Adaptation Fund Side Event Showcases Environmental and Social Policies in Helping Ensure Focus on Most Vulnerable
Fiji Assistant Environment Minister Cites Fund Projects to Vulnerable Communities
Bonn, Germany (November 11, 2017) — An Adaptation Fund side event during the COP 23 UN Climate Conference in Bonn brought together speakers from Fiji, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Tanzania and the World Food Programme to discuss concrete examples of Fund projects to the most vulnerable communities and applying environmental and social principles that further enhance adaptation actions.
The November 9 event opened with a speech from Hon. Lorna Eden, Fiji’s Assistant Minister for Local Government, Housing and Environment. Fiji serves as the COP 23 Presidency and has brought an inclusive vision to the conference focused on the most vulnerable countries.
“With rising seas, extreme weather events and changes to agriculture, Fiji, the Pacific Islands, other small island developing states (SIDS), least developed countries and vulnerable nations are bearing the brunt of climate change – endangering lives and livelihoods,” she said. “We must accelerate climate action and the goals of the Paris Agreement, not only in mitigation but in adaptation to alleviate suffering, reduce vulnerability, risk and loss, and build resilience in communities. With a focus on the most vulnerable, the Adaptation Fund is in a unique position to help. Its portfolio includes 15 projects in 14 SIDS [which] benefit nearly 900,000 direct beneficiaries and [are] restoring over 8,000 hectares of natural habitat.”
Fiji’s Ministry for Local Government, Housing and Environment serves as the executing entity for the recently approved US$ 4.2 million Adaptation Fund project in Fiji implemented by UN-Habitat focused on helping highly vulnerable informal urban settlements in riverbanks and coastal lands adapt to climate change and disaster risks. It will increase the adaptive capacity of 6,000 people, including at least 50 percent of whom are women. Natural ecosystems will be restored to lower vulnerability to climate change, and project measures are selected through a community-based process that includes development and management of environmental and social safeguards.
“It means a great deal to Fiji, which is prone to cyclones, sea rise, flooding and droughts,” Hon. Assistant Minister Eden added. “The project will strengthen institutional capacity to enhance local climate responses. We appreciate the Adaptation Fund’s environmental and social policies to foster human rights, gender equality, marginalized and vulnerable groups including indigenous communities, as well as biodiversity and natural habitat conservation, toward enhancing Fund projects. They support Fiji’s spirit of inclusiveness and participation to achieve positive results for the common good.”
Adaptation Fund Board Secretariat Manager Mikko Ollikainen said the Fund’s forward-thinking Environmental and Social Policy adopted in 2013 has also been praised by the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment as a potential model for a similar mechanism called for in the Paris Agreement.
Ruth Spencer, a member of the technical advisory committee for another Adaptation Fund project implemented by the Department of Environment in Antigua and Barbuda, discussed how it is benefitting many poor, marginalized single women, their children and disabled persons in heavily flooded areas of Antigua’s Northwest Coast Sub-Watershed that has been devastated by recent storms. The project includes building climate-proofed shelters and water storage facilities with a special focus on community participation and incorporating local knowledge. “The people know when the rains start which homes and areas are most affected and things that science and technology can’t provide,” she said. “The project takes into account their way of living and they are integral to it.”
Meanwhile in Argentina an Adaptation Fund project implemented by the World Bank to enhance climate resilience and sustainable land management in Southwest Buenos Aires Province includes a participatory approach to identify and pilot concrete adaptation measures focused on water, crops and livestock management, as well as increasing knowledge awareness and local capacity building to reduce farmers’ vulnerability. The project includes cross-cutting environmental and social compliance strategies and trainings.
“Participatory involvement is key to ensure ownership and to ensure change and sustainability,” said Joaquín Etorena, of Argentina’s Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development, the project’s executing entity. “We involve people in the action and management of the project.”
Etorena said people are now engaging in environmental and social development programs in Argentina not because they have to, but because they are proud of them.
Dr. Tania Osejo Carrillo, Climate Adaptation Specialist for the World Food Programme (WFP), discussed a project in Ecuador funded by the Adaptation Fund aimed at enhancing climate change resilience of vulnerable communities and food security in Pichincha Province and the Jubones River basin. She said a vulnerability analysis identified adaptation needs and resulted in community approaches that incorporate traditional and indigenous knowledge into adaptation plans, as well as trainings in gender equity, nutrition, adaptation and resilience. It has improved water access for 3,700 families and water consumption for 2,200 families. Early warning systems are being strengthened, and 4,800 farmers are implementing sustainable agricultural practices.
“Gender considerations and indigenous knowledge have been incorporated in local plans, leading to better management of soils and water resources because of this participatory community approach,” she advised. “The adaptation measure [also] has practical solutions due to the active participation and access to decision-making of women’s groups on the ground.”
The experience with the Fund also led WFP to adopt two new policies this year addressing environmental impacts and protection.
Fazal Issa, Programme Officer for ForumCC in Tanzania, a member of the Adaptation Fund NGO Network, spoke of the importance of civil society in facilitating stakeholder engagements around projects and raising awareness of how best to utilize environmental and social policies to enhance projects and ensure their focus on the most vulnerable.
“It’s great to see the environmental and social policies working in action, and making sure that the projects delivering concrete results to the most vulnerable communities in developing countries do not have negative impacts on the environment or people,” Ollikainen said. “The Adaptation Fund pioneered Direct Access to empower vulnerable countries to build capacity and take ownership of projects, and this is another innovative aspect of the Fund that responds directly to countries’ unique adaptation needs.”
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Since 2010, the Adaptation Fund has committed US$ 462 million to support 73 countries, with nearly 5.5 million direct beneficiaries.
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