On November 27, Walter Baethgen the director of the Latin America and the Caribbean Program at the Earth Institute’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) was awarded the Morosoli de Oro, one of the most prestigious awards that can be bestowed upon a Uruguayan citizen. In receiving this honor, Baethgen now stands among eminent writers, poets, doctors and other luminaries recognized for their profound contributions to Uruguayan society. Past recipients include Eduardo Galeano, the internationally acclaimed author of Open Veins of Latin America,. The acting President of Uruguay, Lucía Topolansky, is shown here presenting Baethgen with the award.
“You have no idea the joy that this recognition brings me,” a visibly-moved Baethgen said to the audience who were present at the awards ceremony. “I have worked for a long time abroad, but I have always kept in the back of my mind how I haven’t yet finished repaying everything this country has given me.”
The prestige that the Morosoli Award brings will certainly be helpful to Baethgen as he conducts his work across Latin America. One of his latest endeavors is to use IRI’s knowledge and expertise to help the government of Colombia integrate climate information and risk management strategies into its national policy. In November, members of Colombia’s National Department of Planning visited the IRI in New York to officially begin this collaboration and to hold meetings with IRI staff. In the coming months, the IRI will work with the Colombian government planners to improve the production, understanding and use of climate information within Colombia’s government.
The Uruguayan award comes on the heels of another recent accolade for Baethgen. He was recently named Distinguished Leader for the U.S. State Department’s 2011-2012 Fulbright NEXUS Program. Baethgen will provide leadership to a group of about 20 scholars from the Western Hemisphere, including the United States, who will spend a year addressing public policy challenges through international exchanges, seminars and collaborative research. The scholars will focus on three primary areas: science, technology and innovation; entrepreneurship; and sustainable energy.
The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, has been the U.S. government’s flagship international exchange program since its inception in 1946, funding participants from more than 155 countries to find solutions to shared international concerns. The Fulbright NEXUS Program, launched in August of this year, offers a collaborative model for practically-oriented regional scholarly exchange aimed at public policy research questions.
Since 1990, Baethgen has worked with a variety of organizations to establish regional research programs in Latin America, first as a senior scientist with the International Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development Center and later with the Earth Institute’s IRI. Baethgen has served as a consultant for several governmental and international organizations around the world, including the Inter-American Development Bank, the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Bank and the Inter-American Institute for Agricultural Science.