Urban Resilience in the face of Climate Change – An Interview with Alumni Ramiz Khan

By June 11, 2020 Alumni interviews, Blog

This week, we talked to Ramiz Khan, who graduated from our program last year and continued to work with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, where he completed his internship for our Master’s program. Currently, he is involved in developing an Urban Starter Kit that aims to boost the engagement of the Red Cross-National Society in urban resilience activities by using existing resources and capacities and also to build partnerships with other urban actors and organisations.

We spoke to Ramiz about his work at the Climate Centre and the influence of our Master’s program on his career journey.

Name:  Ramiz Khan
Nationality: 
Indian
Year of Graduation from Programme: 2018-2019
Internship placement: Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre
Current Occupation: 
Consultant – Urban
Location: 
Asia (based in India)
Area of interest/specialty: 
Urban Sustainability and Climate Resilience

Tell us a bit about your previous education and career. What was your motivation to apply for our program?
Prior to joining the MICSEA programme, I worked for nearly seven years with ICLEI- Local Government for Sustainability, South Asia. Furthermore, I also pursued a short stint with a Germany based consultancy firm, GOPA Infra GmbH, and an NGO in India called People’s Science Institute (PSI), Dehradun. In my professional career with the aforesaid organisations, I worked in 34 cities and the respective local governments in 6 Asian countries (India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Malaysia). I congregated ample practical and grassroots level experiences in the field of urban sustainability and integrated planning, climate change adaptation/mitigation, city resilience, climate action planning, climate finance, and grant management, urban circular development and resource management, and urban WASH. Moreover, I have collaborated with a wide range of stakeholders such as grassroots community organizations; local, state, and national level government officials; academia; NGOs; private entities; UN bodies; bilateral and multilateral agencies.

In 2017, I joined the Erasmus Mundus joint and double Master’s degree program – Mundus Urbano with an Erasmus+ scholarship. After completing the M.Sc. in International Cooperation in Urban Development from the Technical University of Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany in 2017-18, I subsequently enrolled for the second year of study on the specialisation Masters Sustainable Emergency Architecture (MICSEA) at UIC Barcelona in Spain.

I decided to join MICSEA program because I believed that the practical work experience that I had garnered in the field of urban resilience and integrated urban spatial planning through my professional career would be greatly enhanced if it is backed by further theoretical knowledge and formal academic training. Furthermore, I also wanted to gain a knowledge base on humanitarian settlement management. Cities are mostly exposed to the high risks of being hit by natural disaster events. So, I thought the combination of my prior professional experiences and knowledge on humanitarian management will set an unique skillset towards building urban resilience and sustainable urban development.

You did your internship with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, the Hague, Netherlands. What was the most valuable lesson you learned through the internship?The focus of my internship was to provide knowledge management consultancy support in strengthening urban climate risk management endeavours by the Climate Centre. Therefore, I have worked in a range of projects and initiatives, particularly not in a single project. The range of supports includes conceptualizing new projects which align with the mission of the movement; developing guidance notes on urban WASH, and policy dialogue in cities for the Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies (total 192 in numbers); stakeholders mapping; organizing and hosting urban webinar series as learning and outreach initiative of the Climate Centre. One of the key achievements during my internship with the climate centre was being one of the authors in developing the ‘City Heatwave Guidebook for Red Cross Red Crescent Branches’, supported by the Climate -KIC. The guidebook is in the process to be published soon.

So, through my internship with the Climate Centre, I have gained lots of learnings in this concise duration of time. The most beneficial component of the internship for me was gaining technical skills in urban climate risk management, especially from the emergency and humanitarian perspective. I learned to develop guidance material that is simplistically spelled and easily understandable for the non-technical personnel. I am well acquainted now with the tools for organizing webinars. It also helped me to enhance my communication skills. Moreover, the internship experience with the Climate Centre offered me enormous opportunities for networking both inside and outside of the Red Cross system. I have had opportunities to collaborate with around 12-14 Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies from different regions of the world to understand the local risks and their aspirations. I also got chances to work in close cooperation with the climate scientists as well.

Your internship developed into a full-time job with the Climate Centre on a new assignment to support their Urban Policy Advocacy work in Asia. What were your current projects and responsibilities, and what did a regular workday involve?
I have been working with the Climate Centre as a full-time Consultant – Urban since November 2019 and until now, I have engaged in a range of initiatives under the Partners for Resilience (PfR) program which is supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Furthermore, I undertook a stakeholder mapping exercise for the urban climate risk management and urban Forecast based Financing (FbF) initiative in India. In addition to developing the modules, I facilitated training sessions on the Urban Resilience planning process for the Maldivian Red Cross Society staff, volunteers, and participants from government departments and universities in the Maldives. It was part of the Training of Trainers (ToT) program on Integrated Risk Management (IRM) process. I took lead in developing a couple of case studies based on the endeavors on urban resilience by the Climate Centre, such as the Manila Bay Sustainable Development Master Plan (MBSDMP) process in Manila Bay, Philippines, and Water as Leverage (WAL) initiative in Chennai, India.

Presently, I am involved in developing the Urban Starter Kit for the Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies. This Kit aims to boost up the engagement of the Red Cross-National Society branches and CBOs in urban resilience activities by using existing resources and capacities and also to build partnerships with other urban actors and organisations. I am also facilitating the development of the Urban Strategy as part of the strategic plan for the Red Cross-National Societies. Furthermore, I am leading in publishing a number of blogs on different topics that are related to the urban Forecast based Financing (FbF) initiative as part of the blog post series on Anticipatory Action & Epidemics.

What’s next?
I am going to undertake a new assignment on coastal cities. The framework of this initiative is being conceptualised. Therefore, I can’t reveal much about it. Hopefully, the work will start by mid of June.

In what ways did the master program influence your professional life? Did your internship prepare you well for your future roles?
The MICSEA program definitely motivated me to nurture the humanitarian sector. It encouraged me to continue work in my area of interest such as urban sustainability but from the perspective of the humanitarian response process. The Master’s program inspired me adopting an inclusive planning process. Moreover, the thesis development process helped me to get introduced to the Climate Centre, and later, the internship opportunity with them laid a path to continue my association further. The internship enlightened me on the complicated bureaucracy, the modalities, the operational process, and the greater aims of the Red Cross Red Crescent movements. This internship helped me to get familiar with the perspective of the Red Cross for each action and development. These insights installed a foundation to adapt my perspective and thinking process by following the viewpoints of the Red Cross Red Crescent movements. I firmly believe, this element of my internship prepared me to a great extent to present the deliverables efficiently.

What advice would you give to our students or anyone interested in a similar career path?
I firmly believe, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to set up the career path. However, I think, MICSEA students would be beneficial if they start thinking about their thesis and internship right from the beginning of the course. MICSEA is a very demanding course and it contains a busy academic calendar. So, a student can hardly get time to think about their thesis and internship. I also believe that the students can choose their thesis topic and find an institution for their internship a bit more tactically and smartly. If you already know your thesis topic or the sector for your thesis, start approaching the relevant institution for your internship even before starting the thesis research. It may leverage partnership with the pertinent institution for your thesis research and also may create an opportunity to pursue an internship later. Eventually, it will help for networking and if you can showcase your competencies, the chances would be higher to translate it into a full-time job opportunity.

Photos: Group exercises by the participants in the Training of Trainers (ToT) program on Integrated Risk Management (IRM) process for the Maldivian Red Cross Society staff and volunteers, national government officials, CSO members, academic institutions in Male, Maldives. All photos courtesy of Ramiz Khan.

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