Friday, October 22, 2010

UNU-FLORES Concept Note: Core Area of Focus


UNU-FLORES will contribute to improve the efficiency of the use and management of the resources water, soil and waste in developing and emerging countries in scientific, educational, managerial, technological and institutional terms.

Innovative concepts for target- and region-specific knowledge-transfer of results as well as appropriate methodologies and approaches for undergraduate, postgraduate and professional education will be developed for sustainable capacity development.

As a result of research and development projects, decision support for various target groups like ministries and governmental organisations, municipalities, enterprises, NGOs and other stakeholder will be provided.


The proposed institute UNU-FLORES will be dedicated to research, post-graduate education and training of professionals to contribute to integrated management and capacity development for material flow and resources management, dealing first and foremost with the environmental resources soil, water and waste with the perspective to address other geo- and energy resource flows as the institute develops. UNU-FLORES shall contribute as a fulcrum point to the development of global sustainable management strategies. The institute will be closely affiliated with the Dresden University of Technology (TUD) and other Dresden and Saxony-based relevant research institutions, thus exploring the potential and contributing to the international up-scaling of what may be called “Competence Centre Dresden”.

Instead of the hitherto attempted static spatial referencing of the resource management (like water resources management of a river basin: in simplified terms an input-output model) it will be explored whether the consistent tracing (follow up) and management of the resource throughout its migration (passage, flow, transport, transfer) through subsequent compartments and phases would not bring a more comprehensive insight and ultimately more efficient and sustainable management results. In case of the resource water this approach would imply to close both the so called small and large water cycles. The small one describes the sequence “nature” withdrawal, channel transport of water, treatment plant, distribution system, consumption/use, collection and transport of sewage and waste water, treatment, recycling and/or return to “nature”, and thus it is linked to the large water cycle (passage of water in the “natural” hydrosphere: atmosphere, biosphere, lithosphere, oceans and so forth). In simplified terms this means to replace the traditional input-output model by the concept of linked cycle monitoring and management. The development of this, what may be called “linked cycle management” approach is the core scientific task of the institute.

The above sketched challenge is envisaged to be addressed within five scientific sections:
1) Systems and Flux Analysis
2) Global Change; Assessment (climate, demographic, land use, socio-economy)
3) Water Management
4) Soil and Land Use Management
5) Management and Treatment of Waste

The two “core” sections “Systems and Flux Analysis” and “Global Change Assessment” and their respective research scopes define the challenge, the approach and expected results of UNU-FLORES. The multi- and interdisciplinary approach pursued in these efforts will be supported by three further subunits where expertise related to the three resources / materials will be grouped.

The “Water Management” section will in particular focus on the two hydro-cycles: the “natural” one describing the flux of water and vapour in the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere at different scales, of which the basin / aquifer scale is the smallest one. The “artificial” hydrocycles like the municipal (urban, rural), industrial and agricultural ones focus on the intensive interactions and pollutions of water along its passage in pipelines, canals, ditches, being used as production factor, cooling, generating power, consumed or deployed as conveyance agent. Among these “small” hydrocycles the urban one will be given ample consideration, though the agricultural cycle offers the best opportunities to explore soil-water interaction and hence subsurface fluxes at various scales. This section has excellent cooperation potential with UNU-INWEH and UNW-DPC.

“Soil and Land Use Management” considers the impacts and interactions: both potential improvements but also deteriorations of soil texture, fertility and availability through changing land use and its management. Both socioeconomic, but also climate change, changing vegetation cover, increasing rainfall intensities, compaction / erosion tillage and accelerated decomposition of organic materials will be considered. Urbanisation and development of transport infrastructure are considered as clear-cut threat through loosing prime agricultural land but also through sealing the surface. Deforestation, especially by using fire is not only one of the most widespread land use change but it contributes both directly and indirectly to climate change.

The section “Management and Treatment of Waste” covers the issue of collection storage, processing and recycling of waste thus considering it both as “refuse” to be disposed but also as a source of energy or nutrients. Particular emphasis will be given to the identification, assessment and rehabilitation of contaminated sites (wild deponies, old military areas etc) which gives also the excellent impetus for collaboration with the Soil and Land Use Management section. Collaboration potential with UNU-INRA and UNU-EHS are excellent.


