The United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA) is one of the 15 Research and Training Centres / Programmes of the United Nations University (UNU). The aim of the institute is to bridge the gap between science and natural resources management policies in Africa. UNU-INRA’s mandate is to contribute to the sustainable development of Africa’s natural resources in a way that maintains the quality of the natural environment and transforms lives.
The institute’s programme areas focus on the development, management and governance of Africa’s renewable and non-renewable natural resources as well as green economy promotion. UNU-INRA’s goal is to be a catalyst for knowledge creation and delivery for efficient use of Africa’s natural resources in order to improve livelihoods.
Specifically, UNU-INRA’s objectives include the following:
The institute operates from its main office in Accra, Ghana and carries out some of its programme activities through a network of Operational Units (OUs) and a College of Research Associates. The OUs consist of multidisciplinary groups of researchers located at selected institutions in five African countries: Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Namibia, Senegal, and Zambia. Each of these focuses on specific areas of natural resources management.
The institute also runs a competitive Visiting Scholars Programme that provides opportunities for researchers from the continent to undertake high quality research. UNU-INRA also collaborates with other UN agencies, multilateral and bilateral institutions to deal with natural resources challenges facing Africa.
To be the leading institution in Africa in capacity building for research in natural resources management.
To empower African universities and research institutions through capacity strengthening.
In 1985, in response to the 1980 Organization of African Unity (OAU) Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa, (1980–2000), the United Nations University (UNU) assembled a group of distinguished African scientists and technologists to define the role UNU could play in enhancing the ability of African universities and research institutions to contribute to finding solutions to Africa’s developmental problems.
The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) initiative also recognises the critical roles that higher education must play in the development of Africa, particularly the application of science and technology to the management and use of natural resources. African countries have also subscribed to the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Meeting the MDGs and putting together the relevant tools needed to meet the NEPAD agenda pose serious challenges to most African countries.
The NEPAD document also identifies the need to strengthen the weak research and training infrastructure in African universities and research institutions as a necessary first step to harness Africa’s human and natural resources for development through the application of science and technology. A critical element for this to occur is the application of new knowledge in science and technology by African scientists to advance the management of resources, which are being managed in a way that impacts negatively on the livelihood of the African people. The conservation, development and management of Africa’s resources in a sustainable way are critical for generating wealth to alleviate poverty.
As a result, the United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA) was established in 1986 to support the building of African capacity. It seeks to contribute to ensuring sustainable development of Africa’s natural resources, maintaining the quality of its natural environment, mitigating the effects of climate change and realising a better quality of life for the continent’s people. UNU-INRA’s main goal is to empower African universities, research institutions and individuals through capacity strengthening.
Dr. Fatima Denton is the Director of the United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA). She is an accomplished senior leader in the UN system, respected across the research and implementation branches of the organization. She has depth of expertise in natural resource management, as well as deep knowledge of research and policy development, and the African region.
Prior to joining UNU-INRA, Dr. Denton had worked with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in Ethiopia since 2012. Her roles included Director of the Natural Resource Management Division and Coordinator of the African Climate Policy Centre.
Before that Dr Denton was a Programme Leader with the Canada-based International Development Research Centre (IDRC), where she managed high-impact action research, including a major climate change adaptation research programme involving over 100 action research initiatives encompassing 40-plus projects across 33 countries in Africa. She also worked as an energy scientist with the United Nations Environment Programme Risoe Centre (Denmark) and as an energy programme manager with Enda Tiers Monde (Senegal).
Dr Denton is a lead author for the IPCC special report on climate change and land, a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (Working Group III), and was a Lead Author for the Fourth and Fifth Assessment Reports (Working Group II) and for the IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy and Climate Change Mitigation. She has served on numerous scientific committees and boards, including the Independent Scientific Committee of the CIGIAR Climate Change and Food Security Programme, and is a current member of the advisory board of Future Earth and a trustee of UK-based International Institute on Environment and Development (IIED).
Dr Denton has written more than 50 peer-reviewed articles, reports, and books. She holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Birmingham (UK).