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FEATURE: Vulnerable communities lead the way on adaptation


By Saleemul Huq, CDKN Asia Advisor and Senior Fellow, IIED

As climate change impacts begin to hit mostly poor and vulnerable communities in developing countries around the world, some of those very communities are leading the way in both adapting to the adverse climate impacts that are already occurring and in building adaptive capacity to tackle long-term climate change.

Some of these communities are located in different parts of Vietnam, where over three hundred international delegates from sixty countries recently met at the sixth international conference on community based adaptation (CBA6). The conference was preceded by three days of field visits to see CBA activities squaring up to challenges faced in different regions of Vietnam:  salinity in the Mekong delta in the south, the hurricanes in coastal regions in Central Vietnam and landslides in mountains in the north. The international delegates evaluated the different CBA projects and awarded a special “Solidarity” prize to the best one which was a project by children in the North of Vietnam to combine disaster risk reduction and adaptation to climate change.

The international and Vietnamese delegates then met for four more days at the conference in Hanoi where they shared experiences and research on different aspects of CBA including agriculture, water, economics, monitoring and evaluation.

The theme for CBA6 was “Communicating CBA” and a variety of traditional and social media was used to spread the information to thousands of people around the world through blogs, tweets and webcasts

This being the sixth in a series of annual CBA meetings it also represented a step change in the knowledge and experiences on CBA. Some of these advances in understanding include:

  • Adapting to climate change is best based on good community based development as well as disaster risk reduction (DRR) but needs to go beyond traditional development or DRR to include links to climate science and longer term planning.
  • Many of the most vulnerable communities are also the poorest but quite often even richer communities can be equally or more vulnerable to climate change impacts.
  • Some of the most vulnerable communities can, paradoxically, also be quite resilient to climate impacts as they have long experience with such impacts. Successful CBA should thus build on the communities’ innate resilience to strengthen it.
  • Although communities in the poorest developing countries are amongst the most vulnerable to climate impacts, increasingly there are communities in developed countries such as Canada, Australia and Europe who are also vulnerable to climate change.
  • CBA activities first started in rural communities but increasingly urban communities are also being affected and CBA activities are now contributing to efforts to build climate resilient cities.

As the world increasingly has to face climate change impacts, we will all have much to learn from some of the poorest and vulnerable communities in the poorest countries who are leading the way in tackling and adapting to climate impacts.

Saleemul Huq is Senior Fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development in London and Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University, Bangladesh in Dhaka. For more blogs on the 6th Community Based Adaptation Forum, click here.

We occasionally invite bloggers from around the world to provide their experiences and views. the views here are those of the authors, and not necessarily those of CDKN.

Image: CBA6 Solidarity Award winners – courtesy of Save the Children

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