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OPINION: Capacity development is key to aiding smart decision-making


Dr. Beatrice Mosello, from the Overseas Development Institute, shares her experience of the recent Water, Climate Development Programme training workshop in Addis Ababa, and her optimism for the integration of water security and climate resilience into development planning in Africa.

While Europe was trapped under the first winter snow, I had the privilege of travelling south to sunny Addis Ababa in order to attend the Water, Climate Development Programme (WACDEP) Training of Trainers Workshop. It was organised by the Global Water Partnership (GWP) in Africa, NIRAS and UNDP-GEF as part of the “Building capacity for climate resilient decision-making in water investments” project. The choice of the workshop venue conveys a strong signal: Ethiopia is Africa’s second largest country by population (currently home to some 90 million people with an annual population growth rate of 3.2%), and is also highly vulnerable to climate change, since 80% of its workforce is  employed in the agriculture sector. In the past, the country has been victim to droughts and severe food crises, which have prompted the government of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to act. In 2010, Ethiopia established the Climate Resilience Green Economy Initiative (CRGE) aiming at capacity development, improved access to markets for agricultural products, and enhanced rural infrastructure, including the provision of roads, irrigation schemes and market facilities. In virtue of this initiative Ethiopia has assumed a leading position in Africa as far as climate policy is concerned. Hence, what better venue to discuss communicating the need for integrating water security and climate resilience into development policies and programmes to policy-makers?

African countries have long been recognised as particularly exposed to climate change. Water has long been recognised as a key means through which climate change impacts on human beings, livelihoods, societies and economies. Water is at the heart of development objectives: without water, agricultural productivity cannot be increased, health and sanitation objectives cannot be met, and ecosystem services cannot be maintained. I could go on and on with this list. Far from being an isolated challenge African countries have to deal with, climate change adds to existing and future socio-economic pressures, threatening the achievement of development goals.

It is from these considerations that GWP-Africa developed the Water, Climate and Development Programme (WACDEP), with the objective of supporting the integration of water security and climate change adaptation into development planning processes and the design of financing and investment strategies for these development goals. In 2012 the programme was endorsed by the African Union (AU) and the African Ministries Council on Water (AMCOW).

The basic idea underlying the implementation of the WACDEP Programme is that African policy-makers ought to be able to develop their own adaptive capacity. To this end, GWP, in collaboration with UNDP-GEF, have elaborated a Capacity Development Initiative, and the Training of Trainers (ToT) workshop that was held in Addis Ababa from 25-29 November 2013. It was also an opportunity to review the capacity development materials prepared by NIRAS to support workshops at country level, starting as of January 2014 until the end of next year.

Approximately 80 participants filled the shiny conference rooms of the Capital Hotel, located in dusty Haile Gebre Silasse Street in the heart of Addis Ababa. Participants were drawn from Burkina Faso, Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda, Zimbabwe. Amongst the participants were the National Training Coordinators who are overseeing the delivery of the training programme in their respective countries. Other participants were part of their country’s Capacity Development Teams, which manage the implementation of the training programme. Donors and supporting organisations were also present. The first and last days of the workshop were attended by all participants. The three days in between were divided into two sessions; one focusing on mainstreaming water security and climate resilience into national development plans, and another focusing on the economics of adaptation. Thematic lectures were alternated by presentations, breakout groups and discussions. The rich-in-sugar tea pauses and traditional Ethiopian lunches were great opportunities for participants to share their country-specific experiences. The fragrant Ethiopian bunna (coffee) was crucial to keep participants going for the entire workshop.

Throughout these intense days in Addis Ababa, participants agreed that conveying the importance of integrating water security and climate resilience into development objectives to policy-makers is both crucial and difficult.  Some of the challenges faced by African countries in this sense were highlighted. Policy-makers are often overwhelmed by priorities other than climate change adaptation, such as poverty and conflict. The climate change debate is characterised by too much uncertainty; regional climate models/scenarios do not provide detailed enough information on individual countries. Without a clearer understanding of what will happen in the future, it is difficult to convince politicians (as well as the general public) of the necessity to invest in adaptation actions now. The lack of funding for adaptation only worsens these problems, and translates into the lack of commitment from national and sub-national governments.

But challenges can be overcome, participants agreed. The workshop represented a great opportunity to also talk about entry points and solutions. Future trainers are trained to be able to convey the right message, so that key decision-makers and political authorities in their countries (and hopefully at the regional level in the future as well) understand the importance of taking low- or no-regret investment development decisions that enhance water security and climate resilience. Policy-makers (but also the rest of the population, and particularly young people) need to understand that climate change adaptation is not additional to other development interventions, but complementary. Minimising the adverse impacts of climate as well as socio-economic changes on development interventions through smarter, low-cost investments is a key step towards poverty reduction. The ‘threat’ of climate change does not need to be pushed too hard, especially if there are more pressing challenges to be addressed. It is wiser to present climate change as an opportunity for more sustainable development policies. The key messages participants took home from the workshop can be summarised as follows:

  • Capacity development is a key requirement to aid smart decision-making and build robust and flexible institutions
  • Adapting to climate change will require the mobilisation of financial resources through dedicated multilateral climate funds as well as domestic budgets. Action is required to improve the efficient use of available public funds and secure additional funding. Governments need to make use of partnerships and networks with other governments, regional bodies and international actors to access them.
  • Decision-makers are afraid of uncertainty and tend to be risk-averse. Therefore, it is important to have a knowledge management system in place that conveys appropriate information on adaptation priorities and water management processes more broadly. Uncertainty can be best addressed by prioritising no and low regret options, or options that convey benefits no matter what future climate or socio-economic scenario materialises.
  • Current international processes and debates, such as the post-2015 one, need to be exploited to create the momentum for action on water security and climate resilience. For example, a Sustainable Development Goal on water with associated targets for disaster risk reduction could contribute to the objectives of National Adaptation Plans (NAPs).

Overall, participants agreed that building partnerships and engaging stakeholders is the best way to support more resilient development and avoid conflicts and inequalities. On Friday night, on my way to the restaurant to enjoy my last injera and wat, I saw three participants from three different countries exchanging business cards and talking about getting in touch after the first workshop to learn from each other’s experience, I realised that this workshop had been a step in the right direction.

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

CDKN supported WACDEP to design a strategic framework to help senior professionals and decision-makers identify and develop ‘no or low regret’ investment strategies that integrate climate resilience into planning processes. It is currently assisting WACDEP to implement this framework through the development and delivery of training courses to African policy makers.

 

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