Transitioning from ‘community-based’ to ‘locally-led’ adaptation
A decade has passed since the establishment of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) when some young researchers decided to know more about the story and progression of the organization.
ICCCAD started its journey with the primary focus on climate change adaptation, especially on the community-based adaptation (CBA). The poorer communities are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change with less capacity to adapt to the shocks and stresses of climatic hazards.
CBA emerged as an adaptation approach in the early 2000s that involves working with these marginalized communities to identify, aid and implement appropriate community-driven adaptation techniques to address climate change (Forsyth, 2013). Thus it stresses on ‘action research’ and knowledge sharing so that different actors and communities can learn and adapt by doing (Huq & Reid, 2007).
Over the past 10 years, ICCCAD has collaborated and led numerous projects, activities and events on CBA, and managed to garner national, regional and global attention. However, the story of ICCCAD began with the vision of its founder, Prof Saleemul Huq and intertwined with his personal journey.
Before diving into the ICCCAD journey, we managed to interview the founder and know the story from his end. Prof Huq, an acclaimed international expert on climate change adaptation and development (once known as part of the “Adaptation Mafia”) shared his personal vision to work for the vulnerable community who are facing the direct effects of climate change.
From the viewpoint of a scientist, he saw climate change as a scientific issue, however, the poor are suffering the consequences of the actions of the rich; and this sense of injustice contributed to his involvement in advocacy.
Prof Huq said, “CBA to climate change arose as a means of informing the groups (development NGOs) that are working with the most vulnerable communities.'' While working at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) in London, he started working with the vulnerable communities in the least developed countries (LDC) and built their capacity in the face of climate change.
He pursued the formation of the LDC group in the Conference of Parties (COP) and finally in COP6 the group was formed. Also, he proposed to find partners in LDCs and support them which eventually led to the launch of CLACC program (Capacity Development on Least Developed Countries of Adaptation to Climate Change).
The CLACC fellows from different LDCs worked on the ground and were, subsequently, capacitated to enhance the competence of their host institutions which led to the development of awareness and actions on adaptation in their nations. In Bangladesh, Prof. Huq was one of the pioneers to promote the concept of CBA with Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS) and groups of multidisciplinary scientists.
From the interest of Prof Huq to develop a research centre in Bangladesh, an informal discussion ensued between IIED, Independent University Bangladesh (IUB) and BCAS. A tripartite agreement was signed in 2010 to support the establishment of the centre – ICCCAD, with the vision to become a globally recognized institution in the southern hemisphere on climate change and development.
However, the vision needed innovations, execution of actions, and “walking the extra mile for a shared mission” as suggested by the founding deputy director, Ina Islam. Islam worked with Prof Huq to collaborate with diverse actors and built mutually beneficial and sustainable relations across the globe that resulted in offering short courses on “CBA to climate change” to developing an international master’s Programme on Climate Change Development at ICCCAD.
Along with the course, ICCCAD also launched “Gobeshona Web portal”, “Gobeshona Young Researchers Program”, organized CBA conferences and side events in COPs to capacitate practitioners and researchers on climate change adaptations and advocate for the lowest income and most vulnerable people.
The primary focus of ICCCAD has been in the area of climate change adaptation from the very beginning, as stated earlier - with an emphasis on CBA. CBA was embedded in several ICCCAD works and projects such as in Capacity Building initiatives at the local level which ranged from awareness-raising to organising workshops and short courses.
These initiatives were important in capacitating local governments, community leaders and community members to lead local adaptation actions. While the concept of CBA had its successes, it also had limitations and a broader sense of local adaptation was needed for more effective implementation.
Now, recognizing these limitations, experts are focusing on a shift - from community-based adaptation (CBA) to locally-led adaptation (LLA). In locally-led adaptation, it is argued that multi-level local stakeholders should be involved in adaptation, beyond simply ‘based’ in communities, rather wholly ‘led’ by local people and local institutions and it should build on traditional knowledge and coping mechanisms.
This is more of a re-framing around how adaptation needs to be pursued going forward (Westoby et al, 2019). ICCCAD is also onboard - focusing on this shift. For the last two years in the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA), Prof Huq, Dr Musa and Sheela Patel have pushed the idea of LLA.
Prof Huq explained that usually, top-down programs intend to help the poor as beneficiaries or target the poor, but the terms “beneficiaries” or “targeting” are disempowering. So, LLA addresses CBA but for top-down people; for governments and donors to understand and engage with the local governments and communities.
Prof Mizan R Khan, the current Deputy Director at ICCCAD also stated, “LLA is a transition to a wider perspective from CBA, and CBA is included in LLA.” This is also going to be the main theme for ICCCAD’s work in future. For instance, from next year, the annual event of ICCCAD - the Gobeshona Conference will become a 24-hour online event that would provide an opportunity for greater coverage for global climate change issues, especially on locally-led adaptation.
While the online modality is insinuated by the Covid-19 pandemic, ICCCAD is rather optimistic to utilize the virtual landscape to make a more impactful and broader presence in the global platforms on climate change.
The shift toward online allows ICCCAD and local organizations to easily traverse the world, acquire knowledge and enhance their capacities to learn and lead effective adaptation strategies to combat climate change.
In addition to capacitating communities, developing individual and institutional capacities can enable societies and nations to work hand in hand to address the effects of global warming and compounding risks from the pandemic, man-made and natural disasters.
Challenges have always been there and will continue to persist. However, it has to be a collective effort to overcome and swim against the tides of challenges. One of the major transitions of ICCCAD as an institution is that it was long known as Prof Huq’s institution, but ICCCAD is gradually emerging with its own identity in the global platform.
Internal and external collaboration and capacity building, innovation, knowledge generation, mutual learning and learning from mistakes can be some of the keywords for ICCCAD in its relentless journey to redefine climate leadership; from CBA to LLA.
As Prof Huq mentioned in his interview that in locally-led adaptation, the most important term is “led”. It’s locally-led when the local is leading, and this is the argument in the paradigm shift that is happening with the global community.
Samina Islam is working as a Junior Research Officer at ICCCAD.
Adiba Bintey Kamal is working as a Project Associate at ICCCAD.
Mahmuda Akter is working as a Research Officer at ICCCAD.
Ali Mohammad Rezaie is working as a Research Coordinator at ICCCAD.