Friday, February 23, 2024

IRD: 80 years in the service of sustainability science

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Maria Gill
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The Institute for Research for Development (IRD), founded in 1944, will celebrate its 80th anniversary this year 2024. An anniversary that will be punctuated by events in France and abroad. Among various highlights, an international forum will be held on 7 October 2024 at the Palais du Faro in Marseille and will offer conferences, discussions and workshops aimed at exchanging and comparing views on the challenges of research for sustainable development.

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Gilles Picasso, Deputy Director General of the IRD, and Valerie Verdier, President and CEO of the IRD, give a presentation of the Institute, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary (Photo by Michel Kjaer)

The IRD, an interdisciplinary public research organisation, is under the dual supervision of the Ministry for Higher Education and Research and the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. Headquartered in Marseille, the Institute has 4 sites in France and 35 representations abroad and operates in more than 50 countries in Africa, the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, Latin America and the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Valérie Verdier, President and CEO of IRD sets the scene: “ IRD is a unique research institute in the French, European and international scene. Through this institute, France is the only country in the world with a public multidisciplinary research organization entirely dedicated to scientific cooperation with partners in the tropical and Mediterranean regions. “. It specifies:” By focusing on sustainability science, our Institute contributes to the development of new knowledge systems that find their source in the face of real-world problems, rather than in the dynamics specific to each scientific discipline. Thus, IRD mobilizes interdisciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledge, co-constructed with community actors allowing the acquisition of scientific knowledge that offers solutions. “.

“The partnership with IRD is very fruitful”

This point is reinforced by the words of foreign partners. Veronique Youbouvi, from the University of Felix Houphouet-Boigny in Ivory Coast, confirms: “ Research is crucial to meeting the challenges of the Global South. Economic, social and environmental challenges, socio-economic inequality, vulnerability to climate change… we need research to find sustainable solutions. However, while we have the human potential, we lack the infrastructure and financing. This is why international cooperation is important and I must say that the partnership with IRD is very fruitful, both in research and training. “.

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Guinean doctor Alpha Keita, for his part, points out: “ IRD has been present in Guinea for several years, first for informal cooperation and then formally for almost twenty years. Following the Ebola epidemic in 2015, the IRD's intervention was unprecedented and led to the creation of a research center capable of meeting the country's needs. And the results are there: While the 2015 epidemic caused 11,000 deaths, the 2021 Ebola outbreak could have been treated in record time, averting many deaths. “.

Dr. Silvia Restrepo from Colombia explains: “ Our countries are rich in biodiversity and will be the first to be affected by climate change, and we do not have the technologies nor the financial resources to mitigate and adapt. You should know, for example, that in Colombia only 0.2% of GDP is allocated to science. But without science we will not be able to adapt “In this context, it emphasizes the importance of IRD.” Which has a different strategy than other institutes. IRD management believes that research and science are the basis of development. Organizes monitoring and provides training. For me, for example, I was able to complete my PhD thanks to the IRD and then I was able to return to Colombia to do research in a mixed international laboratory where we conduct basic and applied research. Laboratory, another originality, combining Colombia, France and Ecuador. While in Colombia, traditionally, we do not look at neighboring countries, here we work with Ecuador, a country with which we have increased joint publications by 20 times.“.

“Solutions also exist in the south.”

Valerie Verdier would like to emphasize: “ We must realize that the solutions to global warming also lie in the South. They can irrigate our business in France. There are already applications “Knowing that we have two supervisory ministries, the Director-General is a scientist and I am a diplomat, it is an unparalleled process. We are part of the logic of sustainable and comprehensive development, knowing that science is a development factor in itself,” says Gilles Picasso, Deputy Director-General of the IRD Foundation. “We work to protect biodiversity, strengthen resilience, and support human rights and democracy,” continues Valérie Verdier. As a player on the international development agenda, IRD places its priorities in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Together, scientists and Institute partners enable the acquisition of scientific knowledge that leads to solutions“Gilles Picasso adds: “ The United Nations believes that we will not be able to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050. If we do not want this catastrophic scenario, we need more clear, funded and innovative science. “Diplomacy is more necessary than ever. Political time is not a time of long research that requires us to be flexible », he points out before adding, in particular reference to Mali and Niger: « The deteriorating security situation limits working conditions on the ground, but I do not think that funding has stopped in Niger and very little in Mali “.

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“Understand, build, transform and work together”

Valérie Verdier then looks back at a year of 2024 celebrations that will be punctuated by events in France and abroad. “The 80th anniversary celebration embodies IRD's ongoing commitment to a better world, its determination to contribute significantly to the understanding of major global issues, and to put science at the service of action, to support the transformation of societies towards a more just and sustainable society, economic and environmental models. “, describe.” this yearannounces , They will be tagged: Understanding, Building, Transforming and working together added knowing that the IRD model is based on the three pillars of sustainability science: economic vision, environmental protection and social justice.“.

International programming

This year 35 IRD sites around the world will be mobilized. “About thirty events are being organized to celebrate our 80th anniversary with our partners. From collaborative research to development projects, these events will demonstrate the richness of the Institute's international partnerships and enable the exchange and sharing of knowledge.Exhibitions, conferences and artistic eventsThere will be opportunities to celebrate IRD and its partners, in a creative and inspiring way and in the spirit of engagement with the general publicIRD will also publish a book in September 2024 entitled Southern contact points. With nearly one hundred images, this book highlights key scientific developments resulting from the IRD's work since its inception. It also makes the voices of development actors heard about the impacts of science in multiple fields: social, economic, health, environmental, cultural or scientific… through about thirty testimonies from key figures and partners of the IRD – scientists and policymakers, artists and diplomats. and representatives of NGOs, international institutions and members of think tanks – highlights research challenges for sustainable development of the South.

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International forum in Marseille

To conclude this festive year, the IRD will organize an international forum on October 7 at the Alvaro Palace in Marseille. Its topic will be Science Actions 4: Understand, build and transform together » It will bring together speakers from different backgrounds: scholars, development actors, committed youth, businessmen, decision-makers, and representatives of international organizations in particular. The Forum will offer conferences, discussions and workshops to give a voice to those with strong messages on development and research issues, to exchange experiences and compare views, with the aim of promoting international and interdisciplinary cooperation. ” If the past 80 years have been rich and intense, achieving the 169 SDGs has fallen behind schedule. We must therefore look resolutely to the future in order to rectify the situation, with IRD priorities of strengthening our mission to support the public policies and diplomatic work of France, training and consolidating bridges between science, society and environmental transition issues, priorities in the IRD with ongoing major projects. “, concludes Valérie Verdier.

Michelle Kerry

The main characters

  • 2,260 agents, including 915 researchers • 26% of agents assigned outside mainland France • 80 research units in France and abroad • 4 regional missions in France and 35 representations abroad • Activities in 50 countries in Africa, the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean and America Latin, Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

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