D&C Days 2023: Key messages

Participants at D&C Days 2023 highlighted the need for creating equitable partnerships that challenge existing power dynamics, building accountability frameworks that empower local communities at the frontline of climate change, and strengthening climate finance to ensure it reaches the local level.

Article, 11 December 2023
UN climate change conference (COP28)
A series of pages related to IIED's activities at the 2023 UNFCCC climate change summit in Dubai
People sit on the floor around a series of printed cartoons and illustrations in the centre.

Participants at D&C Days 2023 huddle around cartoons during an interactive discussion (Photo: Georgina Diaz, IIED)

Development and Climate Days (D&C Days) provides a crucial informal space for stakeholders attending the annual UN climate conference (COP28) to come together to share open, honest conversations about how to tackle climate change and build resilience.

This year's D&C Days in Dubai brought together 265 grassroots representatives, political leaders, policymakers, negotiators and researchers for dialogue about issues of equity and accountability at the intersection of climate, adaptation and development.

Development & Climate Days 2023 logo

D&C Days is a forum for raising and addressing uncompromising questions about how climate action is progressing. Speaking at the opening plenary, IIED executive director Tom Mitchell said progress towards climate goals is not moving fast enough – and that D&C Days would offer a space to face uncomfortable truths, tackle significant questions and work together to ensure we leave no one behind.

The opening plenary also featured a tribute to Saleemul Huq, the originator of D&C Days, and honoured his lifelong efforts to promote climate action and justice.

During the day that followed, we asked about holding people to account, discussed moving to ‘business unusual’, and highlighted the need for decolonising climate finance to make sure that it reaches those that need it the most. We had serious conversations, challenging conversations, “spicy” conversations and some fun too. Holding deeply candid discussions is a big positive!

Highlights include:

  • We need to move together to achieve urgent transformation – with emphasis on action and solutions. Moving together means involving young people and local people and leaving no one behind. We need to learn together and change the system.
  • Accountability, transparency and accessibility are essential to reduce risks and give us the tools we need to inform solutions.
  • Co-creation helps to bring all available knowledge and learning to the table.  Local action = local co-creation.
  • We must build better partnerships based on trust, creativity, learning and equity. Build new and unusual partnerships: develop a shared vision.
  • Creativity is essential: we need to mobilise ideas, innovations and new ways of working to achieve the transformation we need.

Three themes

D&C Days 2023 focused on three themes that need to be addressed to speed progress on climate change:

Here are the key messages from each theme:

Decolonising climate finance

The collective slow pace of initiatives and institutions established to advance climate action and effect positive, lasting change means that climate finance is not being accessed by those that need it most, and available funding is fragmented, sectoral and restricted – especially for the most vulnerable countries.

We asked challenging questions about how power and resources should shift to local organisations working on the frontlines of climate change. We asked what must be done differently to disrupt the current systems that are failing to deliver climate action and finance at local levels.

Sessions with the theme of decolonising climate finance examined how ‘business-unusual’ approaches can address climate challenges while re-calibrating climate partnerships to make them more equitable, particularly across Africa and Europe, and scaling up locally-led climate action while ensuring responsiveness to local needs.

These are the key messages that emerged from this theme:

It’s vital to acknowledge the injustice communities in the global South face. While communities in the global South are working to solve challenges such as gender inequality and conflict, climate change is causing new challenges – despite the fact that these communities are not responsible for causing the climate crisis. And those making the decisions about fixing the problem are those causing the problem – where is the justice? We need accountability for leaders and action that enforces fairness and responsibility.

We need to educate people about the value of locally-led climate action. Despite concrete examples and proof of concept that locally-led action works, not everyone sees locally-led climate action as a priority. Educating people and building the value of locally-led action into education systems should be prioritised globally to emphasise that it works.

We need a radical shift in our concept of ‘power’. We currently view those holding the money as holding the power, but we need to consider that knowledge is actually where the power sits, and work towards shifting this mindset. To shift the power dynamics and spotlight the power of knowledge, we must ensure that communities, civil society organisations and Indigenous Peoples organisations have a seat at the table and that funds reach the local level.

