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NEWS: How China and Southern nations can best share adaptation lessons

CDKN’s Carolyn Fry interviews Murray Simpson, of The INTASAVE Partnership & CARIBSAVE, about the findings of the China and South-South Scoping Assessment for Adaptation, Learning and Development

Improving how climate knowledge is incorporated into development planning, enhancing the quality of meteorological data, building sustainable architecture for South-South collaboration, establishing early warning and disaster-management systems, and developing and using more resilient local crop varieties in agriculture are among recommendations put forward by the China and South-South Scoping Assessment for Adaptation, Learning and Development (CASSALD) project. A total of 12 recommendations have been published in the full report of the project, which sought to identify how Southern regions could best share lessons learned regarding climate change adaptation. The document is open-source and is now being disseminated widely among climate change and development practitioners.

The project findings have confirmed that if we, as human society, want to make a real difference to increasing the resilience of developing countries and small island developing states we need to enable south-south cooperation on adaptation, we need to do it immediately and we need to do it at a number of different scales,” explains Dr Murray Simpson, Principal Investigator on the project, CEO of The INTASAVE Partnership & CARIBSAVE, and a Senior Research Associate and Business Fellow at Oxford University.

The project was a component of Adaptation to Climate Change in China (ACCC), a joint initiative funded by DFID and the Swiss Development Corporation. A fundamental aim of this initiative was to evaluate opportunities for collaboration on adaptation and development between China and the southern regions of Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific. The CASSALD project considered how adaptation and development were linked in the following countries: Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia, Grenada and Jamaica, and evaluated their needs, practice and experience in relation to China and South-South collaboration.

All the participating countries had made significant progress in developing and implementing strategies for adapting to climate change. However, progress on implementing those strategies had been limited, due to funding issues and the complexity of the work. The project identified a number of good practices that provide valuable examples that other countries could follow. These ranged from farmers in Jamaica using raised beds to reduce impacts from flooding, to the introduction of drought-tolerant livestock breeds in Ethiopia and the formation of Action Research on Community Adaptation in Bangladesh (ARCAB), which aims to empower people to plan and cope with the impacts of climate change.

Current South-South collaboration includes governments cooperating bilaterally and through regional and international bodies; civil society organisations cooperating bilaterally and through networks; academics sharing and cooperating through research via individual contacts and professional societies; private sector companies engaging through regional and international headquarters; and development partners sharing lessons with country and regional offices around the world. However, most exchanges of climate change adaptation knowledge take place between individuals working for NGOs, development agencies and academia in the South.

The report noted that, with ‘South-South’ cooperation still in its infancy, many gaps exist that more structured collaboration could address. The authors therefore included ‘building the foundations of South-South learning’ among its recommendations. Specifically, they suggested creating a comprehensive report and database to document projects; using regional centres of excellence to create a panel of southern adaptation experts; strengthening institutional links to promote research collaboration between government and academia, and across countries; experimenting with ways to transcend language barriers and improve understanding of diverse country contexts; and ensuring adaptation programmes are driven by demand and long-term thinking.

The recommendations are about reducing vulnerability, increasing resilience, addressing poverty and the Millennium Development Goals, and promoting sustainable development in general, says Dr Simpson. “The funding for facilitating the work is going to have to come from northern donors but it’s not just about money; it’s about methods and approaches of cooperation, collaboration, learning and development. It’s also about scaling up from a community level and downscaling from a regional or national policy level. In the years to come, the communities, economies and future generations of developing countries and small island developing states will benefit significantly from such collaboration.”


CDKN was not involved in the CASSALD project but is partnering The INTASAVE Partnership & CARIBSAVE on two other major projects; Global Islands Vulnerability Research, Adaptation Policy and Development (GIVRAPD) and Caribbean Climate and Development Research Managing Partner project.

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