Another year has downed; and compliments are in order to all our stakeholders, colleagues, friends and partners. 2015 has been a busy year for ICSU ROA, characterised mainly by a maze of engagements to sort out rehosting uncertainties. This is far from over, but we continue to do our best in terms of what needs to be done, with the capacity we have. We look forward to 2016 in anticipation of better funtioning of the Office. In particular, the prolonged, emotionally and financially draining process to secure work and residence permits for expatriate staff, has taken its toll and disorganised the Office, and we hope to get resolution as early as possible. This will bring the much needed sense of security for the concerned staff members, and stability to the rest of the Office.
The rehosting issues, referred to by some as transitional, have brought their share of murky waters that needed to be navigated. We ended the past year at it, and started the New Year still at it; but are determined to emerge on the other side with better clarity on what needs to be done moving forward. This of course depends on all the role players and the levels of complexity of the issues that still need to be unpacked, not just ICSU ROA. However, we remain assured of the good faith that prevails in this situation from some role players.
The envisaged five-year Sida grant that was almost a reality at the beginning of 2015 has unfortunately experienced its own challenges that we have no control over. While we await its revival, we continue to strengthen our partnership with key role players at the continental level. We believe that, given the global economic challenges which make funding by multinational foundations less and less of a reality, Africa should be looking more inward to finance initiatives that will benefit its own people. A lot of this calls for using synergies to get maximum benefit from the available funding.
On a positive note, we did enjoy some positive developments in 2015, which are worth describing briefly.
Firstly, the appointment of the RCA was completed, which means the 16th RCA meeting will go ahead in the first half of this year. Getting a perfect balance from the sub-regional, gender, language and scientific disciplinary perspectives is always a challenge, and it was no different this time around. We however have confidence that the Committee will find ways to work as inclusively as possible. The Committee members profiles will be posted on the ICSU ROA website in the near future to ensure transparency.
Secondly, the African science plans were reviewed, an excercise that had become long overdue. Due processes were followed to ensure that the group for each thematic area included scientists both from among those who developed the original documents and new ones. The main objective of the review was to update each science plan in alignment with the ICSU Strategic Plan 2012 - 2017, the new developments in the global research agenda, the new thinking of promoting transdisciplinary collaborative research and new international programmes, especially the Future Earth initiative. Following the initial drafts that resulted from the workshop, additional inputs, comments and new insights have come forth, delaying the finalisation of the documents but enriching them to a great deal, which is encouraging. The imminent ICSU Strategic Plan 2018 - 2023 is the latest of such crucial processes that need to be taken into account in finalising the reviewed science plans, since the Strategic Plan is a higher level document.
Thirdly, the African Future Earth Steering Committee (AFEC) was established, following on one of the resolutions from the second African Future Earth consultative meeting, which took place in 2014. The due diligence done and transparent processes followed resulted in a somewhat balanced group, save for the gender imbalance which prevails throughout the science system. Only two of the eleven members are female. The engagement that AFEC has started to have with the Global Future Earth Secretariat has been a much anticipated development, though still with challenges of its own. AFEC has duly been part of the process to invite bids for establishing the African Future Earth node, a process we hope they will be in the leadership of up to finalisation. Having this structure in place has instilled hope for a united African engagement with the Future Earth initiative. The funding issue remain a hurdle, but is not unattainable if African governments come to the party as expected. South Africa and ICSU funded the Committee's first meeting in Pretoria in 2015, and demonstrated that with the right intentions, partnerships and innovative monilisation, Africa can hold its own. Egypt is the next to stand up and be counted, having offered to fund and host the next meeting in early 2016. We can only hope that other countries rise to the occassion as well.
Fourthly but not least, ICSU ROA was visited by some of the Officers of the ICSU Executive Board during their visit to Pretoria to hold the Science International meeting and the South African Science Forum. This was a golden opportunity from both sides, in that they interacted with staff other than the Director, who had just met with the EB the previous month in Paris.
Other activities that have continued to keep us engaging actively include the book projects, building and strengthening partnerships, playing a key role in Africa's sustainable development and climate change agendas and intensifying attempts at implementing the African Science Plans.
The world is changing, so do the science system, complexity of problems facing humanity and resource possibilities. If we work together we can be better prepared to identify our challenges, devise possible solutions, prioritise actions and galvanise resources and action. But we need each and everyone to play a meanigful role.
Have a prosperous New Year! And let's engage!