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DM2009 Finalist and Government: A Disconnect?

Tom Grubisich's picture

In the quickly evolving world of adaptation to climate change in developing countries, staying connected is critically important to the DM2009 finalists, both winners and non-winners.  As Aleem Walji, the new Practice Manager at the World Bank Institute, said in a recent mini-interview on this blog: "What can we do to connect these hundred finalists to everyone who we know who can help them go forward -- funders, capacitybuilders, past DM winners, each other. The real power is in networks and linking communities of practice. Our comparative advantage at the Bank is our ability to convene people and create connections between the DM community, other parts of the Bank (lending operations, for example), jurors, winners, and finalists, past and present. The power of that community could be muchgreater than any prize we can award."

It is very likely that funding for climate adaptation funding in developing countries -- particularly the 49 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) -- will increase significantly in the wake of the U.N.-sponsored international climate change negotiations that begin next week in Copenhagen.  One impetus will be new documentation of the need in coming decades -- US$100 billion annually, according to a new World Bank analysis.  Another is that the National Adaptation Programs of Action that have been produced by most of the LDCs are moving to the implementation stage. 

Can the DM2009 finalists who didn't win connect with their countries' NAPAs?  In many cases, the fit would seem to be perfect -- the big picture provided by the national government and all-important community focus by (mostly) community-based NGOs and entrepreneurs.   But government bureaucracies can put up walls that prevent that from happening.  The predicament was detailed in a 2008 World Bank report, which looked at the situation in rural communities, where most adaptation in developing communities has to take place, almost everyone agrees: "Despite the critical role of local informal institutions in rural communities' adaptation, they are rarely supported by government and external intervention."

I received this email today from Nazrul Islam (photo at left), Country Director in Bangladesh for RELIEF International, who was one of the five finalists -- all non-winners -- from Bangladesh:

"Since I came back to Bangladesh from the DM, I have been finding ways to locate resources and partners to continue this project. I am also trying to get in touch with the relevant agencies with the govt of Bangladesh dealing with the NAPA. Certainly we would love to be part of the NAPA since my project perfectly fits into the government's current agenda to educate people about the climate change. Since the government agencies themselves will implement most of the projects, I am afraid it would be little challenging for civil society organizations to join directly in this NAPA . Nonetheless, we can continue to interact with the government agencies and encourage them to take benefits of the expertise many CSOs have developed over the years to tackle the climate change. I also thought the World Bank's country office in Bangladesh could possibly join us in advocating for these five finalist projects and help us motivate the government to integrate these projects into the NAPA."

The RELIEF International project would help local media publish news that educates millions of their readers, listeners, and viewers in low-lying areas about flooding and other risks that climate change brings and how they can better protect themselves when disaster strikes.  Project details are specific in contrast to the more general language of the US$7,050,000 education project that Bangladesh has included in its NAPA.

Let's see what the World Bank can do about creating productive connections between RELIEF Interntional and the Bangladesh government, and, maybe other finalists and governments.

Second Chance for Bangladesh DM2009 Finalists?

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Bangladesh, the most populous Least Developed Country (160 million people), was represented by five finalists at DM2009.  That's not surprising, because Bangladesh, with its heavily populated and low-lying coastal region, is especially vulnerable to climate change in the form of more frequent and intense cyclones that cause widespread flooding (photo).  However, none of the five Bangladesh adaptation projects won. But there may yet be some hope for them.  The objectives of all five appear to dovetail with much bigger adaptation projects that the Bangladesh government has identified as high priority and is seeking to fund through its National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA).  Perhaps more significant, the DM2009 finalist projects provide specific details that aren't in the general projects of the Bangladesh NAPA.

The projects that made it to the DM2009 finals would:

 

The total cost of these early-stage projects is under US$940,000 -- a fraction of the nearly US$20 million estimated cost of five similar high-priority adaptation projects identified by the Bangladesh government in its National Adaptation Program of Action. Those more general projects would provide for:

  •  Purification of contaminated drinking water.
  •  Emergency shelter, information, and assistance, mainstreaming adaptation in agriculture, and
  •  Development of eco-specific adaptive knowledge.

