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Project description

The larger Caucasus region, which also includes parts of the Russian Federation, Iran, and Turkey, is a unique ecoregion, rich in diverse landscapes, cultural history, and bio- and agro-diversity; the regional character of the Caucasus is evidenced by a connected system of Caucasus mountain ranges, the large Kura-Aras transboundary hydrological basin, and numerous cross-border habitats. Today, this natural and cultural heritage is under threat as the combined result of a political agenda dominated by rapid economic growth; rural poverty and natural resource dependence; nontransparent and ineffective environmental and spatial planning coupled with a lack of accountability for negative outcomes; underfunded and inadequately coordinated public agencies; and serious gaps in the development of integrated and evidence-informed policy making, implementation, and monitoring.

The region’s socio-ecological systems are also under growing threat of climate change, already known to be more significant in mountain regions. Climate change poses challenges to all economic sectors, infrastructure, ecosystems and human life. It triggers and amplifies natural hazards such as floods, landslides, mudflows, debris flows, avalanches and coastal erosion. Extreme weather events, like heavy rainfall and atypical hail storms, and changes in precipitation patterns have also been associated with climate change. In the Caucasus, changing climate patterns are already evident in the form of higher annual temperatures accompanied by heat waves and droughts. Human casualties, damage to infrastructure and economic losses are increasing due to intensifying natural disasters such as floods, landslides and mudflows. While the majority of natural disasters occur in mountains or are formed in mountainous areas, they threaten both mountain communities and lowland populations, thus reinforcing the regional character of the Caucasus. For these reasons, the effects of climate change require a coordinated response across national borders, which has thus far failed to materialise due to political tensions across the region.

The proposed project addresses these needs through its overall goal of reducing the vulnerability of populations to climate-induced natural hazards and strengthening regional cooperation on climate adaptation and sustainable mountain development. The project has three declared outcomes: (1) increased learning and teaching capacities in the region’s higher education institutions in the domain of disaster risk reduction; (2) improved global, regional and national knowledge exchange and multi-stakeholder dialogue on climate adaptation and sustainable mountain development; and (3) enhanced processes and tools for Caucasus data, information, and knowledge collection, analysis, and dissemination.