Call for a robust mechanism to ensure the effective implementation of Locally-led Action

Bangladesh has been practicing local adaptation techniques for generations to adapt to climate change risks. This photo illustrates the long-practiced floating garden agriculture in Bangladesh. Photo: The New Humanitarian

How to frame and strengthen an effective MEL of LLA on the ground?

Most of the dynamic and innovative adaptation solutions around the world are developed by people and communities living at the forefront of climate change. These solutions are generally locally-grounded and context-specific as local people remain in the main driving seat of action. Yet, those same people often lack access to resources and power to implement locally derived solutions. To equip and enable these local communities, Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) has adopted the “Locally-led Action” (LLA) track among its total eight tracks in the flagship Report called “Adapt Now”, published in September, 2019. These action tracks have also launched a ‘Year of Action’ to scale up climate adaptation solutions.

The concept of LLA refers to the set of actions planned to address the direct and indirect impacts of climate change. These actions have to be decided by local actors (community-based organizations, local government, local private sector) rather than being determined exclusively by higher level authorities, following a top-down mechanism. It goes beyond only “community participation” or “engagement”. Instead, it focuses on localizing initiatives by involving local actors to develop solutions that are context-specific, efficient, democratic, and accountable to and for the poorest and the most vulnerable people.

The recently published flagship report ‘Adapt Now’ of GCA also highlights the importance of LLA. It advocates for increasing the volume of devolved and decentralized funding available to local governments and institutions to identify, prioritize, design, implement, and monitor solutions. These institutions are believed to be better placed to give vulnerable and excluded communities greater agency over how they can develop and adapt to climate change, shifting from being beneficiaries to leaders.

To strengthen locally-led action (LLA), the global adaptation community has also agreed to collaborate in stimulating “locally-led” initiatives. LLA goes beyond merely “community-based” practices as adaptation actions need to be “locally-led” and not limited to “communities.”

However, the question of assessing long-term sustainability and effectiveness of these initiatives are yet to be decided. These gaps pave the basis for developing robust monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) mechanisms to retain LLAs on the ground. This mechanism should be efficient enough in measuring the progress of actions in both quality and quantity as well as ensuring local actors at the core of interventions. It should also enable local people to equip themselves in such a way that they can sustain their initiatives over the long-term.

Analyzing the long-practised Community-based Adaptation (CBA), several gaps can be highlighted to strengthen the MEL of LLA. For instance, top-down adaptation planning and its associated M&E frameworks often fail to capture an accurate picture of what works on the ground. Studies have shown a lack of transparency around the knowledge and learning needs of different stakeholders, who engage themselves in investing CBA projects and fundamentally influence M&E outcomes. Hence, if MEL is to provide critical support to the process of identifying what works, the question of who MEL works for, demands more significant consideration. Also, donor-driven projects often only focus on representing value for money and results of interventions for upward accountability purposes. This viewpoint provides a useful lens to rethink perceptions of appropriate stakeholders and scales to be acknowledged in the MEL practice of LLA.

On August 25, 2020, LLA partners discussed several potential principles on the LLA track. These principles mostly highlighted the potential of a devolution mechanism that can help the decision-making process of most affected by climate change; enabling simple, predictable and greater access to funding sources by local actors; strengthening local institutions to build long-term capacity to enhance resilience; provision to address structural inequalities that create vulnerability to locally-led adaptation; building a robust understanding of the potential climate risk and uncertainty; transparency and accountability of the interventions and finally a coordinated action and investment mechanism by various stakeholders, for instance: donors, governments or others to address all climate risks or vulnerabilities.

[quotes quotes_style=”bquotes” quotes_pos=”center”]”This mechanism should be efficient enough in measuring the progress of actions in both quality and quantity as well as ensuring local actors at the core of interventions”[/quotes]

To measure the progress of various interventions under the LLA track, there is a higher need to develop robust indicators to assess the principles. Regarding this, LLA partners also discussed several potential indicators to monitor and evaluate them. The indicators could include projects or programs that articulate the rationale for the level of subsidiarity of decision making of local-level actors for adaptation design; quantity or percentage of different measures implemented that address structural inequalities.

Also, indicators are essential to understand whether the situation of a program supports institutional capacity development or the number of interventions that highlight the traditional and local knowledge in developing solutions. It is also necessary to articulate programs or project’s long-term vision to assess the sustainability of the interventions.

However, as financial support is an essential factor, robust indicators are necessary to understand the flexible funding application in different programs. Also, to ensure and enhance transparency and accountability mechanisms, indicators are needed to analyze programs that have established and used local accountability mechanisms.

At the same time, the local actor’s participation in the national or regional decision-making processes can help to evaluate their integration in policy-making processes. Strengthening the partnership across public, private, and civil society actors can also ensure the inclusivity of various actors. Hence, indicators can also be developed to assess these partnerships as well as analyzing the accountability of decentralized adaptation decision making at the local level. However, these indicators are not a means of an end in itself. Instead, a comprehensive and integrated discussion is required among the multiple LLA stakeholders to modify, add, or alter these sets of indicators in alignment with the future LLA principles.

Besides the monitoring and evaluation strategies, it is also essential to incorporate and highlight the learning from various programs and interventions to strengthen the future MEL of LLA. Often, donor-driven MEL does little to integrate or incentivize learning for LLA. As a result, they fail to capture lessons that could be cascaded upwards to steer funding flows towards better results on the ground.

Hence, to ensure an effective MEL framework, projects must engage local communities in participatory monitoring, evaluation, and learning activities from the start and integrate their learning and information needs throughout the project cycle. Donors and aid agencies must recognize the role of bottom-up learning and make space for learning at all levels. Lastly, higher emphasis should be given in building trust and ownership among national to local level partners to initiate a participatory MEL mechanism to assess the progress of LLA and ensure a robust as well as a sustainable model on the ground.

Originally this article was published on September 28, 2020 at Dhaka Tribune.

About The Authors

Farah Anzum  is a Research Associate of International Centre for Climate Change & Development (ICCCAD)

Prof. Saleemul Huq is the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD)