An interview with ICCCAD director Saleemul Huq
The annual global climate conference Gobeshona is set to begin for its seventh year on January 18. This year the theme for the conference will be ‘locally-led adaptation.’ The conference will not be held physically in its usual host country Bangladesh this time around, instead taking place online and will run 24/7 contiguously for the 7 days of its duration.
In an email interview with Dhaka Tribune, Saleemul Huq, Director of International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), discussed the conference and its theme in detail. Huq is one of the most influential climate scientists and policy experts in the world.
Why is 'locally-led adaptation' (LLA) important?
The main reason for emphasizing locally-led adaptation is to focus adaptation interventions from being mostly top-down, which is how it happens now, to a more bottom up approach where the 'beneficiaries' or 'targets' of the interventions are treated as partners whose knowledge is recognised and views are taken into the design and implementation of the interventions. The experiences from most top down interventions is that they fail to reach the most vulnerable communities and ignore the experiential knowledge of the communities themselves.
What needs to happen for LLA to take place?
Under the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) which was set up two years ago under the Chairmanship of Ban ki Moon ,former Secretary General of United Nations there was a flagship report on Adaptation to Climate Change. The report produced and launched at the Climate Action Summit convened in New York in September 2019 commenced with eight different Adaptation Action Track of which locally-led adaptation was one of them. This Action Track on locally-led adaptation was taken forward by two of the GCA Commissioners namely, Dr Muhammad Musa from BRAC International and Ms Sheela Patel from Slum Dwellers International(SDI)with support from myself and the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD).
The group working with this track has come up with a set of Principles, to effectively implement locally-led adaptation activities which many international organisations like UNDP and Green Climate Fund have adopted.
What is LLA about who controls/manages the funds?
The funds for supporting adaptation activities around the world comes primarily from national governments in every country with many developing countries also receiving funds from developed countries or through global funds like the Green Climate Fund(GCF), or Multilateral Development Institutions like UNDP.
The LLA Principles do not require the funds to be given directly to the Vulnerable communities, although that is certainly advisable whenever possible, but rather that the fund providers involve the Vulnerable communities in planning and implementation of the projects and programmes.
One example of devolved funding to local groups is the Climate Bridge Fund (CBF) that BRAC is running in five towns in Bangladesh where local groups can apply for receiving small grants directly to help the climate migrants in the slums to adapt. This is based on a 11 Million Euros Grant to BRAC from the German Government through the KfW Development Bank which is used as an interest-bearing Trust Fund from whose interest is used to give the small grants to the community groups.
Is LLA vulnerable to more corruption? Will there be appropriate accountability mechanisms?
All funding channels are potentially susceptible to misuse as well as corruption. However, for corruption to take place lack of information on ‘what is being spent ‘and ‘how’ is essential. For any projects and programs that involve greater community participation, the information on what funds are available and how they are being used needs to be made publicly available, and hence both corruption as well as misuse will be much less.
How can citizens participate and have a say in, to use a broad term, climate actions by NGOs and the government?
Citizens have to play a key role in making effective locally-led adaptation interventions, as it depends entirely on the active participation of all members, especially the most vulnerable including women and children, in the process. This therefore requires effective awareness raising and capacity building efforts prior to even doing the initial consultations. This means that doing genuine LLA is relatively more time consuming, but it is worth taking the extra time to get better results in the end.
Tell us what this year's Gobeshona hopes to achieve.
This year's Gobeshona conference marks its 7th year as an annual Bangladesh based event which we used to host in person at the Independent University Bangladesh (IUB) in Dhaka. However due to the COVID-19 pandemic we are now holding it as a virtual online event and at the same time we are making it into a global event on the theme of Locally-led adaptation and we plan to continue the virtual format for the next ten years of this decade. Hence the goal is to start what we are calling a ten years journey to promote locally-led adaptation around the world, with a global community of practitioners, researchers, funders, governments and many others who wish to join us on that journey.
We will also have an opportunity to provide inputs into the Climate Adaptation Summit (CAS) that will take place on 25th and 26th January immediately after the Gobeshona conference ends.