GROW Annual Meeting; Hope for the Future

Written by Saskia Hervey, Public Affairs Adviser

When the GROW Colombia project started, no one could have predicted that we would be locked down for nearly a whole year of GROW’s four year programme. But while it may have set us back, the pandemic is strengthening our resolve and providing unforeseen prospects.

The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly curtailed the activities, events and research output that we planned to deliver during 2020. Worst of all, the restrictions on international travel have prevented us from getting together in person to share our knowledge and to plan the next steps of the project. The strength of the GROW project is founded on the broad collaboration of partners and our multidisciplinary approach. Our previous annual meetings galvanised our ideas, focused our efforts and enabled friendships and collaborative working relationships which will last long after the GROW Colombia project reaches fruition.

We reluctantly postponed the 2020 annual meeting, due to have taken place last November in Santa Marta. In its place, the whole GROW team met in cyberspace over three days this week. Crossing time zones and continents, more than 40 of us met remotely to report the results of our research, to share summaries of our activities and to compare frustrations at the involuntary delays to our work. It was inspiring and motivating to hear colleagues speak with such passion and expertise about their research. Amid our concerns about the effects of the pandemic on the GROW programme, there was a precious silver lining.

The pandemic forced COP15 and COP26 to be postponed, meaning that 2021 will now become the “Super Year for Nature”. The inauguration of President Biden this week has heralded a wave of optimism for the achievements of these global summits. If they had taken place in 2020 the political circumstances may have limited their full potential. The new global political zeitgeist for multilateralism and green growth gives us hope that governments across the planet will ratchet up each other’s ambitions and prioritise sustainability as we emerge from the pandemic. We will endeavour to spotlight the research and expertise from GROW Colombia in policy discussions on issues included in COP15 and COP26.

The arrival of Covid-19 vaccinations also gives us hope that we will be able to meet again soon in person.

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