This article was originally published on the CFR website on February 18, 2019

CDKN caught up with Patty Miller, the Adaptation Fund’s Environmental & Social Safeguards Expert, for a basic guide to the AF’s environmental, social and gender requirements – and how the AF can help Implementing Entities to meet the requirements. Interview by Mairi Dupar, CDKN.

MD: The Adaptation Fund Board approved a new Environmental and Social Policy in 2013 and a Gender Policy in 2016. In these relatively early days of applying the policies, can you give us an overview of what is required?

PM: The environmental, social and gender requirements of the AF are composed of the Environmental and Social Policy, which has 15 principles, and the Gender Policy and action plan. These requirements are assessed and managed through an Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS).

This system is really no more than having the means (capacity, staffing, budget) to identify risks and impacts through an assessment process; and to implement measures through an Environmental and Social Management Plan (ESMP) to manage and reduce risks and impacts in a measurable way through on-going monitoring.  This process also includes conducting on-going consultation with affected communities.

Let’s start with the principles: the 15 Environmental and Social principles were developed based on the 15 highest risk issues we see when climate change adaptation projects are designed and implemented. In brief, they are:

  1. Compliance with the law; 2. Access and equity; 3. Marginalized and vulnerable people; 4. Human rights;  5. Gender equality and women’s empowerment;  6. International Labour Organization’s core labour rights; 7. Indigenous peoples;  8. Involuntary resettlement; 9. Protection of natural habitats;  10. Conservation of biodiversity;  11. Climate change;  12. Pollution prevention and resource efficiency;  13. Public health; 14. Physical and cultural heritage;  and 15. Land and soil conservation.

All the detailed guidance for how to screen for these risk issues and then incorporate risk reduction measures – both in the accreditation process and in the project development process – are published on our website. By the way, it is highly unlikely that a single project will encounter each of the 15 risk issues but more likely only a small subset will be applicable.  But let me give you a sense of how it works.

Based upon the types and level of risk and or impact identified through the assessment process, using the 15 risk issues as a guide, the applying organization should define whether the level of risks of the climate change adaptation project or program are:

  • Category A – likely to have significant adverse environmental or social impacts that are for example, diverse, widespread, or irreversible;
  • Category B – potential adverse impacts that are less adverse than Category A because they are fewer in number, smaller in scale, less widespread, reversible or easily mitigated; or
  • Category C – no adverse environmental or social impacts.

Organizations are required to prepare an ESMP that lays out how they will actively manage the risks and impacts. They are expected to integrate the ESMP into their ongoing operations and to update it, if needed, through ongoing monitoring. In fact, the AF requires organizations to not only prepare an ESMP but to commit to implementing it – as a condition of funding. It cannot simply be a paper exercise.

MD: Can you give us an example of how an Implementing Entity has flagged up environmental and social risks and how these have been addressed in its project plans and implementation?

PM: Yes, a good example of a risk matrix and action plan was shared by our Costa Rican colleagues Fundecooperación para el Desarrollo Sostenible in a recent webinar. They found that the biggest risks to their project would be around complying with the country’s latest labor and water laws. Specifically, when they were applying for funding, Costa Rica had a new labor policy. The new labor policy along with the existing water management laws could lead to confusion over who had rights and access to water resources  .

Some of the mitigating actions taken by Fundecooperación were: to carry out workshops with executing entities about the new National Labor Policy involving specialists in the topic; to hold workshops about human rights; and to work among the different institutions related with water management to clarify the different laws and how to request permissions from different stakeholders. You can read more about Fundecooperación’s ongoing project in the Costa Rica Adaptation Story.

MD: How about gender specifically?

PM: As we say in our gender policy document, the AF takes a human rights-based approach to gender equality and women’s empowerment: women’s rights are human rights!

And we are clear about looking for the opportunity for AF-funded adaptation projects and programmes to promote gender equality – that’s to support the equal right of men and women to access and benefit from the Fund’s resources in order to increase their adaptive capacity and reduce their vulnerability to climate change impacts.

How will we do this? Well, part of it is about providing women and men with an equal opportunity to build their climate resilience, address their differentiated vulnerabilities to climate change, and increase their capabilities to adapt to climate change impacts. We also recognize that considering a bias or historical or social disadvantage due to gender roles or norms, targeted efforts may be needed to ensure women’s participation and voice in the decision-making process.

We place a heavy emphasis on stakeholder consultation during the project preparation phases and throughout the project lifecycle  and it’s important that this should be done in a gender-sensitive and/or gender-responsive way. We want grantees to apply a gender lens from the very design stage of their adaptation activities.

Our gender guidance document has really practical suggestions for how they can do this – everything from holding separate men’s and women’s meetings and consultation meetings in mixed groups, considering the local culture, at the consultation stage, considering how meetings could be timed and arranged to promote women’s participation, and looking at how to partner with national bodies that are specifically tasked with women’s empowerment.

Of course, the gender lens should also carry through into a gender-responsive implementation and monitoring system. As well as the guidance document mentioned above, readers can see our recent webinar slides for more information.

The Planning Institute of Jamaica recently shared their experience of addressing gender and other social and environmental dimensions into project activities – you can read about it here. They convened independent technical panels for “sub-projects and activities that involve serious and multidimensional social and/or environmental concerns” and they provided gender training to both the internal project team and to external stakeholders they were working with.

MD: It could be a lot of work to monitor and report back on all the risks identified. How detailed does the tracking need to be?

PM: The yearly monitoring and reporting to the AF – whether it’s on environmental and social risks or on gender specifically— will be carried out as is detailed in the ESMP and which should also include on-going meaningful consultations with their project beneficiaries.

If risks change or if new impacts are identified after a community consultation for example, the Environmental and Social Management Plan would have to be updated and the AF informed. We’d also expect the results of monitoring to inform future initiatives.

MD: Can the AF give entities any help to strengthen their capabilities to follow the Environmental and Social Policy and the Gender Policy?

Yes, the AF has Technical Assistance grants available to help strengthen the capacity of National Implementing Entities to enhance their institutional capacities to better comply with the AF Environmental and Social and Gender Policies.

These grants could be used to:

  • develop procedures to screen projects for environmental, social and gender-related risks; develop procedures for creating risk management plans;
  • develop policies for public disclosure and consultation that are gender-responsive;
  • create transparent, accessible and fair mechanisms for handling complaints; and
  • train staff.

We can grant up to US$25,000 to National Implementing Entities for preparedness in these areas. Once NIEs already have an environmental and social readiness grant, we can also make a further US$10,000 available for dedicated readiness activities on gender issues. Find more about our readiness grants in our latest webinar slides.


Image: Tanzania, credit CCAFS.