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NEWS: CDKN announces extension to 2017 – interview with Sam Bickersteth

This week, CDKN celebrates new funding  – and a time extension. Mairi Dupar, CDKN’s Global Public Affairs Coordinator, interviews Sam Bickersteth, CDKN’s Chief Executive, about the good news and what it means for the programme.

CDKN has received some good news this week – tell us more.

CDKN was set up in 2010 as a five-year programme of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID); the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided further funding. The UK’s International Climate Fund has just agreed to extend CDKN to March 2017. This is really good news.

During the four years that we’ve been in business already, we have offered research, knowledge-sharing and technical advisory services in more than 70 countries – with more intensive programmes in a dozen of those countries and one sub-region.  CDKN’s extension means that instead of winding down this year, we can keep operating at the same scale to respond to developing countries’ knowledge needs around climate compatible development.

Will CDKN be working in much the same way – or will anything change?

Our donors are giving us a signal that they want CDKN to become a longer-term entity with multiple donors, instead of just a time-limited UK-Dutch programme. This is very positive indeed. Now we can start thinking about and planning for a longer future for CDKN with a wider range of partners.

We expect the challenges of climate change to continue. There’s a big job to be done. We hope it is not permanent — but realistically, we know that the work of designing and delivering climate compatible development will need organisations like CDKN for many years to come.

So, what exactly will CDKN be doing in the next three years?  

First, we will build on our success in supporting a limited number of countries committed to building a climate resilient path out of poverty: we’ll deepen our existing country programmes and enhance relationships with governments, the private sector, civil society and research organisations to promote implementation of climate compatible development.

Second, this extension from the International Climate Fund allows us to provide full support to developing countries in and around the critical international  climate discussions now and through to the end of 2015, including those on climate finance.

Third, it enables us to continue to link our research and knowledge with practitioners in developing countries. This has been an area of success for CDKN in the past years. We want to build on this way of working by responding to immediate knowledge needs, and providing rich evidence to policy-makers and practitioners in developing countries.

Fourth, we’ll be exploring with new donors how CDKN can provide a platform for effective, scaled up action on climate and development and take steps to establishing CDKN as a more permanent institution.

What are CDKN’s focal countries and– how has it chosen them?

CDKN has worked in over 70 countries but we’ve focused our engagements primarily in 12 countries (Bangladesh, Colombia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, Rwanda, and Uganda) and the Caribbean region.  We don’t expect that number to increase significantly.

We have a geographic focus because we believe there needs to be a programmatic connection between research and knowledge and the policy process, and this, in turn, needs a concentration of resources. We’ve helped create such a bridge,  in these focal countries and one sub-region.

There’s another reason why we’ve chosen these countries: leaders have articulated their research, knowledge and policy gaps clearly. They are prepared to take action nationally on climate compatible development, and to engage in the international climate debate and policy processes.

You talk about CDKN’s ability to bring high quality research results into policy and practice – what’s an example that stands out for you?

We have had a great partnership with the city of Ahmedabad, India on responses to extreme heat events. Here, we have worked with the Indian Institute for Public Health, Natural Resources Defense Council and US-based research organisations. The research revealed a strong correlation between extreme heat and high levels of morbidity and mortality for vulnerable populations in the city. For example, it has highlighted the high vulnerability of certain groups, such as pregnant women, the elderly, and outdoor workers such as traffic policemen. It has proposed specific actions, such as building shelters for shade, and changing working patterns, which would reduce the health risks to such groups.

The research has been so well presented that the city of Ahmedabad has now adopted a heat health action plan to reduce impacts in the future hot season. It is a great example of how high quality research can be applied quickly to development challenges, with potentially life-saving results.

What are the main things you have learned about climate compatible development?

CDKN is a programme with more than 180 live projects at present. We have learned a lot about managing high quality, good value work that responds to the needs of developing country decision-makers. We can now say with confidence that we have a record in delivering a complex array of projects, from which we draw lessons for wider impact.  In all of this, we’ve made sure to maintain strong lines of accountability to both the recipients of our knowledge and advisory work in developing countries – and to our donors, as we are taxpayer-funded.

Whilst we are well supported, our resources are still limited relative to the huge global task of achieving  climate compatible development. That means we need to target our resources carefully. Making sure there is political demand for knowledge about climate change and development, and the desire to draw on this knowledge to inform action, is key to success.

To hear the latest stories from CDKN’s programme for climate compatible development, watch our new films:

Climate compatible development: Voices for change

The gender dimension to climate compatible development

Image: Ahmedabad residents, who are benefiting from the CDKN-supported heat health action plan, courtesy Indian Institute of Public Health.

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