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FEATURE: First Pan-African Workshop to support domestic institutions accessing climate finance.

A database of experts, the establishment of domestic funds, support for project management, and an increase in communication were some of the desired outcomes from a Pan-African workshop – a first of its kind that brought together existing and prospective accredited agencies to explore challenges and opportunities faced by African countries trying to access climate finance through the UNFCCC’s Adaptation Fund to support domestic institutions accessing climate finance.

The workshop, hosted in July, by the Heinrich Boell Foundation, the National Environment Management Authority of Kenya (NEMA) and the Secretariat of the Adaptation Fund (AF) brought together existing and prospective accredited agencies under the Adaptation Fund (AF) as well as practitioners and experts of domestic climate change funds.

The Adaptation Fund pioneered direct access to channel adaptation resources to the most vulnerable people. Direct access means that domestic institutions are responsible for programme development, implementation and oversight, contrasting the traditional model where projects are often handled through external UN agencies or multilateral banks. A necessary step to accessing funds through the Adaptation Fund is accrediting a national institution as a National Implementing Entity (NIE). Accreditation as aNIE requires the institution to undergo a check at international level to ensure fiduciary standards, transparency and ability to deliver projects. NIEs also have to prove their capacity to screen and manage environmental and social risks of proposed projects.

The workshop itself started off as a “marketplace”. The different African institutions that had already gained status as implementing entities under the AF presented on their experiences, challenges and successes. While some posters and materials didn’t have the glossy touch that one would often see from big international organisations and their communication teams, they provided a picture of hands-on experience in adaptation and confidence that the relatively modest money that comes through the Adaptation Fund direct access (the AF caps country interventions at 10 million USD) helps countries to build their own adaptation ideas, institutions and visions.

Acquiring direct access, however, is not a simple task. While the African continent is leading in establishing such institutions (in fact six out of 16 accredited NIEs are African), experience has shown that the process is often lengthy, and that after accreditation was achieved, the project development faced difficulties. The workshop went a long way to identifying challenges and exchanging solutions, discussing improvements to policy requirements and shaping concrete ways to help countries and institutions in acquiring direct access status.

Supporting their visions of green growth and climate resilience, countries such as Ethiopia and Rwanda presented the features of their domestic funds. Domestic funds take the concept of direct access even further, because they transfer not only the project oversight and implementation, but also the funding decision-making to the national level.

It is clear that early investments by countries into direct access under the AF should be rewarded by the GCF. The discussion at the next meeting of the GCF Board to fast-track already accredited institutions such as those under the AF will provide an important signal. On the other hand direct access is not only a matter of getting a few administrative procedures right. In the context of the Adaptation Fund, institutions are tracked against their responsiveness towards vulnerable communities. For the GCF the yardstick will be the contribution towards a paradigm shift for a country to low carbon and climate resilient societies. In-country leadership, ownership, and translation of fund objectives into a national vision are a necessary prerequisite for project and programme success. Direct access has the potential to play a strong role in that regard. However, it also comes as a responsibility for the country, reflecting for example in the level of engagement and transparency of decisions around selecting national institutions for direct access or funding decisions in general.

Germanwatch’s role in this context is together with the likes of CDKN and other African partners of the Adaptation Fund NGO network, to conduct a research report, detailing country challenges and success-stories around the direct access pathway of the AF, implementation by multilateral agencies and domestic funds. The objective is to distil recommendations relevant for AF and GCF decision-making, national practitioners and organisations working in readiness activities. The report will be launched at the end of the summer.

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