3rd Annual Report: Continuing scientific cooperation amidst geoplolitical challenges and conflict

13. March 2024 HochschuleEntwicklungsforschung
APPEAR's work in the reporting period took place against a backdrop of new geopolitical tensions and violent conflicts. Read more about the progress of APPEAR's third year of implementation.

Project progress

APPEAR's work in the reporting period took place against a backdrop of new geopolitical tensions and violent conflicts. The consequences of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, such as high inflation, rising food prices and regional destabilization, are making scientific cooperation in APPEAR regions more difficult. The horrific events in Palestine will change the entire security architecture of the Middle East. APPEAR countries with Russian enclaves, such as Georgia and Moldova, fear further Russian conquests in post-Soviet territories. In Armenia, more than 100,000 people have been displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijan. The Israeli conquest of Gaza following the horrific massacre and hostage-taking by Hamas in Israel on October 7 led to the bombing of the APPEAR partner university "Islamic University of Gaza" (and to 25,000 deaths in Gaza; as of the end of the reporting period). APPEAR Project 311 has been suspended; in agreement with the contractual partner, project submissions from the Palestinian territories were not considered in the context of the 10th call at the 18th selection meeting.

At the 18th APPEAR Selection Board meeting on 21-22 November 29 applications for Academic Partnership projects with an average score of over 70 points and were presented to the selection committee. The board finally approved 6 Academic Partnership projects with a total funding amount of about 2 Mio. EUR. Scientific institutions and universities from the following countries were awarded funding together with their Austrian partner institutions: Georgia, Armenia, Albania, Uganda and Ethiopia. In addition, 5 preparatory funding projects and 6 scholarship holders from Uganda and Ethiopia were selected.

In addition to providing advice (webinars) to project staff and ongoing administrative support for scientific collaborations, a series of events were held - from alumni talks and excursions for APPEAR students to the annual film days as part of the "This Human World" film festival. In the reporting period, 5 "Welt im Ohr" programs with explicit APPEAR content were produced and broadcast as part of the cooperation with ORF Ö1 Campus. Website support, news reports, APPEAR newsletters and the OeAD university conference have strengthened public relations work. 

10th Call for funding

The 10th APPEAR call for funding was open from 1 March to 31 May 2023. At the end of November, the APPEAR selection board, chaired by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), met to discuss and deliberate the project and scholarship applications which had been submitted during the second call. After a presentation of the projects by the APPEAR Office each formally correct project proposal with a total average review score of over 70 (of max 100 points) was discussed and evaluated according to the APPEAR criteria, guiding principles and added values. In a competitive process, 6 Academic Partnership project applications were finally selected with a total funding volume of about EUR 2 Mio. In addition, 5 Preparatory Funding projects (out of 12 applications) were selected after evaluation by all members of the selection committee. The success rate for the Preparatory Funding projects was 42% and for the Academic Partnership projects 15%. The selected projects will start their activities in early 2024.

In addition, 2 female and 4 male scholarship holders from Ethiopia and Uganda were selected from 12 fellowship applications (with a success rate of 50%).

Projects selected within the 10th call (2023)

Academic Partnership Projects

Project337: Countering violent crime against women and girls in Georgia
Project coordinator: Tamara Laliashvili
Coordinating institution: New Vision University
Partner institutions: University of Graz, Medical University of Graz
Partner country: Georgia

Project341: Biosorption for Sustainable Small-Scale Gold Mining in Uganda
Project coordinator: Mary Therese Kaggwa
Coordinating institution: Kyambogo University
Partner institutions: University for Continuing Education Krems, Makerere University, Gulu University, University of Pretoria
Partner countries: Uganda, South Africa

Project322: Building mountain destination crises resilience in the Alps and Caucasus
Project coordinator: Sarah Schönherr
Coordinating institution: University of Innsbruck
Partner institutions: Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University
Partner country: Georgia

Project351: Establishing Transformative Learning, Research and Community outreach and Capacities in Agroecology at Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia
Project coordinator: Zerihun Yohannes Amare
Coordinating institution: Bahir Dar University (BDU)
Partner institutions: University College for Agrarian and Environmental Pedagogy (HAUP), Austria
Partner country: Ethiopia

Project320: Assessment of Pollutant Emissions to support River Basin Management in Albania according to the EU Water Framework Directive
Project coordinator: Thomas Ertl
Coordinating institution: University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna
Partner institutions: Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien), Agricultural University of Tirana
Partner country: Albania

Project338: Inter- and transdisciplinary approach to revitalizing former small industrial cities in Armenia to enhance their transformative potential towards sustainability
Project coordinator: Harutyun Vermishyan
Coordinating institution: Yerevan State University
Partner institutions: University of Vienna, Journalists for the Urban Development (NGO)
Partner country: Armenia

