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FEATURE: Lessons for adaptation in Sub-Saharan Africa


By Dr. Richard Munang, Policy Advisor & Acting Programme Coordinator, Climate Change Adaptation & Development Programme (CC DARE), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

The changing climate is no longer an abstract issue, and the realities of its impacts are being felt in the African continent. Climate change is affecting millions of people, and thwarting their efforts to escape poverty. Against this harsh reality, it is imperative to speed up the integration of climate risk considerations into policy, in order to ensure that development proceeds along pathways that are resilient to climate change.

Sub-Saharan Africa lacks the capacity and resources to face these challenges. Because the impacts are already being felt, climate change makes national development planning more complex, overturns previous development efforts, and constricts human survival opportunities. In the wake of the Bali Road Map, shaping the future of adaptation requires approaches that go beyond words into actions, in order to inform policy and guide practices. The effectiveness of these actions will depend on how well they create an enabling environment that empowers people to take ownership of change. Using a flexible implementation mechanism, which engages new actors, can provide the right framework to catalyse synergies between national adaptation activities and facilitate a transition to green growth and resilient development.

In line with the Paris Declaration on aid effectiveness, an enabling environment can be created downstream in the policy process that feeds into policy-making upstream, while taking into account people’s immediate needs. When a beneficiary country drives implementation, with a development agency supporting the process from the rear with technical assistance and financial support, the lessons derived may be used for ‘learning by doing’. The capacity developed in such a process can later help countries establish the necessary institutional, organisational, financial or fiscal, human, and technological measures required for effective climate change responses. These five ingredients are also central to sustainable adaptation actions: they have high multiplier and spill-over effects that can catalyse large-scale policy process at the national level.

Using funds provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, the Climate Change and Development – Adapting by Reducing vulnerability (CC DARE) Programme jointly implemented by UNEP and UNDP supported countries in Sub-Saharan Africa with their priority needs for adaptation. The programme provided targeted and flexible support that helped integrate climate change issues into countries’ development planning and decision-making frameworks. With a combination of upstream and downstream activities stemming from national-innovative solutions, the country-led demonstration actions are supported through technical and financial expertise, and strengthened by knowledge and practitioner networks brought together by CC DARE.

Using this approach has demonstrated how lessons learnt may trigger new actions, and shape national policies to expand the implementation of adaptation. To read the report, click here.

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For more information, contact:

Dr. Richard Munang, Policy Advisor & Acting Programme Coordinator, Climate Change Adaptation & Development Programme (CC DARE), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Phone: (+254 20) 762 5727, Email: Richard.Munang@unep.org

Dr. Johnson Nkem, Policy Advisor, Climate Change Adaptation & Development Programme (CC DARE), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Tel (Office): (254-20) 7624770, Email: johnson.nkem@undp.org

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