haka, Bangladesh and Rotterdam, the Netherlands, 2 February 2022 – The Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) today held a dialogue on locally-led adaptation with civil society leaders at a virtual Practitioners Roundtable hosted jointly by the British High Commission in Bangladesh and GCA.
Aimed at developing partnerships, knowledge-sharing and learning from actors on the ground in Bangladesh, a world leader in locally-led adaptation, the event came ahead of the signing of a grant agreement for adaptation action in Bangladesh with the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and the launch of GCA’s Global Hub on Locally-Led Adaptation in Bangladesh.
More than 25 participants joined, representing civil society and other organizations involved in supporting locally led action in Bangladesh such as Water Aid, BRAC, Action Aid, the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), CARE, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and local universities, among others.
The British High Commissioner in Dhaka H.E. Mr. Robert Chatterton Dickson and CEO of GCA Prof. Dr. Patrick Verkooijen delivered opening remarks that ignited the rich, one-hour conversation moderated by Judith Herbertson, Development Director of FCDO in Bangladesh.
Chatterton Dickson pointed to the fruitfulness of holding the roundtable just three months after COP26, since adaptation was a key strand of the climate summit.
“We were reminded by events during COP, just how vulnerable countries all over the world, including the UK, are to climate change and how important the adaptation agenda here is. Bangladesh has been facing hostile climate for longer than almost anywhere else and I think has so much to teach the world,” he said.
Verkooijen explained the main purpose of the Global Hub on Locally-Led Adaptation: to operationalize the principles of locally-led adaptation launched during the first ever Climate Adaptation Summit in 2021, and translate them into concrete programs on the ground.
“It is not about these individual solutions – although they’re important – it is about the scale of the solutions, how can we scale up one particular solution in one particular local community to a much larger entity in Bangladesh and beyond,” said Verkooijen, highlighting that “it’s the scale of things that determines success…but also the speed, how quickly we can move in terms of implementation…we are running out of time in terms of action on the ground.”
GCA has issued a Call for Partnerships from organizations that could support the work of its Global Hub and is currently accepting applications from interested parties.
Verkooijen, who explained GCA currently focuses much of its adaptation work on Africa, cited the example of Mukuru, one of Kenya’s largest informal settlements, which he visited in 2021.
“When you go to the grassroots, there are models which work. Where local communities are empowered, are making investment decisions, are mainstreaming climate resilience. Our intent is to see where it would be useful to replicate the Mukuru example and model to the rest of Africa.” Verkooijen said.
During the open discussion that followed, civil society leaders noted the importance of placing vulnerable groups at the heart of locally-led adaptation.
“When we look at locally-led adaptation, please let us put women and young people at the center, we cannot have any reasons for not doing that…They understand climate change. They are on the frontlines of it. They are experienced and they’re coping and coming up with solutions – whether we call them local solutions or nature-based solutions, it’s happening,” said Farah Kabir, Country Director of Action Aid Bangladesh.
A seasoned expert on locally-led adaptation in Bangladesh, Director of ICCCAD and GCA’s Senior Advisor on Locally-Led Action Dr. Saleemul Huq, encouraged participants to become acquainted with Gobeshona, a knowledge sharing platform for climate research on Bangladesh. Gobeshona has gone global through its annual conference on locally-led adaptation, Dr. Huq explained.
The next conference, whose theme will be connecting the local to the global, will take place from 27th March to 1st April and will include sessions from all over the world. Partners for GCA’s Global Hub on Locally-Led Adaptation will be announced during this event.
“There is now a growing locally-led adaptation community everywhere, including in developed countries…Climate change is happening everywhere, all countries are going to have to adapt. Bangladesh does have quite a lot of experience at the local level, and local people are adapting everywhere, and so local knowledge-sharing is something that can be done globally,” he said.
Other themes explored during the round table were scale, accountability and financing.
“Scale is very important, keeping it low cost, keeping the social capital, embedding that in the design is going to be very important…We also need to ensure that we don’t package traditional development projects as climate adaptation projects. While a lot of local innovation is happening, at the same time, connecting the bigger dots and looking at holistic solutions…is very crucial,” said Asif Saleh, Executive Director of BRAC, adding that “financing and a quick disbursement of funding, is very important because the crisis is ongoing, it’s happening now.”
“Money should go to the local level, that’s a difficult proposition. Money, from whichever source, there must be accountability,” said Professor Ainun Nishat of Brac University. In terms of scale, Nishat explained that activities should cover entire regions, not just one village, part of a village, or a few families.
Women’s rights activist Mahfuza Mala, highlighted that a broad gap exists between climate and gender activists.
“It is very important to make these collaborations very strong. Women activists also have to participate in the climate movement,” she said.
GCA in Dhaka
GCA’s regional office in Dhaka was inaugurated in 2020 by Her Excellency, Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh with His Excellency, Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and His Excellency, Ban Ki-moon, Chair of the Board of GCA and 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations.
GCA is an international organization that works as a solutions broker to accelerate action and support for adaptation solutions, from the international to the local, in partnership with the public and private sector, to ensure we learn from each other and work together for a climate resilient future. Founded in 2018, GCA is hosted by the Netherlands, working from its headquarters at the world’s largest floating office in Rotterdam with a knowledge and research hub based in Groningen. GCA has a worldwide network of regional offices in Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Dhaka, Bangladesh and Beijing, China. Through this evolving network of offices and global and regional GCA teams, the organization engages in high-level policy activities, new research contributions, communications, and technical assistance to governments and the private sector.
Head of Communications, Global Center on Adaptation