We must establish mechanisms to support the bottom-up knowledge sharing that is inherent in local initiatives without expecting it to be formalised into complex, colonialised monitoring, evaluation and learning systems. This will preserve communities’ confidence that initiatives driven at the local level work. Locally-led climate action needs to be 'de-marketised' with a move away from any attempts to mould communities to colonial mindsets. 

Developing effective partnerships, particularly with local communities, is crucial for scaling up locally-driven climate action. Achieving this demands capacity building and enhanced expertise among all actors and employing a decolonised approach. It necessitates cross-government and multi-sectoral engagement for locally-driven climate action. Strengthening partnerships in this way can enhance outcomes and improve transparency and accountability towards locally-led initiatives.

We all have a part to play in decolonising climate finance. The multilateral development banks such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank have shareholders that represent all countries. It is critical that we all work together to scale up not only the quantity of climate finance but also the quality of it by strengthening systems to ensure it reaches the local level, is grounded in local needs and priorities, and supports resilience and adaptive capacity for the most vulnerable people.

Equitable climate partnerships

While discussions about locally-led climate solutions have been ongoing, their implementation has been characterised by unequal partnerships that concentrate power and resources in the global North. We explored how partnerships can be strengthened to be truly inclusive, equitable and empowering, sharing risks and accelerating climate action.

The discussions on this theme highlighted the knowledge and practices that the global North can learn from the global South in meaningful and equitable ways. Sessions looked at collaboratively shaping a new narrative that bridges adaptation and loss and damage, reimagining and enhancing partnerships via some 'serious fun', and lessons from co-producing resilience to ensure both accountability and effectiveness.

The key messages that emerged were:

While this stream focused on building equitable climate partnerships, it became evident in the discussions that partnership issues are vital for all areas of focus featured at D&C Days: from the private sector to multilateral development banks, to civil society, to Indigenous Peoples, across regions and continents – a range of varied links and partnerships are needed to move climate action forward.

Current equitable partnership standards and values may not be strong enough to drive climate action. Successful partnerships take many forms, and cultivating convivial partnerships requires many aspects – trust, transparency, learning, mutual respect, equality and inclusivity, among others. We must challenge traditional modes of network relations. The power dynamics that surround structures and systems need to be challenged to enhance inclusivity, ensure effectiveness and stop injustice. Inequity in climate partnerships is an injustice that must be addressed.

Decision making in climate partnerships needs to take into account the local context and lived experiences of local organisations. Partnership approaches or strategies need to be flexible and able to adjust or evolve according to the specific conditions and needs of different local or community settings in which local organisations operate. It is critical that climate intervention and partnership pathways are sensitive and adaptive to local contexts.

The increasing complexity and ambiguity of socio-ecological systems means we need more creative, innovative and anticipatory thinking in the way we collaborate effectively, act and reduce risk. Being brave about forming unusual partnerships through creative practices allows us to find visionary new opportunities for confronting complex and emergent challenges.

Locally-framed narratives and the lived experiences of vulnerable people should be emphasised in decision making and collaboration spaces when designing programmes and engagements. Co-creation, as an iterative and constitutive process, can enable multiple actors to harness varied knowledge systems and engage in mutually beneficial processes of resilience building. Such co-production of programmes should be contextualised to the lived experience of communities to collectively address development challenges. The skewed amount of attention being given to academic forms of knowledge undermines the crucial role of Indigenous and local knowledge in transformative adaptation and co-creation processes.

Collaborative partnerships working on loss and damage must explore the intersection between loss, damage and climate adaptation.

Focusing on co-creation for loss and damage must explore nuances between loss and damage and adaptation, probing issues spanning development, humanitarian crises, patriarchy, power dynamics and decolonisation, weaving a comprehensive narrative that navigates through diverse landscapes, fostering collaboration and understanding across these intricate intersections for meaningful progress. 

This conversation will be continued at the 18th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change (CBA18) in May 2024.

