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Opinions: Science Communication For Development; International Disaster Response

Science Communication Can Promote Development

“Helping developing countries communicate and use science is essential to international aid and diplomacy. The biggest single factor limiting developing countries’ potential for achieving sustainable economic growth – or even attaining the Millennium Development Goals – is their ability to access and apply the fruits of modern science and technology,” David Dickson, the director of SciDev.Net, writes in an editorial on the website.

In the piece he discusses the relationship between science communication and diplomacy and notes recent efforts by aid organizations and countries, including the U.S., to use science communication to further development goals. “Good science communication is not a public relations exercise. … Rather, it should put scientific knowledge into the hands of those who can use it … Seen from this angle, science, communication and diplomacy can form an important alliance, particularly in the context of development aid. Putting this alliance into effect is not easy. But it is essential if the goals of sustainable economic growth and social development are to be achieved across the developing world,” he concludes (7/16). 

To Improve Global Disaster Response, International Community Must Prepare In Advance

U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief John Holmes looks at the international response six months after Haiti’s earthquake, writing “We need to make sure that, when the next major disaster happens, we improve our response,” in a Globe and Mail opinion piece. “Many countries wanted to send help, and filled planes with goods and sent them off. But the goods were not always was what was needed, and there was not always an identified organization at the other end to distribute these goods. … Clearer advance guidance is needed about what really helps in these disasters – mostly money for the organizations that know what they’re doing. And global stockpiles of necessary goods, such as tents and tarpaulins, need to be looked at again,” he writes.

According to Holmes, international donors were not “sufficiently sensitive to the concerns and capacities of local civil society, and did not listen enough to what the people whose lives had been destroyed by the quake were saying.” The humanitarian operation in Haiti “will still be needed for months. … So there’s no question of relaxing and just reflecting on the lessons. But the lessons still have to be learned and applied for the future,” he writes. “And the biggest lesson of all is the need to reduce the risks of disasters before they happen, through measures such as enforced building codes, and to prepare for them more systematically, not just to respond effectively to them afterward” (undated).

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