How can insights from CBA12 inform global discussions on the SDGs and resilience?

Delegates to this week's UN High Level Political Forum on sustainable development will be considering the subject of resilience. Clare Shakya highlights some of the insights from CBA12 in Malawi that are relevant. 

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16 July 2018

Clare Shakya is director of IIED's Climate Change research group

More than 250 participants shared their experiences and examples of good practice at CBA12 (Photo: Teresa Corcoran/IIED)

CBA12 brought together more than 250 participants for four days of sharing insights gained from climate action at grassroots and local level across hundreds of locations in Africa and Asia. For the second year, the event was run with the regional National Adaptation Plans (NAP) Expo for Africa organised by Least Developed Countries Expert Group of the UNFCCC – linking top-down national adaptation policy with experience from the frontline. 

Participants included climate practitioners working on the ground, researchers, funders, academics, enterprises, impact investors and government policymakers. They explored how to strengthen locally-driven climate action through a number of lenses: how to ensure local experience can influence policy; the value of decentralised climate finance for getting climate action to real scale; ways to support adaptation through technology; and how to capture innovative finance flows and investments for adaptation. 

This week, people will be gathering in New York for the 2018 High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on sustainable development, the main UN body mandated to review implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The theme is 'Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies' – and I believe that lessons shared at CBA12 can offer some important insights that can feed into the discussions in New York.

The value of locally driven approaches to climate action

Vertically integrated climate responses enable effective multi-sectoral approaches: CBA12 participants shared experiences and evidence that showed how devolving climate finance to the local level can influence wider sectoral investment to improve development outcomes.

This involves working with existing governance structures – engaging with local government stakeholders to understand their information needs in the economic planning process, and then translating the traditional and indigenous knowledge of different interest groups in local communities into their terms. 

For example, the Devolved Climate Finance initiative is establishing robust systems to manage climate funds at local level where they can be invested according to community priorities. Local government’s sectoral experts support the design of investments which communities have prioritised and invest their own budgets in line with these priorities too.

Developing approaches that use climate information for local scenario planning can ensure investments are robust across a range of potential climate futures. The Participatory Scenario Planning approach developed by CARE International enables the collaborative design and delivery of user-centred climate information services. As we discussed at CBA12, this enables policymakers and planners to act on local priorities via landscape level responses.

Holistic and complementary interventions are critical to effective climate response

Integrating climate as a risk factor in development processes improves practice overall and reduces the humanitarian response required after droughts and floods – which, although vital in the midst of emergencies, can also be seen as effectively a waste of scarce resources if the emergency could have been prevented.

How climate risks need to be integrated can be challenging to articulate at a national level, but CBA12 participants demonstrated that priorities are clear at the local level, enabling a more holistic and integrated assessment across development, disaster preparedness, adaptation and ecosystem management. 

Another factor that is critical to success in designing investments that maximise benefits across the SDGs is developing empowering processes that engage all interest groups, in which  resources are truly flexible – ie not earmarked for an externally set priority.  

CBA12 participants noted how complementary interventions are needed to tackle climate and wider risks comprehensively, building resilient development that also reduces carbon emissions. 

But working holistically can present a communication challenge: finding the right 'hook' is critical. For example, improved cook stoves are technology which can reduce deforestation and improve household health – but greater resource rights to forest and pastures are also needed to address deforestation. Climate smart agricultural technologies such as solar irrigation can help improve crop yields, but the technology needs to be complemented by with improved access to markets so that farmers can sell their produce. 

In both cases the new technology might be the attractive hook for investors but other tools also have an impact: Helvetas has developed a Guideline to help small-scale businesses analyse climate risks and identify market opportunities

Moving beyond tokenism

Socially transformative approaches require interventions to engage all relevant groups. Women remain disproportionally vulnerable to climate change, but gender responsive approaches cannot just work with women. Engaging men and women in dialogue enables communities to tackle underlying causes of disadvantage and vulnerability – particularly where they relate to traditional household roles. 

Transparent decisions with multi-stakeholder platforms increase the robustness and complementarity of climate responses: CBA12 debated how to move beyond the nominal inclusion of women or community representatives in decision making forums, and instead create truly meaningful multi-stakeholder engagement in resource allocation. While this is seen as critical to delivering better development responses, it takes time to build trust and capabilities.  

CBA12 welcomed women from grassroots organisations as active participants. These women told us that being able to contribute their stories helped to build their confidence in speaking out – and other delegates said these contributions had helped to keep CBA12 discussions grounded in lived experience.

CBA12 also explored how engaging young people in tackling climate and gender issues offers real potential for fundamental change, as young men and women can be effective change agents. Noreen Nampewo from Uganda's Women’s Natural Resource Governance Institute set out the importance of inclusivity in tackling climate change in this video interview, recorded at CBA12

So those of you discussing in resilience and the SDGs in New York could usefully focus your attention on how to ensure finance reaches the front line of climate action.

CBA12 highlighted how important it is to invest in institutional approaches that engage the range of perspectives in local communities – men, women, and young people from different parts of society. And CBA12 also showed how private finance can be mobilised for delivering climate smart technologies. These lessons can help to identify priorities for resilient development, ensuring every penny invested is used effectively and efficiently.

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