Framework guides local governments towards people-led climate-resilient development

IIED’s framework supports local governments to shift away from ‘development as usual’ − to development planning that places climate at its heart, champions bottom-up community participation and values local knowledge.

Florence Crick's picture
Insight by 
Florence Crick
Florence Crick is a senior researcher in IIED's Climate Change research group
04 August 2021
People bending over a field of crops

A community in Kenya experimenting with different crops and farming techniques. Better bottom-up participation in decision-making is critical to improve communities’ vulnerability to climate change (Photo: thisisexcellent via FlickrCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Over the last 15 years, as the climate crisis has deepened, threatening livelihoods and damaging ecosystems, national governments have stepped up efforts to integrate climate risks into their development policies and plans.

Climate adaptation and resilience have climbed the political agenda becoming priority development goals alongside economic growth and poverty reduction.

Meanwhile, there is growing consensus that ‘development as usual’ isn’t working: unless climate resilience is mainstreamed into development programmes and policies, countries risk increasing their vulnerability to climate change.

Valuing local knowledge

Aligned with this, a growing movement is calling for locally-led climate action which sees a shift away from top-down approaches that characterise ‘development as usual’ to one that champions equitable community participation and local knowledge.

Yet there is little guidance for governments, particularly at the local level, on how to move away from development-as-usual approaches and towards implementing climate-resilient development that gives local communities a voice in the decision-making processes that directly affect their climate resilience.

Recognising this gap, we have built on our work with governments on the devolved climate finance mechanism and developed a framework for locally-led climate resilient development.

Five building blocks, eight principles

As illustrated below, the framework’s five building blocks represent the foundations of climate-resilient development, while eight cross-cutting principles provide guidance on how to implement the building blocks. The principles are:

  • Adopting risk-informed decision-making approaches
  • Making gender and social inclusion a priority
  • Devolving decision-making to the lowest appropriate level
  • Adopting a whole-of-society approach
  • Predictable, regular climate funding for local action
  • Valuing local, Indigenous and traditional knowledge
  • Ensuring accountability and transparency, and
  • Investing in training and local capabilities to leave an institutional legacy.

These building blocks and principles help national and local governments ensure they are putting in place the right structures, institutions, policies and processes at all levels to empower local actors on the frontline of climate change to lead climate actions.

Budgeting and financeInstitutionsClimate resilient planningMonitoring, evaluation and learningPolicy and legislative frameworkRisk-informed decision-makingGender and social inclusionWhole-of-society approachValuing local, Indigenous and traditional knowledgeTraining and capacity buildingAppropriate subsidiarityAccountability and transparencyPredictable, regular climate funding for local action

Climate-resilient development framework. The policy and legislative framework building block runs across the other four building blocks as it provides the fundamental conditions to implement those building blocks, according to the principles

Kenya: tool assesses counties’ readiness

In Kenya, as part of the Financing Locally Led Climate Action Programme (FLLoCA) programme, we used the framework to develop a self-assessment tool, enabling county governments to assess their readiness and capacity for locally-led climate action.

For each building block, we used the principles to develop a set of questions, helping the counties qualitatively assess their strengths and weaknesses in enabling locally-led climate action, and identify key areas for improvement.

For example, in the ‘institutions’ building block, questions assessed the level of training county staff received on climate risk; gender; participatory approaches; monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL); or the level of coordination between different county departments.

In the ‘climate-resilient planning’ building block, questions assessed the planning tools used by counties, and the extent to which climate risks, as well as local knowledge on climate and adaptation needs, informed the county development and county information services plan.

Questions also assessed the extent to which communities, and women in particular, were involved in the development of these plans.

These questions help county governments to see how far their institutions, policies and systems are set up to support locally-led climate-resilient development, assessing whether development planning draws on local communities’ in-depth knowledge about climate variability and risks.

Greater bottom-up participation in decision-making is critical to lower communities’ vulnerability to climate change impacts, as it ensures that resilience-building investments better reflect people’s needs and priorities.

For example, community input can ensure that water points are sited correctly, so they do not undermine local livelihoods (such as the mobility of pastoralists) and cater to both domestic and livestock needs. It also increases trust between communities and government and leads to greater ownership of investments by communities.

Ethiopia: framework highlights need to move beyond policies and guidelines

In Ethiopia we are working with the Climate Resilient Green Economy Facility to develop a set of guidelines for woreda (local government) level climate resilient development planning.

We used the framework to review the strengths and weaknesses of Ethiopia’s planning system across the five building blocks. This assessment showed the government that to enable woreda-level climate resilient development that goes beyond ‘development-as-usual’ and gives voice to the most climate vulnerable, key actions across all the building blocks must be put in place.

This presents a challenging question: how can community priorities be placed at the centre of the planning process? Answering this will require a notable shift in the way planning is currently undertaken in Ethiopia.

Our work in Ethiopia highlights an issue common to many countries pursuing climate-resilient development, where the focus is often around developing policies and guidelines − often deemed the easiest to implement. But policies and guidelines aren’t enough.

A holistic and comprehensive approach is required, which may include investing in institutions, so they can support cross-sectoral planning or bottom-up participation by communities. Financial delivery mechanism may be needed, or MEL systems improved.

To genuinely integrate climate in development plans, all the building blocks need to be considered together.

Next steps

The real value of this framework is its practical application to different contexts to support national and local governments wanting to move away from development as usual towards locally-led climate resilient development. A full description of the framework and its underpinnings will be published in a paper in the coming months.

In the meantime, we welcome thoughts and comments, and any more specific feedback on how the framework can be improved.