Maarten van Aalst has been appointed full professor for ‘Spatial resilience for Disasters Risk Reduction’. This research chair was presented last year by the Red Cross and the University of Twente in the name of Princess Margriet on the occasion of her 75th birthday. The Prinses Margriet Research Chair is established within the Faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) at the University of Twente.
The aim of the Princess Margriet chair is to make better use of knowledge on natural disasters and climate change for disaster prevention, and measuring and improving the impact of humanitarian aid in this context. Princess Margriet herself has always been committed to this approach internationally and is pleased with the new chair. “Prevention is better than cure but requires a different approach,” she says, “through better use of knowledge and investment before a disaster has occurred – using early warning systems, for example, or by other forms of land management, especially for people in the most vulnerable circumstances.”
Rising risk of disasters
Maarten van Aalst will combine this professorship with his current role as director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, a global team of 35 experts who support the international Red Cross Red Crescent Movement in dealing with the rising risk of disasters in a changing global climate. Van Aalst is also Coordinating Lead Author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He obtained his a PhD in atmospheric science from Utrecht University in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany. In recent years he has also been associated with the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University, New York.
“I want to use this chair to better deploy scientific knowledge to reduce human suffering and economic damage caused by these disasters,” he said. “It is an enormous challenge to outsmart the rising risks, especially now that climate change is making the weather more unpredictable. Every day the Red Cross and Red Crescent see how the most vulnerable are the hardest hit. More emergency aid is not the only solution: we have to reduce the risks of disasters and do much more prevention work.”
Application in practice
Professor Thom Palstra, Rector Magnificus of the University of Twente, adds: “Maarten is an excellent appointment for the Prinses Margriet Research Chair because he is someone who can translate scientific knowledge of resilience and climate change into actual practice.”
The purpose of the chair is to strengthen scientific knowledge of natural disasters and climate change for disaster prevention, and enhance the impact of humanitarian aid. Its research will be directly applicable to the work of the Red Cross Red Crescent, which is devoting increasing efforts to anticipatory action ahead of disasters, as this is often more effective than providing emergency aid in their aftermath.
The chair is established within the faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) at the University of Twente, because of its focus on capacity development and long cooperation with the Princess Margriet Fund for disaster prevention. The ITC has already five research chairs in the domain of natural disasters, risk management, post-disaster reconstruction and risk reduction. The chair on Spatial Resilience and the cooperation with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre will further increase ITC’s societal impact.