 

Bangladesh is seeking at least partial funding of those projects through the Least Developed Countries Fund administered by the Global Environment Facility.  But another Bangladesh adaptation project -- coastal afforestation -- has completed almost all steps for approval.  That US$23 million project would get LDCF funding of US$3.72 million -- about as much as Bangladesh could expect to receive in toto, considering the Fund's present limited resources of US$150 million which have to be spread among 48 other LDCs. But LDCs will be lobbying for the developed countries to contribute more to the Fund at the U.N.-sponsored climate change negotiations that begin next week in Copenhagen.  A recently published World Bank analysis says all developing nations, including LDCs, would have to spend US$100 billion annually on climate change adaptation for decades to come to avoid falling behind in their economic growth.

The Bangladesh finalists were not the only ones who didn't win at DM2009.  But Bangladesh is, by far, the biggest member of the LDCs.  Furthermore, Bangladesh is one of the six countries that are being studied for funding under the World Bank's Pilot Program for Climate Resilience.  Funding, which includes pledges from developed nations totaling US$546 million, is earmarked for projects that are part of each recipient country's NAPA.   Those five DM2009 finalists should go all out to get themselves included in Bangladesh's NAPA.  They would fit perfectly.

Indigenous Knowledge +Science and Technology = DM2009 Winners

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Nine DM2009 winners will use the centuries-old knowledge of Indigenous Peoples to adapt to destructive climate change -- but often leveraged with modern science and technology.

Here's how old and new will be joined in several winning projects in Latin America:

  • Peru -- Agricultural production in four communities in the Amazonian Basin (total population: 1,500) will be better managed through a combination of ancestral knowledge of the Basin and biomathematical computer simulation model and geographic information system (GIS)-based "micro-zoning" of the communities' ecology and economics. 
  • Colombia -- Traditional knowledge, aided by GIS and the sciences of ecology and biology, will be used to protect 207,000 hectares of native forest for a combination of conservation, housing, hunting, fishing, and gathering, traditional farming, and preservation of sacred places for community rituals. 
  • Costa Rica -- Ancient knowledge of adjacent valley and mountain ecosystems will be rescued and melded with mapping and other technology to help valley inhabitants of Bajo Chirripo to better cope with flooding caused by storms whose frequency and intensity are expected to increase with climate change, and to improve their present subsistence income. 
  • Peru -- Indigenous knowledge systems on how to adapt the native potato to changing climate will be combined with modern plant breeding to help communities in Potato Park in the High Andes to adapt to rapid climate change with weather-resilient plantings. 

 

Most of the finalist and winning projects that would help Indigenous Peoples were based in countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the intellectual property rights of indigenous communities against "biopiracy" and related theft have won more legal protection -- a clear signal for what needs to be done in other regions to protect indigenous rights.

Poor People's Knowledge: Promoting Intellectual Property in Developing Countries
, edited by J. Michael Finger and Philip Schuler (2004, World Bank and Oxford University Press), is a detailed primer on the issue, including an examination of the controversial World Trade Organization (WTO)-administered Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement), which indigenous communities say is unfair to them.

Least Developed Countries and DM2009

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The DM2009 competition, whose theme was adaptation to climate change, especially how it impacts the poor and vulnerable on the local level, would seem to have been the perfect fit for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), especially those in Sub-Saharan Africa.  The poorest countries are expected to pay the highest price of climate change on their human, natural, and economic resources.  With generally weak capacity in regional and national government and infrastructure, they would seem to be well suited for the early-stage, community-focused projects of DM2009.  In fact, criteria for National Adaptation Plans of Action for LDCs give No. 1 ranking to "a participatory process involving stakeholders, particularly local communities."

But the fit proved less than perfect.  The 49 LDCs worldwide produced only 26 of the 100  finalists.  Only four were winners -- two from Sub-Saharan Africa (Burkina Faso and Ethiopia) and one each from Middle East and North Africa (Djibouti) and East Asia and the Pacific (Samoa).  Five finalists were from the most populous LDC -- Bangladesh, in South Asia -- but none of those was a winner.  LDCs Tanzania and Uganda -- two of Sub-Saharan Africa's most populous countries -- had only three finalists between them, none of whom was a winner.

