Royals back gender and climate action on Pacific tour

Duke and Duchess of Sussex highlight universities’ work on climate change resilience and gender equality

October 24, 2018
Source: istock
Like the Caribbean, the South Pacific urgently needs support from global researchers in addressing climate change

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are adding some royal star power to the formation of a network of universities in the Pacific and the Caribbean that are affected by climate change and natural disasters.

The couple were scheduled to visit the University of the South Pacific in Suva during their visit to Fiji on 24 October, to hear about the creation of the Commonwealth Climate Resilience Network, which was developed by the Association of Commonwealth Universities.

The duke was due to unveil four new Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholarships for students of climate resilience: USP and Fiji National University will each host a master’s student from the Caribbean, while the University of the West Indies will welcome two students from the Pacific.

The network was formed at the ACU’s February meeting, after Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the Caribbean in 2017. It is hoped that it will enable universities to pool their resources and share their expertise and experience about coping with climate change and natural disasters.

Jeremy Collymore, consultant for disaster resilience at UWI, said that he hoped the network would encourage international “joint efforts at developing tools, guidelines and programmes that will allow university campuses to demonstrate good practices in facility design, low-carbon emissions, energy conversation, health and safety of its resident and visiting populations”.

The duchess was expected to unveil two further grants to support gender diversity programmes at USP and FNU – and to give a speech about the importance of higher education in empowering women and promoting equality.

In the South Pacific, explained Zakia Ali-Chand, associate dean for research at FNU, many women possessed the qualifications required for “setting the research agenda, applying for grant funding and scholarships, and leading research teams”, yet “typically no more than between 5 and 10 per cent of senior management positions in universities are held by women”. The new gender grant would help them “establish an annual two-day event for 30 women to create long-term action plans, both individually and on an institutional level, to take steps towards career progression and leadership”.

matthew.reisz@timeshighereducation.com

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