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FEATURE: Ready for take off

2010 will go down in history as a year of extreme weather conditions, set against the backdrop of climate change. Whether it has been record-breaking temperatures or devastating floods, several country infrastructures have reached near collapse as humanitarian tragedies wrought havoc around the world. These events were not all categorically confirmed as outcomes of climate change but give us a strong indication of what could now become a more common, global ‘norm’.

In my view, it could not be a more timely moment for CDKN’s country engagement to progress. Over the last month, I have been speaking to our Asia Director, Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, and his team based in Pakistan. The country is currently trying to cope with the impact of the worst flooding in its history. Speaking to Ali, at the frontline of this tragedy, the consensus is stronger than ever that preparing for this type of disaster is central to policy-making, and that strategic planning and capacity building is needed now and fast! This sits at the heart of what the CDKN can offer, and at the request of the Government of Pakistan, our alliance organisation LEAD Pakistan is taking the lead to develop a set of five policy briefings in the run up to the Cancun Climate Conference in December. The briefings will focus on keys areas such as country vulnerability, mitigation, technology transfer, appropriate technology and REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). Ali also updated me on a series of country diagnostics, which are underway in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

A National Climate Change Strategy for El Salvador

Extreme weather conditions, like Cyclone Agatha in May this year, have also prompted high-level political meetings across Central America, including countries such as El Salvador. There, climate change is a central theme for the government of President Funes and, with the Coordination of the Minister for the Environment and several secretaries of state (including health and agriculture), the government is working to define a national strategy to address the impact of climate change and define adaptation policies.

Dr Rosa Chávez, Minister for the Environment, has asked CDKN to support the development of the National Climate Change Strategy within the context of the government’s priorities, for example in addressing disaster reduction. Our Latin America Director, Yolanda Kakabadse, and the Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano (FFLA) team will facilitate an initial series of strategic meetings in El Salvador, scheduled for late September, to identify priorities and requirements.
Final thoughts

Back in London we have just completed the latest CDKN management team and network council meetings, the fourth in all since the project began. The three days of meetings give our geographically dispersed and culturally diverse teams the opportunity to meet face to face, and have been vital in building a sense of shared purpose and injecting momentum.

On this occasion, as we draw to the end of the inception phase, our emphasis was very much on developing new opportunities and continuing to scale up our capability to meet these challenges. A key theme of my time as CEO has been the move to decentralise as much as we can to the regions. This means developing strong local teams in each of the three continents. We also spent a good deal of time ensuring that each of the regional teams met with each of the four output leaders (covering technical assistance, research, knowledge management and partnerships) on a bilateral basis in order to develop consistent objectives and better mutual understanding.

The CDKN team has a bright future but many challenges lie ahead. We really are at take-off point. I’m leaving on a (well-deserved, I would say!) sabbatical, which will include a stay with my family in Cameroon, and contribute what I can on the ground to my father’s community health-focused NGO.

In my place my colleague from PricewaterhouseCoopers, Jon Sibson, will be sitting in the CEO hotseat while our new permanent CEO waits to start. I’ve really enjoyed my four months on the project: I’ve learned a lot and made plenty of new friends. It only remains for me to pass on my best wishes to Jon, the new permanent CEO (soon to be announced) and the team for the future. It has been a privilege to have been involved in the set-up of such an exciting and worthwhile initiative.

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