timmons Roberts at Brown University have provided a critical stepping-stone to ongoing research on climate change and political stability in Africa.  The public, open-source database tracks information on over a million international development aid projects from 1970 to the present day. It is the most comprehensive tool to date for understanding international development aid flows.  At the direction of Kate Weaver, Strauss Center Research Coordinator and Distinguished Scholar, the CCAPS program is in the process of creating a refined database within AidData that will track all climate change-related adaptation aid initiatives in Africa.

“Until now, no one has had a clear sense of what aid is out there, where it’s going and for what specific purposes,” Weaver said.  “We are filling that information gap, and by making it specific to Africa, we can facilitate the evaluation of climate change adaptation activities and coordination between international aid donors, the U.S. defense community and aid recipients.”

Providing practical guidance to policymakers on issues surrounding climate change in Africa is at the heart of the CCAPS program.  To that end, the program co-hosted a discussion forum in Washington, D.C., this spring, which enabled the research team to establish a community of interest around the issue with government officials, think tank representatives and other members of the Africa policy community.  Ambassador Vicki Huddleston, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Africa, gave opening remarks at the forum.  She noted that climate change is a transnational threat, and asked that the researchers determine where threats are most severe and what can be done to address them.

“The diverse group of participants who attended the forum played a valuable role in building new partnerships around this critical topic,” said Ambassador Gregory W. Engle (Ret.), Associate Director of the Strauss Center.  “The members of our CCAPS team were particularly appreciative of participants’ willingness to help inform our research agenda moving forward.”

A critical goal of the CCAPS program is training future generations of scholars to address these issues. As part of a Professional Research Project led by  Busby, students at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs conducted original research in a year-long course on climate change and security in Africa using Geographic Information Systems (GIS).  Working with variables such as physical exposure, political structure, community indicators and population demographics, students created detailed maps to show levels of vulnerability to climate change at the sub-national level.

“The Professional Research Project on climate change in Africa provided us with a wonderful opportunity to work on one of the most pressing global policy issues of our time,” master of global policy studies student Christian Glakas said.  “Additionally, we learned how to use ArcGIS software, a cutting edge tool with a wide variety of uses in the public and private sectors.”

The students had the opportunity to present their findings during an event at the LBJ School in May.  The audience included students, staff and faculty members of the LBJ School, as well as some special guests:  Ambassador Robert Hutchings (Ret.), Dean of the LBJ School; Admiral Bobby R. Inman, USN (Ret.), Lyndon B. Johnson Centennial Chair in Public Policy; Maj. Gen. Rich Engel, USAF (Ret.) of the National Intelligence Council; and James F. Harvey, Minerva Program Manager in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.  The presentations analyzed the most relevant factors contributing to climate change vulnerabilities in different regions of the continent.

Year Two of the CCAPS program, which begins June 1, promises to be equally productive.  In the fall, Cullen Hendrix and Idean Salehyan, CCAPS researchers at the University of North Texas, will release a comprehensive dataset that looks at how climate change events can trigger political and social disorder.   Alan Kuperman, Associate Professor of Public Affairs at The University of Texas, has put together a worldwide team of experts to support his research on constitutional design and conflict management in Africa.  Top scholars from South Africa, Nigeria, Italy, Belgium, the United Kingdom and the United States will meet this summer in Washington, D.C., to determine the critical questions and decide on seven key countries to serve as case studies.

“Producing policy-relevant research and guiding the next generation of scholars are hallmarks of the Strauss Center,” said Gavin.  “The CCAPS program expands that tradition with the work it has already completed in a successful first year, and with what it will continue to accomplish.”