‘We are not getting the support we need to lead a better life’: Communities on the front lines of climate change don’t have a say in the help they receive

A woman on her way to repair the damaged embankment in Munshiganj, Shyamnagar. Photo: Abir Abdullah/GTS

VIENNA, 5 April 2023 – People on the front lines of the climate crisis in Bangladesh see the assistance they receive as unfair, insufficient and feel responders don’t listen to their views, reveals research released by Ground Truth Solutions, the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

The report surveys 2,300 citizens in three areas of Bangladesh particularly vulnerable to climate risk – Sirajganj Sadar, Shyamnagar and Golachipa. It sets out how climate-affected people perceive the quality and impact of adaptation programmes in their communities, and the extent to which they feel their views, opinions and experiences are considered in decision-making.

Respondents paint a bleak picture of insufficient assistance struggling to keep pace with dire and worsening impacts of climate change “The support they provide doesn’t help much at all. People don’t want any more rice and lentils. There is no more land to live on. We need better support,” said a female community leader from Sirajganj Sadar. 

While short term relief and improved early warnings are useful, people say the help they’re getting isn’t sufficient, fair or transparent.

People feel left out of decisions affecting their lives. “We’ve expressed our views so many times, but they have never been acted on”, said a man in Shyamnagar sub-district. “Complaining brings danger. If we complain, we will not get any support anymore”, said another from Golachipa.

Only 16% feel they have a say in climate responses. “No one ever comes to listen to us,” said one woman from Sirajganj Sadar. Many say this means there’s a mismatch between support communities receive and their top priorities “No matter how much support you provide, it will not be very effective until you provide a permanent solution to our riverbank erosion problem. Other types of support will not be fruitful as long asthat problem persists,” added a man from the same region.

Some 55% say climate responses are not fair: many vulnerable people are left out and respondents cite favouritism, mismanagement and opaque decision-making. “The distribution is unfair. Well-off people are getting support while poor people like us never get anything,” said one man from Golachipa.

The people who have done the least to create the climate crisis are suffering its worst impacts”, said Meg Sattler, CEO of Ground Truth Solutions. “We are failing in our basic duty to provide them with adequate support as long as we treat them as subjects of and not active agents in climate responses.”

This research makes clear what we have been saying for a long time”, said Saleemul Huq, Director of ICCCAD. “Climate responders make lofty claims about putting affected communities front and centre but those they seek to help don’t feel listened to or like their main priorities are being addressed.”

“We see a huge gap between intentions to engage climate-affected communities in climate response and what happens in practice”, said Aditya Bahadur, Principal Researcher at IIED. “Ground Truth Solutions’ methodology can play an important role in making many areas of climate response more accountable, including driving more locally led adaptation and shaping the emerging Loss and Damage facility.”

Ground Truth Solutions plans to expand this work and use community feedback to hold aid providers to account and change the ways climate support is provided globally.

Over the last decade we’ve worked to ensure community feedback is the key measure of success in humanitarian response”, said Nick van Praag, Founder of Ground Truth Solutions. “There is no time to lose in making the same shift in the climate space, to ensure that scarce resources are being used to tackle the main priorities of those on the front lines of the climate crisis.”


Originally this Press release was published on April 05, 2023 at Ground Truth Solutions Website.