SFU Global Affairs Canada UNCTAD Press release: Anil (Andy) Hira

April 14, 2022

Anil (Andy) Hira is a researcher and professor of political science at Simon Fraser University (SFU). Hira has led a fulfilling career beginning in research, focused on international trade and development. His research agenda then shifted to industrial, energy, and technology policies—in terms of how a developing country can promote new, higher value-added, employment creating sectors. 

These days, Hira has moved towards more of a triple bottom-line agenda, examining how to promote renewable energy and labour rights in the developing world—with a particular interest in policies to  promote renewable energy. This led him to help found the Clean Energy Research Group (CERG), a non-profit volunteer-based group associated with SFU. The CERG is dedicated to studying the challenges and opportunities for the global transition from fossil fuels to renewable, clean energy systems and offers expert advice to policymakers and the media around the world on climate change, renewable energy, and mining policy.

Recently, Hira was invited to provide his expertise on environmental issues to such organizations as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and Global Affairs Canada (GAC).  

“These efforts at applying academic research to solve real world problems, which I always thought were not noticed, must have built up through the years at SFU to create these exciting new opportunities for policy influence,” states Hira, “Over the years, I have interacted with activists and policymakers on a regular basis, from my efforts to promote fair trade and labour standards to my Clean Energy Research Group, which is a network of researchers and practitioners around climate change.” 

Hira is currently completing a contract with UNCTAD, a branch of the United Nations. The programme, Sustainable Manufacturing and Environmental Pollution (SMEP), is to synthesize lessons on reducing manufacturing, plastics, and tannery pollution in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, funded by a grant from the UK government of over £24 million. The work is based on a series of projects in each of the regions to reduce pollution at the source, and dovetails nicely with Hira’s long track record in industrial policy and more recent work at the CERG. He will be collaborating with multiple project managers and policy experts to develop a series of academic articles that will provide lessons and seek to bridge the academic-practitioner gap. 

Hira adds, “My motivations are reflected in the partnerships and reputation I have built up over years. Things that are not particularly valued in academics, such as applied policy experience, recognizing the need for pragmatic approaches that might not completely solve problems in mathematical fashion, and helping a variety of stakeholders to see their interest in working together for solutions, are the formula I bring to help bridge the gap between practitioners and researchers.”

Hira has accepted a new position, being named the third visiting professor for GAC. His term will go through the year, and he will prepare at least three policy briefs. Multiple units in GAC will participate in a scholarly-policymaker dialogue to try to map new directions for Canada’s foreign policy. Additionally, Hira will prepare workshops for GAC on a variety of subjects related to their Feminist International Assistance Policy. Two topics have been discussed for the first two workshops: Opportunities for gender equity assistance in emerging critical mineral industries related to the green transition and Opportunities for increasing digital commerce through the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

Reflecting on his work Hira says, "I think these projects perfectly bring together SFU’s mission to be an Engaged University, and our previous one of Thinking of the World. SFU has given me the freedom to become a well-known interdisciplinary scholar who seeks to bring academic rigour and research skills to solving real world problems. While I still believe talking to academic audiences is an important step in the process, my goal has always been to try to influence policy for the better. As a former U.S. government and think tank employee earlier in my career, I was frustrated by the inability to have a long-term perspective on policy issues that embraces their complexity. Becoming an academic allowed me to do that, but I never lost my interest in using research and teaching to improve the world.”

Keep up with Andy on Twitter @realandyhira