UNU-FLORES, just as all other UNU institutes will engage in both policy-relevant research in the above described challenging areas, and in post-graduate capacity building activities at MSc and PhD level. At MSc level a very close synergy will be sought and explored with similar programmes offered by TUD Faculty of Forest, Geo and Hydro Sciences. At the first phase UNU-FLORES scientific staff will contribute as resource persons / thesis supervisors to the programmes. Once the institute reached its intended strength, depth and width, the formulation and launch of joint MSc degree programme in integrated resource management could be envisaged.
As far as the PhD programme is concerned this high level segment will be considered from the very beginning of the conceptual and institutional development of UNU-FLORES. Being directly linked with the research programme, the PhD component, while admittedly an organisational burden for an emerging institute, would strengthen the research component by providing swiftly the critical mass of research capacity. (Joint) PhD activities enable the rapid and effective linking of UNU-FLORES to:
• to other UNU institutes (UNU-INWEH, UNU-INRA, UNU Tokyo based programme on sustainability science, UNU-EHS, UNU- IIST, UNW-DPC) and
• to other German and Dresden based scientific institutions like HIGRADE, UFZ.
Next to the cycle-oriented integrated resource / material flux management concept as main scientific challenge a multinodal water resources management-oriented PhD programme can be seen as the other key characteristic of the proposed institute.

3.1 The multinodal UNU PhD programme on “water”:

UNU-FLORES will join the family of geographically distributed UNU institutes. Several of these entities have viable water-related research and education activities, frequently engaging with local academic partners and universities in PhD or Master level programmes. Within the new strategic initiatives UNU aims to become itself a graduate degree awarding university in order to fulfil its paramount capacity building mandate for developing countries. Within this context a crucial chance and challenge is to explore the synergies hidden in the distributed research and teaching capacities of existing and new UNU institutes. In this concept a particular role can be foreseen for UNU-FLORES.
The envisaged multinodal PhD programme focusing on “water” could start with three continental “nodes” in Northern America (UNU-INWEH in Hamilton, Canada) in Asia (UNU Tokyo-Yokohama) and Europe (UNU-FLORES, Dresden and UNU-EHS, Bonn), the PhD programme is conceived to admit students at any of these nodes. Registered as student of the respective “entry institute” the successful PhD candidates enter a joint programme where all nodes (and their respective local partners) contribute to the curriculum and research opportunities with their main field(s) of competence. Coursework is offered in block-lecture modes, envisaging both rotating lecturers and students mainly to spend substantial part of their research phase elsewhere than their entry points among the participating nodes.
The following development trajectories can be pursued:
• to extend the scheme for Africa (presumably UNU-INRA in Accra)
• involve UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education (located in Delft, the Netherlands) in the programme
• to explore whether the degree awarded should be issued by UNU alone, or at the participating nodes joint and/or double degree models should be established.
Capacity development for and in developing and emerging countries is considered to be a crucial aim of UNU-FLORES, within but also next to the above outlined multinodal programme. Educating of future research on sustainable resources management is provided through a PhD graduate school programme and a master of science programme hosted by Dresden University of Technology (TU Dresden). It will be carefully evaluated how the education courses can be a joint project together with other UNU institutes related mainly to water.

3.2 Dresden based Graduate School

A PhD graduate school will be implemented. The goal is to ensure a profound and unique education scholarship programme for PhD students. The graduate school can be linked to the graduate academy of TU Dresden and to the graduate school HIGRADE of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in collaboration with – among several universities – TU Dresden. The linkage to these large graduate schools guarantees for networking of the UNU PhD students and opens up the offer of an enormous variety of courses.

3.3 Master of Science programme

A master programme on resources management and material flux analysis could be hosted at the Faculty of Forest, Geo and Hydro Sciences of TU Dresden. The present master course Hydro Science and Engineering held in English could serve as a basis which would be extended with various modules allowing the students to diversify their study contents.
The UNU master programme could be linked with the UNEP programmes held at CIPSEM in Dresden. For 30 years, each year six-month courses on environmental management and three one-month courses on changing topics are organised for some 20 students from developing and emerging countries. The implementation of such a master programme should include the option to install a kind of twin degree of UNU and TU Dresden.


There will be strong cooperation of UNU-FLORES and TU Dresden in teaching, research and with regard to shared infrastructure.

4.1 Research cooperation

Both parties will profit from joint projects. UNU provides an international network and also international staff with access to international research funds. TU Dresden has a good record in research on environmental problems and in implementation of solutions, as well as in international education, and long experience in cooperation with industry and in application for research funding.

4.2 Cooperation in teaching

The strong cooperation in teaching is outlined above in Chapter “Education”. On the one hand side, administration of the master programme open for UNU scholarship master students is run by TU Dresden, on the other hand side, UNU personnel offers a variety of lectures and modules which are open for regular TU Dresden master students. Also, topics for master thesis are offered and supervised by UNU.
The director of the UNU institute will be a professor at TU Dresden, similar to the twin professorships between Helmholtz or Leibnitz institutes and TU Dresden.

4.3 Infrastructure: classrooms, laboratories, dormitories

TU Dresden provides its infrastructure for UNU activities, where it seems inefficient to build up an independent infrastructure for UNU. This refers to the administrative capacity for teaching: organisation for the master course as outlined above. Here, also seminar rooms are provided.

