Time to enhance global support to the most vulnerable communities

People collect metal sheets from a damaged supermarket to re-build their destroyed houses following the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, on March 21, 2019. PHOTO: YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP

The massive cyclone Idai that devastated Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe last week has destroyed 90 percent of Beira, the second biggest city in Mozambique. This was a cyclone of unprecedented severity for that part of Africa and has been rightly attributed to human-induced climate change by the scientific community.

Hence, we are now unequivocally living in a post-human-induced-climate-change world, and things will only get worse unless the world steps up its efforts to keep the global temperature below 1.5 Degrees, which is still possible but only if the efforts are not just doubled but quadrupled.

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has called a Climate Summit in New York on September 23, where he has only invited leaders of countries, provinces, cities, companies and civil society organisations to come with Action Plans and discuss how to enhance actions. Climate change deniers are definitely not welcome!

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been invited and has accepted the invitation. This is a tremendous opportunity for her to showcase Bangladesh’s journey from climate vulnerability to climate resilience.

One specific aspect of this topic, which Bangladesh can claim to have played a leading role in, is on Community Based Adaptation (CBA) which started in Bangladesh almost 15 years ago and has grown into a very substantial global community practice over those years. This community of actors meets every year to share their experiences and brings together several hundred participants from around the world. The next (13th) annual conference will be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in the first week of April and will have a substantial contingent from Bangladesh participating and sharing our experience with other countries.

Another important development that will occur at the Climate Summit in New York in September is the handing over of a major new report on enhancing support for adaptation from the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA), which is headed by Ban Ki-moon, Bill Gates and Kristalina Georgieva from the World Bank who are preparing a report with a number of Action Tracks that will be further pursued by the GCA through 2020 onwards.

One of these Action Tracks is likely to be on Supporting Local Adaptation including Community Based Adaptation and this could be the track that Bangladesh can be the champion of—both by practicing it in Bangladesh as well as by sharing its knowledge and experience with other countries, especially the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

One opportunity for doing so would be by the prime minister inviting the heads of the GCA to come to Bangladesh in January 2020 for the annual Gobeshona Conference on Climate Change that has been held for the last five years primarily as a national event, but could be made into an international or even a global event from next year, where we invite the rest of the world to come and learn from Bangladesh’s experience in adaptation at the local level.

Another opportunity is to find a solution to one of the major bottlenecks and barriers to getting global funding for adaptation to the most vulnerable communities in the most vulnerable developing countries. Global climate funds such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF) have made laudable board-level decisions to support the most vulnerable communities in the poorest and most vulnerable developing countries, but have failed miserably in actually delivering on that promise. One of the reasons for this failure is that the traditional agencies like the multilateral banks and UN agencies are geared to fund national governments and find it difficult to reach the grassroots.

So alternative financial delivery mechanisms must be found, and Bangladesh has the biggest NGO in the world, namely BRAC, which now operates in at least 20 LDCs with major programmes delivering funding from global funds to local communities for development purposes. BRAC is now developing its capacity to support Community Based Adaptation in Bangladesh as well as other countries where it operates. BRAC has the ability to receive a billion dollars from global funds and deliver it in small amounts to thousands of communities in many LDCs while maintaining both stringent fiduciary monitoring as well as technical assistance.

A third element of South-South capacity building to tackle climate change is the LDC Universities Consortium on Climate Change (LUCCC), which is an official initiative of the LDC Group, and is coordinated by the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) based at the Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB).

Hence the next twelve months are a great opportunity for Bangladesh to become a global leader in promoting local-level adaptation both in Bangladesh as well as globally, with an emphasis on South-South capacity building for other LDCs.

Originally this article was published on April 01, 2019 at  Daily Star. The author Dr. Saleemul Huq is the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB).
Email: saleemul.huq@icccad.net