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Source: Massey University

Associate Professor Christine Kenney. Photo by Jane Ussher courtesy of Massey University Press.

Associate Professor of Disaster Research Christine Kenney, Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Awa ki Kāpiti, Ngāti Toarangatira, Ngāi Tahu, has been appointed to lead an international disaster science caucus at the request of key United Nations agencies and the International Science Council.

The appointment will make Dr Kenney the first Māori woman to lead an international science caucus at the UN.

The collective is comprised of leading Indigenous scientists from around the world who have been brought together to inform development of the 2030 joint United Nations (UN) climate change and disaster risk reduction research agenda.

The caucus will specifically contribute to the revision of the global disaster research agenda and science plan that were created in 2008 by the United Nations Office of Disaster Risk Reduction and the International Science Council to guide development and implementation of global integrated research on disaster risk (IRDR).

The new consultation process is expanding beyond the traditional disaster risk reduction community to encompass a range of stakeholders from other UN agencies and science advisory groups including Indigenous scientists.

Dr Kenney, who is part of the Joint Centre for Disaster Research in the School of Psychology and Director of Te Toi Whakaruruhau o Aotearoa, the EQC Mātauranga Māori Disaster Research Centre, spearheaded development of the global Indigenous science caucus and has been invited by the collaborating UN and science agencies to lead the group.

She notes there has been a significant change in the consultation process for the new research policy agenda, highlighted by the creation of the international caucus of Indigenous professors. Research expertise within the caucus is diverse and addresses topics such as: climate change, natural hazards, sustainability, environmental science, the built environment, education, public health, finance disaster risk reduction as well as importantly Indigenous knowledges.

“Indigenous peoples’ have voiced aspirations and concerns to specific UN entities in the past and Indigenous community organisations have also raised issues at a range of UN platforms. Yet high level recognition and responses have largely been absent,” says Dr Kenney.

The new caucus will inform development of the global plan and the broader research agenda which focuses on addressing the impacts of climate change and other challenges such as natural hazard events and pandemics.

The group is the first collective of Indigenous scientists with a high-level mandate of this nature and the forthcoming consultation will be the first time that UN agencies, the International Science Council and the IRDR programme recognise Indigenous knowledges as science, and engage with senior Indigenous researchers in an integrated manner.

Dr Kenney says she is both humbled and excited by the opportunity, and is looking forward to collaborating with international colleagues on this work. 

“Looking to the future, the ways in which systemic disaster risk is understood and managed globally will be a key focus of the entire consultation process. Indigenous Peoples and more specifically our mandated caucus are well-positioned to address this challenge”.