Accountability for the Paris goals

Economic disparities rooted in colonial histories persist, allowing powerful companies in sectors such as finance and energy to dictate the course of climate action. Comprehensive and inclusive climate action that effectively addresses climate challenges needs equally comprehensive and inclusive accountability systems.

D&C Days 2023 examined how actors across governments, the private sector, philanthropies, civil society organisations, businesses and academia can be held accountable to take positive steps within their organisations to address climate impacts and reduce the risks facing those most affected by the climate crisis. 

Participants discussed how the Sharm-El-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda will ensure an inclusive and innovative process for mobilising and tracking adaptation and resilience action, how monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) for adaptation should advance accountability when operationalising the Global Goal on Adaptation, and how we can establish new pathways that enhance accountability for locally-led action.

Key messages from this theme were:

It’s critically important to empower local communities for effective climate accountability. Local communities are not just beneficiaries but are key agents of accountability, providing essential insights and evidence for effective climate actions. To realise this, strengthening country-driven and participatory processes to engage local people actively and equip them with the necessary tools and skills can guide countries to reinforce their national MEL systems to gather and communicate data. Helping them to monitor, evaluate, and hold governments and international donors accountable.

Furthermore, the evidence gathered for accountability purposes must be disaggregated to accurately reflect the varied and unique realities of different communities. Recognising and harnessing local knowledge and perspectives is crucial in shaping tailored climate adaptation and resilience strategies that are not only effective but also resonate with those most affected by climate change.

Aligning accountability frameworks is vital in the context of climate adaptation. Multiple methods and approaches are needed to capture the different voices at the forefront of the climate crisis, but the overlap of multiple systems for monitoring, evaluation and learning in relation to adaptation across different initiatives and sectors can be confusing. This poses a barrier to effective implementation at different scales and across regions. 

Discussions highlighted the necessity of building on existing frameworks; of starting small, piloting and then scaling up. This way, we can ensure that MEL and accountability systems are both manageable and meaningful to the people they are meant to serve. Aligning local systems with global targets and frameworks is essential - however, this alignment must not lead to detachment from local realities. Instead, it should enhance the connection between local adaptation priorities and broader global objectives.

Collaborative climate adaptation is a shared responsibility, and so is its tracking and assessment. This means collective efforts that bring together multiple stakeholders are needed, including local communities, national governments, international bodies and private sector actors. Better collaboration in data sharing and decision-making processes is critical and currently not well done. Each actor bears the responsibility and privilege of being accountable to both their upward and downward stakeholders. Collaborative approaches to gathering and utilising data are key to significantly informing decision making and accelerating adaptation processes.

Integrating local and global knowledge is essential for holistic climate solutions. Integrating local Indigenous knowledge with scientific understanding in accountability and MEL systems is vital for developing comprehensive and effective climate adaptation strategies. Local experiences and practices, such as community-led savings groups and inclusive decision making processes, offer invaluable insights that should inform global adaptation strategies.

Accountability is about ensuring stakeholders show progress on climate actions transparently and about representatively accounting for the voices and evidence from different social groups. This integration ensures that climate solutions are not only robust but also culturally sensitive and contextually relevant. It acknowledges the rich learning already available from local actors and leverages it to enhance the effectiveness of climate adaptation initiatives.

Inclusion and justice are at the heart of the Sharm-El-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda and its annual progress report, which collects signals of change on climate adaptation and resilience actions implemented by a broad range of non-state actors along agreed outcomes and targets. Such a global progress report, with the contribution of numerous non-state actors at global, regional, national, sub-national and local levels, is especially valuable in promoting accountability and alignment with the Paris Agreement.

Organising partners

The 2023 event was organised in partnership by the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre (RCCC), the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the Anticipation Hub, the Climate Emergency Collaboration Group, the Climate Justice Resilience Fund (CJRF), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Bank.

Contributing partners

Contributing partners to the 2023 event were the Adaptation Research Alliance (ARA), “Generating Ambition for Locally Led Adaptation” core partners, with funding from the Government of the Netherlands, NAP Global Network, hosted by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), and the Least Developed Countries Initiative for Adaptation and Resilience (LIFE-AR).