UBC Graduate Students Engage in Global Policy Fieldwork with CIRDI’s SUMM Ethiopia Project


In December 2019, the Canadian International Resources and Development Institute (CIRDI) collaborated with the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs’ Global Policy Project (GP²). As a defining element of UBC’s Masters in Public Policy and Global Affairs (MPPGA) curriculum, this is an intensive capstone project, which provides opportunities for graduate students to directly engage with key stakeholders including policymakers and civil society, while gaining experience of working in a team and applying creative thinking and analytical skills to a real-world policy challenge.

Building on learning and experience from a GP² collaboration in the previous year, the MPPGA student team was assigned to CIRDI’s Supporting the Ministry of Mines Ethiopia (SUMM) project, a five-year public administration reform project funded by Global Affairs Canada. The SUMM project’s objective is to support strengthened capacity and organizational management of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Mines and Petroleum at operational and strategic levels. The project is oriented towards achieving four strategic outcomes for advancing sustainable mining development in Ethiopia:

  1. Establish a consistent, predictable and transparent licensing system;
  2. Develop inclusive stakeholder-responsive frameworks, structures and processes;
  3. Provide world-class geoscience information and promote the priority of industrial minerals services;
  4. Enhance project management to support collaboration, monitoring and coordination of resources for sustainable results.

Within this broader context, the MPPGA students chose to examine existing Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) in order to contribute to the development of improved policy structures, processes and tools for advancing the project’s sustainable development goals. The project team has been tasked with producing  a number of deliverables:

  1. Literature review and analysis of international models for ESIA through an assessment of best practices in British Columbia, Mongolia, Kenya, and Peru; and
  2. Fieldwork interviews and focus groups with Ethiopian government officials and stakeholders in Addis Ababa.
  3. Based on their desk research and interview findings, the group will produce a report on how leading practice ESIA methods and practices could be integrated into Ethiopia’s existing policies and processes, with a view to informing the development of a roadmap for policy improvements to the ESIA process in the Ethiopian mining sector by Ethiopian policymakers.

Students will complete their project work with the delivery of a report and a policy brief to CIRDI and the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum of Ethiopia, as well as a presentation of their findings and policy recommendations in a symposium held at UBC in early April, 2020.

Reflecting on the success of this collaboration to date, Dr. Priya Bala-Miller, CIRDI’s Director of Partnerships and Program Development said:

Graduate students are a vital source of innovation and new ideas in natural resource governance policy. As future decision-makers, it is vital that MPPGA students gain exposure to evidence-based policy-making processes related to natural resource governance, and learn how to work effectively in teams and across cultures.  CIRDI is delighted to serve as a platform for experiential learning opportunities that not only train students in these vital skills, but also generates a ‘ready-to-deploy’ cadre of Canadian trained professionals who can offer real value to the government and civil society partners we work with on a daily basis in order to advance the global sustainable development goals.”

The Global Policy Project team and CIRDI staff at a cultural dinner in Ethiopia. Photo by CIRDI