Is it too late for the 22 LDC finalists who didn't pick up crystal globes at the Nov. 13 awards ceremony?  Maybe not.  According to most recent findings, the 49 LDCs globally aren't making enough progress in pinpointing potential local climate adaptation projects. 

What if the 10 LDCs from which the 22 non-winning finalists come took a close look at those projects and considered them for funding in their National Adaptation Plans of Action?  Some DM2009 jurors said they had a tough time choosing winners because all the finalists presented strong entries.

Development Marketplace's decision makers are looking at ways to help all the finalists succeed.  Aleem Walji, Practice Manager at the World Bank Institute, which includes the secretariat for the Development Marketplace consortium and other innovation platforms, said in a mini-interview on this blog: "I think we have a responsibility to try and support this entire community of finalists.  We went from 1,750 applicants to a hundred finalists.  What can we do to connect these hundred finalists to everyone who we know who can help them go forward -- funders, capacity builders, past DM winners, each other."

For themselves, their projects, and their countries, the 20 non-winning finalists from LDCs should keep their hope in their hearts.

How a Coconut Becomes a Shield Against Climate Change

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Indigenous Peoples have been contending with destructive weather like cyclones, flooding, and drought for centuries -- as the development community has sometimes belatedly discovered.  Nine of DM2009's winners are projects that tap into that special know-how to help indigenous communities survive the increasingly destructive weather that climate change brings.

Indigenous know-how is invariably practical and low-cost -- like the winner from Samoa.  That project would build three traditional Samoan houses -- called fale, for "open house" -- as models of "safer, accessible, resilient, and sustainable housing."

Here's how a fale is built, as described in a fascinating story on the East Asia & Pacific website of the World Bank: The structure is "lashed and tied together with afa -- an organic sennit rope. Afa is made by twisting together the fibers of dry coconut husks. The lashing work is traditionally done by elderly men while women make the thatch for the domed roof of the fale – either from coconut palm leaves or sugar cane."  (Photo after recent rain shows 80-year-old Pousea, ceremonial house in Samoa that was restored by DM winner Afeafe o Vaetoefaga Pacific Academy of Cultural Restoration, Research, and Development two years ago.)

World Bank and Adaptation: The Need to Think Small

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A  revealing interview at DM2009 was the one of Ian Noble, a top World Bank expert on climate change, and member of the World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change team who was also a DM2009 juror.  Noble was questioned by Habiba Gitay, Senior Environmental Specialist at the World Bank Institute, about the big development projects that the World Bank has traditionally fostered and financed and the micro-sized, early-stage or seed projects (up to $200,000 in value) that are part of the Development Marketplace competitions. Noble's answers underscored how the Bank, in responding to the destructive impacts of climate change on the people and natural resources of developing countries, is increasingly thinking small about adaptation projects.

"Ultimately, adaptation is going to be carried out by individual people, households, small communities," Noble answered.  "So one of the challenges of the World Bank is to shift out-sourcing to that level.  This is a huge, rich body of information flowing into the World Bank from Development Marketplace, especially in the case of this [competition].  With the tension between community-based adaptation and adaptation funding at the national level, a bridge has to be built [between the two]."

 

Innovation Needs More Than Money to Succeed

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Innovative adaptation projects, like those featured at DM2009, hold enormous potential for blunting the adverse impact of climate change in developing countries, while also helping to reduce poverty and build social value.  But to achieve their potential, these projects have to be scaled.  Money is important for projects to get beyond their early or seed stage.  But money alone isn't enough -- as already succcessful project leaders emphasized at the Nov. 12 DM2009 panel "Taking an Idea to Scale" (photo at right: panelist and competition juror Anne Marie Moeller of Humana People to People India).  To succeed, panelists emphasized, innovative projects also have to be firmly planted within their communities, understand local needs, find partners with whom they develop solid cooperation, and be supported with staff who are both dedicated and skilled.

