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Bush School Student to Lead Major International Natural Disaster Project

December 10, 2015

Morten Wendelbo, INTA studentMorten Wendelbo, a student at the Bush School of Government of Public Service, Texas A&M University, has been appointed to lead a multi-agency project on natural disaster response and resilience through the European Institute for Asian Studies (EIAS) in Brussels, Belgium. Wendelbo spent four months interning at EIAS where he interacted with various UN agencies, EU institutions, the World Bank, major NGOs and many Asian, African, and Latin American foreign missions. As a result of these interactions, he proposed a project researching multiple aspects of natural disaster preparedness and response, including economic development and security.

“In talking with the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, I floated the idea of a project that would involve all of these stakeholders,” said Wendelbo. “After securing buy-in from many of them, EIAS asked me to lead a project series entitled ‘Natural Disaster Resilience and Response.’”

The first report in the series will look at the preparedness response to the Nepal earthquakes earlier this year. The second report will focus on a cooperation mechanism for disaster response in Asia. The research and reports will be done in cooperation with several UN agencies, the World Bank, and the EU institutions.

“The EIAS’ unique position and good diplomatic connections in Europe and Asia, along with its research capabilities can offer a unique opportunity to work out any ‘kinks’ in the proposed mechanism and related issues,” said Wendelbo.

The project culminated in a forum with more than 200 people including panel discussions from the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Bank, EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Commission, and the European External Action Service. The governments of Japan, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, South Korea, Pakistan, Bangladesh and several NGOs, including World Vision, also participated.

In preparing for this project, Wendelbo was able to seek guidance from Bush School faculty with experience in pertinent areas, such as economic development, international institutions, and security.
“I cannot imagine any better place to prepare for this project than the Bush School,” Wendelbo said.

Bush School Dean Ryan Crocker said that Wendelbo exemplifies the Bush School’s values of serving others.

“Morten’s initiative and persistence in the face of organizational challenges is typical of our students,” Crocker said. “They are seeking new ways to serve others, both at home and around the world, and we are proud of their innovation and enthusiasm.”

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