Friday, December 3, 2010

Opinion: How to build capacity for climate-resilient development

Capacity building is an ongoing process through which individuals, groups, organizations and societies enhance their ability to identify and meet development challenges like climate change.

Climate resilient development is about communities resisting, absorbing and recovering from the effects of hazards in a timely and efficient manner, preserving or restoring their essential basic structures, functions and identity

Climate change is a major threat to all aspects of human development. The poorest and most vulnerable communities are already experiencing the impacts of climate change in across the world especially in the Least Developing Countries and small Island States.

The need for capacity-building to assist Parties to the UNFCCC, especially developing countries, to respond to climate change has long been recognized in the Convention’s work on such issues as technology transfer, national communications and funding.

Hence, as a cross-cutting issue, the current talks in Cancun and the multitude of side events actually show intentions to build capacity of a wide range of actors at local, national and global levels to be able to adapt their development efforts with the climate change challenge.

Capacity building comes in a number of forms including provision of finance through global public and private-led initiatives, training and knowledge provision, technological options, enabling participation of local communities and indigenous communities, and procurement of infrastructure and equipment, among others. This might in turn not yet the desired intentions.

However, though capacity building should be looked at as a form of ‘readiness’ to climate resilient development, how it is planned by the various agencies needs to be more coordinated, sustainable and relevant to the target groups in the effected countries.

Amongst all these, finance is the taken as the panacea to address the rest for example through the UN FCCC Adaptation fund. But I think that provision of finance per se cannot be a ‘silver bullet’ for capacity building without the support of the other components.

In other words, we need to think deeper and try to answer a number of questions that include the following:

- What is the rationale for the capacity building: is it about technology transfer, training of middle managers, communities or CSOs. In other words who is the target of this capacity building and what are the investment requirements?

- If this target group is an intermediary (NGO, Government agencies) how can we secure that it will pass on the knowledge and skills to the eventual target group (local communities, farmers and indigenous groups that interface with the effects of climate change on a day to day basis?).

- Could there be innovative and more efficient ways of reaching out directly without going through the intermediaries? For example, would web-based learning option be one?

- How is this capacity building to be delivered? Are we to depend on the sophiscated models tools and other kits in energy use, agriculture, water supply? Have we established what else has been tried out and worked and have not worked for lessons (as a starting point)? Is it soft (training and skills) or hard ware (technology and equipment) that is needed?

- What institutions will deliver capacity building in the long-run? Would South – South linkages to set up regional institutions be part of the option especially for the more sophiscated training needs like GHG inventories; adaptation & vulnerability assessments including documentation of climate change experiences?

- Are there ready institutions that are able to monitor / follow up the training provided at national and local levels, which can be supported right from the start of any intended capacity building initiative?

- How can we harness the available open opportunities in form of ICTs to promote climate resilience (information sharing on possible energy, transport, building and other technological options, enabling sharing of experiences amongst local communities and states, facilitating the regular generation of views and opinions of local communities and Indigenous peoples to feed into negotiations and other levels of decision-making)?

In other words, capacity building as part of ‘climate change readiness’ means wider locally and nationally generated plans (for example on adaptation) supported by a sustainable source of finance to ensure climate-resilient communities.

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