A list of all selected projects (including preparatory funding) is published on the APPEAR website: https://appear.at/en/projects/current-projects

Risk analysis

APPEAR project implementations are associated with increased risks due to the unstable situation in many APPEAR regions. In addition to the detailed risk assessment, which is part of the application, the Selection Board is therefore increasingly requesting an additional risk analysis for project approval, which must show exactly how the planned activities can be carried out under the given uncertain conditions and which exit scenarios result from a possible deterioration in the security situation. These risk analyses are reviewed by both the APPEAR Office and the ADA, and a decision on their quality is made by consensus. Of course, this does not eliminate all possible obstacles, risks and uncertainties, but the intensive examination of the security situation on site certainly raises the awareness of those responsible for the project.

At its weekly meetings, the APPEAR team regularly discusses the security situation in the affected areas, obtains information from project partners, closely follows the media and also invites local experts to report on the current situation (as happened in this reporting period, for example, with regard to the conflict in the Amhara region of Ethiopia).

Performance with regard to social and environmental standards/safeguards

APPEAR sets out to contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and has established social and environmental standards as inherent part of the programme design. As stipulated in the call guidelines, all APPEAR projects have to implement seven basic principles:

  • Participatory approach
  • A concept of culturally open-minded knowledge
  • Practically and empirically oriented approach
  • Bottom-up and demand-driven approach
  • Gender sensitivity
  • Leave no one behind
  • Open Access – Open data

The participatory approach of APPEAR means that project proposals should be planned and worked out jointly by the proposing partners of the main cooperating institutions. APPEAR follows an open-minded concept of knowledge, science and empirical research. APPEAR is not interested in one-sided “knowledge transfer”, usually prolonging the predominance – which is often seen as arrogance – of “western science” and “western interests”. Research and teaching outcomes as well as empirical approaches should be considered from the very beginning. Furthermore, beneficiaries on different levels should be identified and defined in order to plan and implement accordingly with a practical and empirical approach. APPEAR strictly follows a demand-driven approach through which demand has to be defined by the partners, and a participatory approach in education and research. Respect for different methodological and empirical approaches, of different epistemological and cultural systems, of different modes of interaction and interpretation of results – regarding the impact on the addressed target groups / countries in particular – should be seen as preconditions for the aimed participatory and demand-driven partnerships to be implemented on an equal basis.

APPEAR aims to contribute to gender equality and to the individual and collective empowerment of women. This means that equal participation of women and men is envisaged in all areas and that gender dimensions are integrated systematically at all programme levels. A gender-specific analysis of the context in which the research and/or the project takes place is required to understand social structures and institutions of the project and research environment. In addition, gender-specific measures and activities throughout the entire project cycle are crucial. The APPEAR Gender Strategy and additional information on gender mainstreaming can be found on the APPEAR website: www.appear.at/gender.

The “leave no one behind” principle as inherent part of the SDG agenda is essential for development cooperation interventions and is also to be considered within higher education projects in the framework of APPEAR. Following this approach allows to intervene in time and prevent that people with disabilities, or people from underrepresented or marginalised population groups are further neglected and discriminated by development interventions. Therefore, APPEAR partnerships have to consider the rights of persons with disabilities in their project work. The inclusion of disability mainstreaming in APPEAR Academic Partnerships, Advanced Academic Partnerships and Extended Impact Partnerships as well as in the nomination of master’s and PhD applicants will thus be regarded as an added value and will be taken into consideration in the selection process.

The APPEAR Diversity Strategy can be found on the APPEAR website: https://appear.at/en/implementation/disability-mainstreaming

The goal of Open Access to support free and sustainable access to scientific publications has found its way into academia. APPEAR wants to contribute to this movement and by doing so contribute to the disadvantaged position of many institutions in the Global South that cannot subscribe to high-end journals. Open data is an additional initiative that has been started in recent years and is yet to be further institutionalized and systematized.

In order to ensure not only a socially but also an environmentally sustainable programme and project implementation, applicants are required to make use of the APPEAR CO2 compensation model. The BOKU’s (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna) carbon offset system has been chosen as a compensation model for APPEAR. Academic partnerships pay a compensation for their air travel to BOKU. With this contribution the BOKU finances climate protection projects in developing countries.

In addition to the social and environmental responsibilities illustrated above, the project coordinators contractually commit to complying with the principles of ethical behaviour, with rules and regulations on combatting corruption and money laundering and with international counter-terrorism treaties and UN Security Council Resolutions on terrorism.