ELP Newsletter Summer 2015 - Introduction by David Zilberman

Image iconIMG_0536-300x225_6.jpgThis year we are celebrating our 15th anniversary! When we started in 2001, there was a strong sense of hope. The Cold War was over and people expected growing cooperation among nations. Climate change has been recognized as a big global threat and the Kyoto protocol was viewed as a key for an integrated coordinated solution. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were established and plans to achieve them (by 2015) were introduced.

Things did not turn out as expected. First, conflicts between nations intensified. After 9/11, the U.S. invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, and there are now vicious wars in the Middle East. The honeymoon between Russia and the West is over, and stability in Eastern Europe threatened. There are growing tensions between China and its neighbors in Asia, and civil wars continue in some parts of Africa. Resolving human conflicts and wars are necessary conditions for pursuing sustainable development strategies.

Second, we have made minimal progress in addressing climate change. The Kyoto protocol has ended—it did not deliver much and has not been replaced. Finally, while some progress has been made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, hunger and disease among the very poor and the challenges of controlling them continue. Moreover, we have learned again how vulnerable we are to the forces of nature. During the last 15 years we have experienced devastating tsunamis, earthquakes, droughts and floods. Our hearts break for the Nepalese people who experienced two earthquakes during the last few weeks, and we sensed the pain of the millions whose lives were ravaged by floods in Pakistan, the earthquake in Haiti, and tsunami in Thailand. Thus, science policy makers and the global community are challenged to enhance peace, address global environmental problems, solve poverty, and develop means to avert and respond to natural disasters.

Given these developments, the value of the experience provided by the ELP is more important than ever. We make our small contribution to build mutual understanding between people from different nations and backgrounds, and provide them with leadership and conflict resolution skills. We aim to introduce our participants to skills and tools to solve complex policy challenges and to foster collaborative discussion that will hopefully lead them to develop creative solutions to the challenging problems they may encounter today.

One of the most rewarding activities associated with the ELP was the development of a curriculum because it was really an interactive process with the students. Every year we tried to develop a curriculum to suit the interests and needs of the participants. We continued to incorporate new topics such as water, sanitation and climate change every year. Over the years we learned that students are interested in developing their interpersonal skills and so we developed a workshop on conflict resolution with Susan Carpenter and late Bill Sonnenschein on leadership. Unfortunately we haven’t recovered from the loss of Bill and developing a good training on leadership still remains a challenge. Another development over the years is the increased interest in Impact Assessment. This became an important area of emphasis at Berkeley and Max Aufhammer became a significant contributor in this subject at the ELP. The success of the ELP also inspired us to start a two-year masters program called the Master of Development Practice (MDP) in 2012. In fact, MDP students such as Madhyama Subramanian and Renata Koga have been part of the ELP staff.

Furthermore, the College of Natural Resources is developing the International and Executive Programs that aims to offer short professional trainings, and will to some extent complement the ELP. We encourage students to apply when appropriate.

This Summer 2015 newsletter is the kick off to our 15th anniversary celebrations that will take place over the ELP summer course that will be held from June 27 to July 18 this year. It is heartening to read about the experiences of our illustrious alumni from different parts of the world and to learn how their careers and lives have proceeded. Our next newsletter issue will further evaluate the journey of the ELP and our plans for the future.