GOBESHONA is an innovative knowledge platform for climate change researchers in Bangladesh formed by Dr Saleemul Huq in 2014 to work on building the capacity to adapt to climate change. This platform aims to bring together the national and international research communities to encourage sharing, enhance the quality of research, and, in doing so, make climate change research in Bangladesh more effective for policy-making. It builds knowledge through training programs on publishing research articles for young researchers, monthly science-policy dialogues and webinars, an online research database (Gobeshona Portal), and an Annual Conference – Gobeshona Conference.
Since 2015, the Gobeshona platform has been hosting an annual conference that brings together a distinguished and multidisciplinary group of scholars, policy-makers, researchers, and practitioners from around the world to share their knowledge, research, and practical experiences on climate change issues. Focusing on a broad range of themes and sub-themes to put the latest knowledge on climate change into practice. In other words, putting “Climate Change Research into Action”. And successfully organized six annual conferences focused mainly on Bangladesh, hosted at the Independent University (IUB) in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Over time the Gobeshona platform attracted a significant number of international participants, especially from the Least Developed Countries Universities Consortium on Climate Change (LUCCC) among others.
Considering the widespread Covid-19 pandemic, the delivery mode of the Conference was shifted to a fully virtual modality from 2021, as it could not be held in person. It was renamed as the first Gobeshona Global Conference on Locally Led Adaptation and Resilience. The platform received offers to host sessions from all over the world and ran nearly 90 sessions from different parts of the globe; 24 Hours each day with three shifts (8 hours each) for the Asia Pacific, Africa, and Europe, and finally the Americas time zones. However, to have broader participation and inclusivity, no registration or participation fee was demanded from the co-organizers and participants. Enabling some people to participate who otherwise may not have been able to.
After receiving heartfelt responses from GGC-1 partners and participants, the 2nd Gobeshona Global Conference was carried out from 27th March to 1st April 2022 focusing on “Exploring Locally-Led Adaptation & Resilience for COP 27” amongst other themes like Loss and Damage, adaptation technology, Climate Justice, Disaster management, Gender, Youth & Social Inclusion.
Each day, the conference started with a plenary session, which included important highlights from the day before. Throughout the day, the sessions ran parallel, with networking sessions in between. To make the sessions interactive, applications like Mentimeter and Slido were used. This not only made the sessions less tedious but fuelled insightful discussions.
Though the Conference was held on virtual platforms- ZOOM and WHOVA, a command center for the ICCCAD – Gobeshona team was set in a reputed hotel in Baridhara Diplomatic Zone, Dhaka. The team stayed in throughout the week to successfully run all the 88 sessions happening round the clock. All the sessions were coordinated from the command center, with a mobile-office set up for the IT team, Communications team, and Co-ordination team. Yet, several other debrief meetings were conducted both in person and virtually during the conference week.
Throughout the six-day conference, 1500+ active participants attended the sessions on different themes. Among these themes, the sessions with the most participation were webcasted on ICCCAD’s Facebook page and YouTube channel, interested audiences are watching these recordings in their own time, which makes the Conference engagement more notable. Besides the fact that the internet isn’t the finest in every part of the world, the motto was to keep an archive of these very impactful discussions online and give open access to any and everyone either affected by climate change or striving to make it less destructive.
The Gobeshona Global Conference has a total of 21 themes. Adaptation Technology, Bangladesh, Capacity Building, Cities & Urban resilience, Climate Finance, Climate-Induced Migration, Climate Justice, COP 27, Deltas, Disaster Management, Drylands and Barinds, Food Security & Agriculture Gender, Youth & Social Inclusion, Geo-engineering, Least Developed Universities Consortium on Climate Change (LUCCC), Locally-Led Adaptation, Loss and Damage, Mitigation & Renewable Energy, Nature-Based Solutions, Resilient Livelihood, and Water Security.
The thematic sessions are designed by the session hosts with a focus on either or a combination of the offered themes.
Ensured conversations among participants in small groups particularly on a subject matter they are most interested in. For instance- youth inclusion, loss, and damage, climate justice, and community-led adaptations.
Workshop on ‘Loss and Damage’
Some impacts of climate change that extend beyond adaptation and mitigation, are not a new concept. As one of the most important ways to reduce these Losses and Damages is through Locally Led Adaptation, a workshop was arranged for the first time with the hope of efficiently enabling the vulnerable countries to understand and tackle both the economic and non-economic damages. The participants were given the liberty to openly discuss with some of the globally recognized change makers via this platform.
This year onwards, considerable importance was given to the real climate warriors- who tackle climate change with their minimalistic adaptation strategies. Session organizers emphasized exhibiting how the local and climate-affected communities are burdened by the competitive access to funding though having the capability to build back better.
Interpreters were arranged acknowledging the wide range of participation from communities and climate-affected regions. Encouraging attendees to take part and share their thoughts on locally led measures taken in their region, eventually raised a robust exchange of views.
The Catalytic Grant Programme was inaugurated at the first Gobeshona Global Conference in 2021. This award aims to provide initial seed funding to incentivize partnerships and collaborations at present and in the future to further develop ideas fostered during the conference. Grant winners from the previous Gobeshona Global Conference were encouraged to share their experiences and thoughts upon availing of the grant.
Many, inspired by the previous proposals and executions, were seen applying for this year’s grant. Later, the top 5 winning teams were selected and awarded 5000 USD (each) to implement their ideas on locally led adaptation and resilience initiatives.
After a successful virtual conference, as we move into the endemic phase, ‘2023’ seems promising especially to organize the GGC-3 conference in a hybrid module. Which shall encourage participants to take part both in person as has been the tradition before, including participation through virtual platforms.
Originally this article was published on August 04, 2022 at Dhaka Tribune.
Sarah Farheen Khan is working at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) as a Research Officer. Her research interest lies in – climate change adaptation, its effects on public health, education, food, water security, youth and gender. Sarah can be reached at [email protected]