The ‘Research Alliance for Disasters and Risk Reduction’ (RADAR) has been situated at Stellenbosch University’s Department of Geography and Environmental studies since 2011. It was originally established in 1996 and formerly known as the Disaster Mitigation for Sustainable Livelihoods Programme (DiMP). Though its name and its base of operations may have changed, RADAR’s mission has remained largely the same since its inception 20 years ago.
A major focus of RADAR has been its emphasis on advancing capacity building in the disaster risk field through academic programmes and short courses. RADAR currently hosts two postgraduate programmes; i) a postgraduate module in the department of Geography and Environmental Studies Bachelor of Arts Honours programme, and ii) a Masters of Philosophy in in Disaster Risk Science & Development. A third academic, diploma programme is currently in development and set to be launched in January 2018. RADAR also provides training through week long short courses, designed to focus on enhancing knowledge and understanding of disaster risk theory and paradigms as well as strengthening community-based risk assessment capabilities in disaster-prone informal settlements. As of the end of 2016, RADAR has trained more than 400 development and disaster management practitioners in disaster risk reduction and has taught to over 40 honours or masters graduates in disaster risk science. Of these students 40 of which focused their thesis research in the field of disaster risk.
A secondary focus of RADAR has been to conduct research and contribute to knowledge concerning hazards, vulnerabilities and risks within South Africa and the continent. RADAR has given priority to building understanding of disaster risks that predominate in the Western Cape of South Africa through extensive applied research into informal settlement risks, as well as the impacts resulting from recurrent extreme weather events. Such knowledge is key to address these underlying issues and contributing to risk reduction and building foundations towards more resilient and sustainable societies. RADAR has also been involved in creating opportunities for multi-site, transboundary disaster risk research that involved partnerships in Zimbabwe, Senegal, the Gambia, Uganda, Mozambique and Kenya.
During this time, RADAR has engaged with a diversity of stake-holders and role-players, including international non-governmental organizations, international and bilateral assistance partners, as well as local, provincial and national government stake-holders. In 2015, representatives from RADAR attended the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (UN WCDRR) in Sendai Japan and assisted in organising and hosting an open forum event on “The role of higher education institutions in advancing disaster risk knowledge”.
RADAR also acts as the secretariat and project manager for the Periperi U (Partners Enhancing Resilience for People Exposed to Risks) consortium, a partnership of research units and departments from 12 African universities which focus on advancing research and capacity building in risk and vulnerability reduction action on the continent. Since 2014 Periperi U has been recognised as an IRDR International Centre of Excellence for Risk Education and Learning (ICoE-REaL).