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Civil Society and Climate Change: Some Ill Winds

Tom Grubisich's picture

Will civil societies be real as opposed to figurehead partners in what are sure to be numerous climate-adaptation projects in developing countries in the decade of the 2010s?  Accumulating comments from DM2009 finalists who have had experiences dealing with governments in their countries suggest the question is, at the very least, an open one.

Ann Kendall, whose Cusichaca Trust project in Peru was a winning DM entry, had this to say: "Currently NGOs [in Peru] are undervalued, with exclusion from paid participation in government programs because of the support of some activists to communities in some notably conflictive situations."

To be eligible for international donor-country funding that's beginning to gather momentum post-Copenhagen, Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are mandated to give highest priority to partnering with civil society in developing their National Adaptation Plans of Action (NAPAs).  Completed country plans generally pledge there will be such partnering, but here's what DM2009 finalist Nazrul Islam, Country Director in Bangladesh for the finalist project of RELIEF International, said: "Certainly we would love to be part of the [Bangladesh] NAPA since my project perfectly fits into the government's current agenda to educate people about climate change. Since the government agencies themselves will implement most of the projects, I am afraid it would be a little challenging for civil society organizations to join directly in this NAPA."

From Brian Peniston of the finalist project in Nepal developed by the Mountain Institute: "My experience is that host governments will only share resources with NGOs under duress."

In this mini-interview, Carlos Daniel Vecco Giove, whose Native Community Kechwa Copal Sacha project in Peru was a winner at DM2009, offers further corroboration that there are problems, but holds out some hope:

Q. Is your country in its adaptation program doing enough to develop capacity -- knowledge and learning -- among government and civil society organizations?

A. Definitely it isn't doing enough. The level of knowledge is very low among politicians and they aren´t able to design adequate politics to adaptation.

Q. Is the national government really listening to local communities in preparing adaptation plans and strategies?

A. Definitely it isn't. The government imposes programs and it usually doesn´t listen to local communities.

Q. Since you returned to Peru from DM2009, do you plan to work with government so that your project might be incorporated in national adaptation efforts?

A. Yes, we will do so. We hope to improve knowledge and sensitize politicians and urban people. We have good relations with technical units within regional and local governments and we are sure they will participate actively in our project.

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