Four key messages from CBA16

Just a month before COP27, the 16th International Conference on Community-based Adaptation offered a timely opportunity for practitioners and policymakers to set out important messages on supporting locally led adaptation.

Aaron Acuda's picture Sam Greene's picture
Insight by 
Aaron Acuda
Sam Greene
Aaron Acuda is a consultant researcher and Sam Greene a senior researcher in IIED's Climate Change research group
18 October 2022
UN climate change conference (COP27)
A series of pages related to IIED's activities at the 2022 UNFCCC climate change summit in Sharm el-Sheikh
Woman stands next to a palm tree and points at a pond

A fish farmer from Ntui, from the Central Region of Cameroon (Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown, via FlickrCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

With more than 80 endorsing organisations, locally led adaptation (LLA) principles are gaining momentum and will likely be a central part of future climate actions. Locally led adaptation centres on ensuring local voices lead on the decisions that affect them and their landscapes – while remaining integrated into wider-scale decisions made at national, regional and global levels.

LLA calls for meaningful investment in formal and informal organisations that work at the grassroots level and are accountable to local people. Putting the eight LLA principles into action was the focus of the 16th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation (CBA16). The two-day online conference brought together practitioners, policymakers, funders and researchers from around the world and represented the latest practitioner thinking on LLA.

Just a month before November’s UN climate change conference (COP27), CBA16 provided an interactive and engaging space to identify important messages that will directly feed into conversations at COP27.

Here are the key messages that emerged from CBA16...

LLA is essential for climate justice

LLA can be a framework for putting climate justice into practice when addressing the climate crisis – responding to historical and ongoing injustices shaped by the wealthier countries that continue to drive emissions and dominate development practice.

Discussions reiterated the exacerbating impact of climate change on the multiple forms of oppression against marginalised groups, particularly women, young and Indigenous People – limiting their self-determination, control over natural resources and access to power in decision-making processes. Climate justice and inequality must be addressed together.

Women and girls suffer the most because of the roles they have in society around food and water: 40 billion hours spent getting food and water yearly in sub-Saharan Africa. This is a gender injustice.

– HRH Princess Esmeralda of Belgium

However, they also noted many examples of women’s leadership in shaping and driving local climate action despite the challenges. Flexible climate finance with gender transformative objectives could create opportunities for women to access land, participate in decision-making, and become equal partners in policymaking.

The power of local knowledge in local climate action

Local communities have intrinsic capacities to respond and adapt to natural disasters. This knowledge has been lost or overlooked and is not adequate anymore to respond to frequent and changing climatic events. So, a new knowledge, blending tradition, local and new modern ways can be created.

– Runa Khan, Friendship NGO

Communities have used traditional and locally-developed practices and knowledge to survive many previous crises. Building adaptation projects on local knowledge shortens the learning curve for interventions, is cost-effective and helps avoid maladaptation. But CBA16 participants also argued for efforts to integrate scientific and external knowledge with local experience.

They highlighted the value of local or traditional forms of communication to share this knowledge – through video, radio, poetry and songs, which can be more effective than formal research papers and reports.

Poetry can open hearts and minds. Poetry is adapted to every geographical environment and has the power to contribute to the climate emergency realisation and can even go to parliaments for policy orientation.

– Poetry reading by Shehzar Doja, Maria Sledmere and Catriona Sutherland

Reforming delivery of climate finance

One thing we can take to COP27 is that financing for local action should be patient and sustainable and not dependent on politics of the country.

– Shehnaaz Moosa, CEO of CDKN, director of South-South North

Finance drives adaptation efforts. Yet complex funding procedures make accessing it too challenging for practitioners in local institutions and communities.

Finance that meets the needs of local actors must be flexible and patient. Co-designing activities through joint risk assessments and participatory planning and recognising the different barriers people and institutions face in accessing climate finance takes time.

Innovative suggestions for ensuring that climate finance reaches the local level included aggregating smaller community groups together and creating ways for donors to fund organisations that do have the capacity to channel funds to local institutions.

We need to support the development of financial delivery mechanisms that incorporate inclusive (climate) planning and decision making – this takes time and institutional development. But it’s worth it!

– CBA16 participant

Microfinance is one route to financing small-scale private sector adaptation. But climate change has more impact on microfinance institutions because their clients are among the most climate-vulnerable.

There is a need for partnerships between profit and non-profit organisations targeting vulnerable populations, to provide holistic interventions along the whole value chain of training, awareness and funding, so that the clients of the microfinance do understand what’s needed of them.

– Mathilde Bauwin, ADA Microfinance, Luxemburg

Climate change adaptation is a process

LLA cannot be achieved through one-off interventions or single rounds of investment. It must be a continuous process which is revisited and re-negotiated to facilitate iterative learning, recognising that climate risks and their cascading impacts continuously vary and change.

Facilitating this long-term process depends on partnerships. While broadly true, this is particularly relevant in conflict contexts where communities are not homogenous and have competing demands.

Top-down climate strategies and policies at national sub/national level need to be complemented with bottom-up approaches for adaptation. LLA principles are endorsed but still need a lot of work…

– Francis Reffel, Centre of Dialogue on Human Settlement and Poverty Alleviation (CODOHSAPA)

Different institutions can play different roles; for example, medium-sized organisations and, indeed, international NGOs have a convening role in bringing communities to the table with donors and governments. Even organisations’ grassroots connections can create momentum for LLA-spirited action by influencing policies and mobilising finance.

The key to making sure no one is excluded in the process is investing time to stay with the community to understand the dynamics and how challenges are managed in each community.

– Adrian Lasimbang, founder of TONIBUNG, Malaysia


As Shehnaaz Moosa, director of South-South North, said, we need a significant shift away from using LLA on paper and risking 'local washing' climate action – towards actual and robust implementation.

Moving forward, we must build a common understanding of what implementation looks like at the local level. LLA principles can have real value in assessing the effectiveness of interventions – providing a framework for understanding what will work, for whom, and when, and the approaches that can create a transformation to just and resilient systems.

Communities need to become partners in adaptation processes. Removing barriers to finance and increasing its flow must be combined with mechanisms to ensure that adaptation finance is well-managed, reaches those who need it most and empowers them to take action.