Experimental research on environmental problems often requires laboratory capacity. Instead of building up this capacity at UNU, the equipment and laboratory space will be shared with that of TU Dresden, especially at the Faculty of Forest, Geo and Hydro Sciences. However, personnel to carry out laboratory experiments or analysis may be recruited at UNU, either from scientists financed on a project basis or from the technical assistants, respectively.


UNU-EHS (Environment and Human Security) in Bonn: Flood research, risk perception, land use and climate change, adaptation, vulnerability assessment, impact analysis of mass migration on the water cycle.

UNU-ISP, the Tokyo based institute on sustainability and peace: Urban risks, sustainable development, urban planning and infrastructures.

UNU-LEH (Landscape and Ecosystem Health) in Slovakia: Ecosystems management, rehabilitation of deteriorated ecosystems eventually through engineering approach, adaptation to dynamic changes (climate, politics, economics)

UNU-INWEH (Institute for Water, Environment and Health) in Canada: Since UNU-INWEH is thematically closest to UNU-FLORES to define this interface is important. On the basis of the four thematic areas Water-Health-Nexus, Freshwater Ecosystems, Dryland-Ecosystems, Costal-Zone-Ecosystems, overarching goals include the improvement of drinking water accessibility, sanitation and the advancement in integrated water resources management (IWRM). However, the approach is different in Dresden since it is more model and laboratory research and development oriented than the UNU-INWEH approach such that synergy effects can be developed.

UNU-INRA (Institute for Natural Resources in Africa) in Ghana: Improvement of food security via enhancing efficiency of irrigation, water resources management in the Volta River Basin.

UNU-IIST (International Institute on Software Technology): this Macau-based UNU institute is actively involved in software development for water resources management.


The internal impact assessment within UNU revealed a geographical skew in the distribution of the location of UNU institutes. While expertise in core challenge areas such as natural resource management, adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change and unsustainable economic practices are available in the more than a dozen institutes of UNU, most of them are located in the so called developed countries.

In order to rectify this mismatch between the locations of available knowledge and the biggest needs for it, UNU has embarked on a process called ‘twinning’ which would imply the establishment of additional campuses of its existing and future institutions. Twin institutes (indeed 2nd or 3rd campuses of existing ones) should be located in developing and transitional countries. They should be demand-driven and receive both in-kind, financial and moral support from the new host countries.

Water is a crucial factor of development and several UNU institutes – among them the Germany-based ones like UNU-EHS, UNW-DPC and the envisaged future institute in Dresden UNU-FLORES have substantial knowledge in several aspects of water and its management. The involvement of research organisations and researchers from developing countries, first and foremost in Africa is crucial as it has been proven and widely expected that most negative impacts of climate change and unsustainable activities, though frequently practiced, would be felt in the South, notably in sub-Saharan Africa. AMCOST, in cooperation with NEPAD has also identified the need for the concentrated, concerted and solution oriented science for African development and adaptation to cope with the vagaries of climate change, desertification and disasters of natural origin. The Consolidated Plan of Action for Science and Technology for Africa (CPA) calls among others for the establishment of regional (African) centres of excellence with different thematic scopes. A twin institute of UNU-FLORES in Africa could thus be conceived as a part of an African regional centre of excellence foreseen in the CPA.

Mozambique, located along the south-eastern rim of the African continent is intersected by several major rivers (Zambezi, Limpopo, Buzi etc.) draining the central highlands towards the Indian Ocean. The flow regimes of these rivers are subject of climatic variability and climate change.

In addition large scale development activities, water withdrawals and reservoirs upstream contribute to further aggravation of drought, while they do not provide enough storage space to alleviate the worst consequences of floods. Mozambique, due to its geographical location is very vulnerable to the consequences of natural hazards. A series of devastating floods during the last decade destroyed a part of the results of the development Mozambique has experienced in the last two decades.

Mozambique has emerged from a long lasting civil war with considerate political stability, reforms and developing economy. In many aspects Mozambique, while still in need for human capacity development to carry further its economic and institutional progress, can be characterized as on of the most promising countries. It could be identified as a “role model” for countries developing under similar conditions and opportunities. The capacity needed (both at individual and institutional levels) could to a great extent be provided and strengthened through collaboration and sustained presence of UNU in Mozambique. Establishing a water-related twin institute of UNU-Flores in Mozambique would not only be of great help for Mozambique but could have a strong regional impact.

This positive account on stability, local interest and potential ownership as well as clearly identifiable needs and challenges make Mozambique the primary potential partner for UNU-Vice Rectorate in Europe to consider this country as the location of its first twin institute in Africa. Preparatory work for the establishment of this institute should start concomitantly with establishing UNU-FLORES in Dresden.