 

To help put all the pieces together and effectively link adaptation to development on a scale of broad replication, the World Bank Institute is, among other things, reshaping itself as a "knowledge broker" that connects projects with the right people and institutions within the development community as well as with governments.  Aleem Walji, the WBI's new Innovation Practice Manager, talks about this in his mini-interview below, as well as in his introduction to the "Taking an Idea to Scale" panel (video link above).  There are more details in this WBI statement about the the new strategy under Institute Vice President Sanjay Pradhan.

 

Aleem Walji on Development Marketplace

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Aleem Walji is the new Innovation Practice Manager at the World Bank Institute, which includes the secretariat for the Development Marketplace consortium and other innovation platforms.  He is former Head of Global Development Initiatives at Google.  The peripatetic Walji sat down for this mini-interview as DM2009 was winding up:

Q. Development Marketplace stresses innovation, both in projects it seeks and how they're evaluated.  Why is innovation so important?


A. The need for solutions, and fast, is urgent.  Business as usual is simply not sufficient.  We’ve got to look at new ways of doing things -- things that have worked in one part of the world that may work in another part of the world, or are entirely new.  We put out a call to the world, particularly the developing world, to say what are your ideas, what are you doing, what can you do? How can we support you, adapting to a rapidly changing climate? This competition was to shine a light on those ideas.

Q.  We hear a lot about scale.  What does it really mean?

A. Scale is a term often used and misused.  When I think about scale I think about a pathway to reach the maximum number of people possible.  It doesn’t necessarily mean an organization has to become extremely large for an idea to scale.  It could mean that an idea is adopted by a small organization but relevant and replicated by other groups in other parts of the world. When I think of the Development Marketplace, we want to get to the point where we can connect early-stage ideas to the people, money, and partners who can help see ideas through to execution and grow them to their optimal levels. 

Q. What factors are important for success? 

A. In many ways we’re really betting on leadership, we’re betting on people who we think are going to deliver an outcome, and are going to be flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances.  The projects will change, they will adapt, they will grow.  What we’re really talking about is how do we position our winners to be able to benefit from our support, then really leverage it, along with partners.  We want to be connectors in an ecosystem.  We want to be connectors in a cycle of growth and scale.

Q.  Most of the DM2009 projects came from NGOs and academic institutions.  There weren’t very many from entrepreneurs...

A.  This is a little bit of concern to me.  When you look at the viability of any project it has to have a pathway to sustainability, and commercialization is one pathway. When there are ideas that can be commercialized and have revenue models that can be sustained, that is a very positive sign.  For those that don’t, there have to be other paths to viability like public-private partnerships for example.  For those that don’t have one or the other, I worry how they will sustain themselves.  That's where partnerships becomes key and our role in creating an "enabling ecosystem" of seed funders, debt financiers, equity players, and capacity builders is very important.
 

Blogs, Other Sites Follow the DM2009 Story

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DM2009 has been drawing attention from climate-change-related and other blogs and websites around the world.  In "The Dirt," published by the American Society of Landscape Architects, web content and strategy manager Jared Green -- who was also a juror for the DM2009 competition --  published this post about some of the winning finalists. Green's post was picked up by the Sustainable Cities Collective blog.

Some of the attention came from abroad -- the site the Austrian Network for Information and Communication Technologies for Development and -- in France -- Actualités News environnement.

Climate-L, which is produced by an international team of climate change experts with funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, published this article.

Words That Echoed Across DM2009 Competition

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“I came here thinking of my people.  I leave here thinking of our planet.”

That's how finalist winner Carlos Daniel Vecco Giove of Peru summed up what DM2009 meant for him.  (Vecco was honored for his proposal to aid the Amazonian indigenous populations in his country in adapting to rapid climate change.)

Vecco's stirring words echoed around the floor of the competition, on up to the podium during the Friday, Nov. 13, awards ceremony, where a rapt audience heard Warren Evans, Environment Director of the World Bank, say: "Let me share with you what I heard that one of our finalists who traveled here from far away said this week."

One way or another, the other finalists expressed the same thought -- if not in so many words, then in the potential for their projects to bring innovative but practical climate adaptation not only to their target community but to people and places across regions and countries...to the whole planet.

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