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FEATURE: Postcard from the 2012 Asia Adaptation Forum

Ali T Sheikh, CDKN Asia Director, reports from this year’s Asia Adaptation Forum in Bangkok 12-13 March 2012 and reflects on how we can make sure the knowledge sharing and learning extends beyond the conference venue.

Just months after the tragic flooding in Bangkok caused the Adaptation Forum to be postponed at the very last minute, the organisers pulled off a bigger and better event than ever.

It was great to see such a large event, with over 800 participants, focused completely on what adaptation means for Asia. The climate change fight will be lost or won in Asia. Some of the largest and growing GHG emitters are neighbours of the most poor and vulnerable countries in the world. If adaptation works here, it can work everywhere.

And it certainly gave me hope to see all the home grown talent from the region represented. There are hundreds of NGOs and researchers testing out new approaches to adaptation at the grassroots level.  Donors and agencies are funding cutting edge research. CDKN also supported the participation of policy-makers at the forum who showcased the innovative adaptation policy frameworks they are putting in place.

The challenge is how to connect all the exciting work that is happening.

Events such as the Adaptation Forum are important in convening the major stakeholders, exhibiting their work and showcasing best practices. The upcoming Community Based Adaptation (CBA) Conference in Hanoi in April will also provide another opportunity for the sharing of knowledge and experience among partners.

However, these events are only part of the solution. They are expensive and time consuming (not to mention the carbon footprint) and so we need to find additional innovative and low cost ways of communicating between partners. And communicating should only be a first step. Ultimately we should be aiming to learn from, build on and replicate each other’s best practices.

CDKN showcased at a panel session on knowledge management for adaptation one example of how we are pioneering a partnership based approach to our work.

When CDKN began in 2010 we had the ambition of being a ‘knowledge broker’ with a website that is the first stop for all climate change news and information. However, we quickly realised that this ambition is shared by many, and the internet is full of climate change knowledge portals. Many are excellent, but many are working in isolation, duplicating efforts and are under-resourced.

So CDKN shifted tracks and focused instead on connecting knowledge brokers to optimize resources and expertise.

We brought together 21 of the leading initiatives within a knowledge brokers group and mapped out who is doing what and where collaboration is possible. The result is fantastic and there is now a dense web of connections between the partners. CDKN is helping this along by funding 7 collaborative projects involving 17 of the initiatives.

The Adaptation Forum also highlighted to me that we need to go beyond national and regional partners talking among ourselves, to communicating and sharing with communities and policy-makers at the local level. Most knowledge sharing initiatives are at the regional level, and usually online and in English. These will not easily reach a district official in Nepal or a panchayat (village government) leader in India.

At a side-event CDKN organised in Bangkok on ‘Opportunities for Bridging the Gap between Policy and Research on Climate Compatible Development’ a policy-maker explained why going the extra mile in terms of knowledge sharing is so important.

“…Policy is made by politicians and politicians will be more interested in what their voters are saying, than what an expert is saying at an international conference. Unless communities and local leaders understand why climate change is important to them and what options they have for adaptation, they will not put pressure on policy-makers….”

So we should use knowledge management to connect experts to policy makers to communities, using both vertical and horizontal connections.

We showcased at the Adaptation Forum our work with the Nepal Climate Change Knowledge Management Centre (NCCKMC) which is trying to do this in Nepal. Through this centre, the Government of Nepal is hoping to get international expertise on climate change translated, documented and shared in a form that is relevant and accessible to district level officials and communities. A CDKN project underway in Madhya Pradesh in India is testing the use of radio as a tool for local experts, policy-makers and communities to communicate and mutually learn from each other on their climate change realities. There are many more excellent examples that need to be scaled-up.

I leave the Adaptation Forum with a lot of hope about the expertise that exists in the region and confident that slowly, and in isolated cases, we are on the path to climate compatible development. However, I also leave knowing that to speed up this pace of progress we need to become much better at learning from each other at every level.

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