The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) initiated a project to develop a comprehensive environmental policy for the AIMS network. AIMS acknowledges the importance of protecting environmental values as part of the global community. This project was developed with the assistance of Academics Without Borders and the University of Calgary.
Academics Without Borders (AWB) is a Canadian nonprofit organization that works with universities in the most disadvantaged countries by building their capability to educate professionals and leaders essential to the strong societies they justly desire. AWB does this by sending professional staff and academics who donate their time to work on projects that originate with its partner universities, reflecting the most pressing needs of their communities.
The University of Calgary is a leading Canadian research university, which prides itself as a global intellectual hub.
Professor Getachew Assefa from the University of Calgary, working as an AWB volunteer on the project, donated his time and talent to assist AIMS in developing its first environmental policy. Dr. Assefa’s research focuses on mitigating the problem-shifting and sub-optimization in the design and development of technical systems including buildings and energy systems. His current research involves environmental sustainability and social life cycle assessment of energy-related technology development. In addition, the University of Calgary’s International Office provided the support of Mr. Jamie Charlebois, International Development Manager on a pro bono basis.
The first AWB mission to AIMS Senegal took place in May 2019. Its objective was to gauge the environmental footprint of the AIMS centre, collect baseline data on environmental practices – from air conditioning refrigerants and water usage to waste disposal and recycling practices. During that time, interviews took place with AIMS staff and students, as well as government officials. Furthermore, a comprehensive literature review on Senegalese environmental policies and legislative frameworks was undertaken. A consecutive AWB mission to AIMS Rwanda took place in August 2019 in order to conduct comparative research on the environmental impact of the AIMS Secretariat.
Professor Assefa highlighted the unique challenge of developing the environmental policy from a pan-African perspective: “AIMS operates in various African countries, each of which has its own unique natural, physical and legislative environment bringing unique opportunities and challenges to the table. This project on environmental policy aims at catering to locally relevant and context-specific variations while anchoring itself on globally and institutionally generic principles.”
Jamie Charlebois noted the significance of formulating network policy, while underscoring the approach behind this collaborative exercise: “Leveraging the expertise and connections of the University of Calgary, Academics Without Borders and the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences provided a unique opportunity to work together towards creating a sustainable environmental policy for AIMS. It is precisely these types of partnerships that are required to tackle complex global issues.”
Corrie Young, AWB Executive Associate Director underscored the innovative approach to this initiative: “Academics Without Borders welcomes this first collaboration with AIMS-NEI and we hope it is the beginning of a productive future partnership. This important initiative undertaken by AIMS lays the foundation for the network to grow while ensuring that expansion will be ecologically sustainable.”
The long-term objective is to effectuate an institutional shift in the way the AIMS network interprets and acts on environmental values. Through its planning and practice, AIMS-NEI will strive to be recognized as an environmentally safe and responsible centre of excellence, and as a model of environmental responsibility.
As a next step, Professor Assefa will draft a comprehensive assessment of current environmental practices at AIMS and determine a course of action which builds upon the consultations and findings. Furthermore, these findings will inform an environmental policy roadmap and implementation plan for use across the AIMS network.