CCUVN organised a three-day workshop Climate Change, Cities, and Violence in the Time of COVID 19: Perspectives from South Asia in June 2020. The workshop was moderated by Prof. Dr. Nausheen Anwar, Director, CCUVN and Karachi Urban Lab (KUL) and Dr. Arabella Fraser, Co-Director CCUVN, University of Nottingham. The workshop revolved around generating and exchanging knowledge among academics and practitioners working towards violence and climate change in South Asia.
The first day of the workshop brought forward issues of "Gender, Climate Change, and Violence", with the panel including Dr. Farhana Sultana, Associate Professor of Geography at the Syracuse University USA, Dr. Nichola Khan, Reader in Anthropology and Psychology Director, Centre for Research in Spatial Environment and Cultural Politics at the University of Brighton, and Dr. Imran S. Khalid, Research Fellow and Head of Environment and Climate Change at Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Islamabad. The presentations and discussions among the panellists brought to light empirical evidence regarding the key issues surrounding the climate-change and gender violence nexus from the water crisis in Bangladesh, to political and gendered violence in the case of Sindh, and the intersection of gender mainstreaming, migration, and climate impacts related to Pakistan's cotton belt. It established the patriarchal influences that exist on an institutional level and lead to major discrepancies in climate-related policy, particularly in terms of differential risk, and individual capabilities to cope under stressful circumstances. Conclusively, the first day of the workshop established the intrinsically political backdrop in front of which debates around gender, violence, and climate change occur and the necessity of including these debates in policymaking in the global south.
The theme outlining the second day of the workshop was "Cities, Climate Change, Displacement and Development". To speak on the matter, the workshop invited Dr. Danesh Jayatilaka, Chairperson of the Centre for Migration Research and Development (CMRD), Sri Lanka, Fatima Tassadiq, doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, and Rashee Mehra, Senior Associate at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, New Delhi. Their presentations and the following discussion dovetailed the issues of urban displacement and its risks, violent infrastructures, and the essential role of the law in developing safeguards for marginalized communities. Issues ranging from in-migration in Sri Lanka and subsequent population displacement, to urbicide resulting from the construction of the Lahore Orange Line, and the infrastructural flaws brought forward by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown came under scrutiny and led to the questioning of efforts made by governing and policymaking bodies. It highlighted that the way forward for effective policymaking is grounded in participatory planning and improving community engagement with local authorities. Moreover, the second day of the workshop also emphasized on the importance of developing an understanding between the affected settlements and technical planners through mediatory bodies such as activists and informed locals.
Diverging from the format of the first two days, the final day of the workshop saw a closed discussion between Nirmani Rillapala Liyanage, Program Manager, Search for Common Ground, Colombo, Dr. Mirwais Khan who heads the Healthcare in Danger Initiative of ICRC, Dr. Adnan Rafiq, Country Director, United States Institute of Peace (USIP), and Dr. Robert Farnan. The primary focus of the third day was "COVID-19, Securitization and Climate Change", and the conforming discussions served to consolidate the overlapping ideas brought forward on previous days and contextualize them under the current pandemic. Discussing the COVID-19 induced distress in marginalized communities in Colombo, the issues of violence penetrated within the healthcare system, and the microlevel dynamics of the pandemic crisis within Pakistan, the discussants provided an empirical standpoint to understanding the urban violence, particularly on a systemic level.
The final thoughts of the workshop presented the key factors and insights needed to be carried forward in order to move towards long lasting, sustainable planning. It particularly focused on considering the importance of subjectivity, inclusion, scale, and transformation when thinking of the issues related to gender, displacement, climate change, and violence, especially under the influence of a global health crisis. It was also brought forward that such discussions need to be expanded in order to include conversation beyond South Asia, particularly in reference to Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, the Black Lives Matter movement, and other similar threads.
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