Boosting knowledge to assess climate risk for water security in Latin America and the Caribbean

Santa Rosa, indigenous village in the Peruvian Amazon, Peru

The regional training on the Climate Risk Informed Decision Analysis (CRIDA) methodology, to improve participatory water resources management in a context of uncertainty due to climate change, came to a close with a final training session on 1 September 2022. The initiative “Climate Risk Informed Decision Analysis (CRIDA): Training for professionals in water resources planning in Latin America and the Caribbean” aimed to build capacity in climate risk assessment, in support of water security, while identifying relevant case studies in the region.

The initiative applied a three-tier approach comprising an online course on CRIDA, a series of four webinars presenting diverse case studies on the methodology, and a hands-on training where selected students were able to develop their own case study or participate in fictional exercises to better understand the five steps of the CRIDA methodology. It was launched on 23 March 2022 with the webinar “Water Resources in an Uncertain Future: An Introduction to CRIDA”, which was co-organized by DELTARES and brought together 143 participants, mainly from Latin America and the Caribbean, with a few joining from Europe and Africa, and from which almost half were women. 

The four webinars have been followed by more than 1,000 people in the few months they have been available online. They covered various aspects related to climate risk and water management, notably when facing floods and droughts, across different countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Pilot case studies were conducted in Peru, Chile and the Dominican Republic for the implementation of CRIDA.

Participants in the initiative were able to learn from concrete experiences where CRIDA was applied to address hydroclimatic risks or issues across the LAC region, such as the Guayaquil floods in Ecuador, or the drought in the Limarí basin in Chile. The participants were highly engaged in the course, gaining a better understanding of the challenges of addressing hydroclimatic risks and water management, asking questions and participating in dynamic activities that aimed to assess their experience of climate risks and water management, the particulars of their region, and how CRIDA could best help them, among other topics.

Hydroclimatic risks have risen in recent years and affect societies in various ways. For example, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report on Climate Change 2022 highlights the impact on human mobility and migration due to climate risks, notably for Latin America, and other regions, where displaced people due to climate change could increase up to five times. Therefore, this training is both topical and timely for water professionals, managers and decision-makers who need to address hydroclimatic extremes.

The online course on CRIDA, available with Spanish subtitles, was offered in parallel to the webinars and garnered more than 370 registrations on the UNESCO Open Learning platform. It gave participants an opportunity to better understand CRIDA beyond the manual that was translated into Spanish in 2021.

A hands-on training completed the three-tier approach of the capacity-building initiative, allowing 31 participants to gain more expertise in the CRIDA methodology from 14 June to 22 July 2022. The final session wrapping-up the training on CRIDA for Latin America and the Caribbean took place online on 1 September 2022, and gave two students of the hands-on training the opportunity to present their own developed case studies.

These activities have been developed in the context of high-level meetings around the world which have demonstrated the importance and influence that climate change and variability has on all regions of the world. Notably, climate change was among the main topics of discussion of the last Summit of the Americas, with an urgent call to action for all countries to address this important issue.

The initiative “Climate Risk Informed Decision Analysis (CRIDA): Training for professionals in water resources planning in Latin America and the Caribbean” was organized as part of the ninth phase of the Strategic plan of the Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (IHP-IX), particularly its goals to reinforce institutional and human capacities and train the present and upcoming generations of water professionals. This initiative is also part of the project “Enhancing Climate Services for Improved Water Resources Management in Vulnerable Regions to Climate Change: Case studies from Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean” (CliMWaR project), which focuses on providing reliable climate services to Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and to Africa. This initiative counted with the support of several partners, notably DELTARES and the US Army Corps of Engineers.

UNESCO through its Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (IHP) carries out major work in capacity building on water related topics, using science to assist Member States in making informed decision-making, notably related to climate change and its effects on hydroclimatic disasters and risks. For its ongoing ninth phase (IHP-IX, 2022-2029), which focuses on “Science for a Water Secure World in a Changing Environment”, UNESCO aims to up its water-related capacity building activities. Water education in the Fourth Industrial Revolution is one of its 5 priorities, implemented through diverse activities to enhance the knowledge of experts, professionals and practitioners related to water management across the world.

The next steps for the capacity building on the CRIDA methodology and the implementation of the CliMWaR project is the launch of the CRIDA manual and online course in French, Arabic, English and Spanish during the 2022 United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP27) and to keep on developing case studies across the world to learn from the diverse experiences of the application of the methodology.