Climate change advocacy fund good news for poor countries

A new advocacy fund will provide legal advice and support to the world's poorest countries to help them engage in key climate change and trade negotiations.

Saleemul Huq's picture
Insight by 
Saleemul Huq
08 September 2011

“For developing countries in general and least developed countries in particular, we can't afford to support big delegations”, said Sumaya Zakieldeen from Sudan’s national climate change negotiation team. “The coming period of negotiation under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is going to be extremely ...important as it is going to shape the fate of climate change and accordingly the fate of the most vulnerable to adverse impacts... It will be exceptionally important to be there to play our assigned roles on behalf of our people and finish what we started.”

[flickr-photo:id=6127384804, class=right, size=m, caption=A farmer on his flooded field in Bangladesh, which is already being affected by climate change.]

The problem faced by this Sudan negotiator is typical, based on my experience of attending the climate change negotiations under the UNFCCC since its inception nearly twenty years ago. Although not an official negotiator myself, I have been supporting and advising the vulnerable and poor developing countries, particularly the group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) – 48 of the world's poorest countries, located mostly in sub-saharan Africa and in Asia – for over a decade.

This group of the world's poorest countries are recognized in Article 4.9 of the UNFCCC as being among the amongst some of the most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. However, their ability to effectively negotiate their case in the UNFCCC process is severely hamstrung by:

  • a lack of understanding of the complicated issues under negotiations
  • the relatively small number of negotiators they are able to send to the negotiations. Most of the least developed delegations have only two or three representatives. For example, the Gambian delegation, had only 4 members for UNFCCC intercessional meeting held in June 2011, while the EU or US would typically have over a hundred delegates each.

Progress has been made. While assisting the LDC delegates in the negotiations I have argued that by forming a formal negotiating group and joining forces together they would have over a hundred delegates from 48 countries. Over the last few years the LDC Group has indeed formed a formal negotiating group with an elected Chair (currently the Gambia). It holds regular daily meetings during the negotiations with designated coordinators on different negotiating topics who lead on behalf of the group. This has resulted in a number of successful outcomes, such as the creation of an LDC Fund to support adaptation planning in the LDCs.

However, although their negotiating capabilities have been enhanced considerably over the last few years, they are still unable to plan and act strategically, mainly due to their inability to meet and plan during the inter-sessional period between the annual negotiating sessions (unlike, for example, the EU Countries who meet every month).

Advocacy fund launched

But things might be about to change. I was asked to speak at the launch of a new advocacy fund, along with the Conservative Peer Lord Howard, yesterday. The fund was formally launched by the UK’s Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell and it will provide legal advice and support to these countries to prepare for and engage in key talks, including the World Trade Organisation’s trade negotiations and the UN climate change meeting in Durban; £10 million has been allocated by the Department for International Development to climate change and £12 million to trade negotiations.

The fund will be disbursed through the Climate and Development Knowledge Network. Hopefully the funds will be used by the most deserving countries, including the LDC Group. However the proof of the pudding will be in who does the eating!

Find out more

Watch this film which shows what happened when 193 governments tried – and failed – to agree a global deal to tackle climate change in Copenhagen.

Read this briefing on an IIED project to help strengthen the capacity of negotiating teams from less-developed African and Asian nations.