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FEATURE: Partnership with parliamentarians enriches Pakistan’s climate and development debate

A major research project has tailored climate change information for the use of parliamentarians in Pakistan – enabling them to apply new knowledge to some of the country’s pressing social and environmental challenges.  Samavia Batool and Abid Suleri of The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) report.

In Pakistan, high temperatures are due to increase across the country in coming decades, and rainfall will decrease in the country’s monsoon belt. A recent study by Samavia Batool and Fahad Saaed highlights that these changes will adversely affect agricultural productivity. As a result, the decline in production will drive increasing numbers of people out of rural semi-arid areas, unless alternative economic opportunities are provided in villages.

An action research programme, Pathways to Resilience in Semi-Arid Economies (PRISE) looked at how economic development in semi-arid regions can be made equitable and resilient to climate change impacts such as these. As researchers on this project, we have called climate change a ‘national crisis’ for Pakistan: “Recent climate disasters in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014 have demonstrated that, in the absence of policies that promote climate-resilient development, climate change has the potential to multiply existing vulnerabilities and magnify climate risks, and entrench the South Asian nation deeper into poverty.”

Evolving engagement approach brought parliamentarians on board

As an initial outreach approach, our research team undertook a Country Situation Assessment (2015) covering key climate issues in Pakistan, and presented it to policy-makers in the Ministry of Climate Change. We used seminars and personalised one-on-one meetings to highlight key issues.

The effort was well-received, but policy-makers and researchers both felt that there was a lack of evidence on sector-specific climate risks, vulnerabilities and adaptation. Some policy-makers soon lost interest due to the lack of new evidence on key sectors, as most of the policy discussions in which they were involved were sector- and issue- specific.

This response encouraged the research team to delve more deeply into the linked issues of agricultural livelihoods, fresh water dependency and management, cotton supply chains, and internal migration. For example, the team produced major studies on the exposure of Pakistan’s important cotton industry to climate change-related shocks. We found that there are opportunities across the entire cotton value chain to reduce climate-related vulnerabilities – and recommend that the government develops a national cotton sector policy, with multiple measures to boost the sector’s climate resilience.

The team also investigated how government, from the district to national levels, could do more to improve support for internal migrants. For example, government agencies could help households to better anticipate climate-related risks that threaten their livelihoods and take alternative measures to adapt.

Once we had generated initial findings on these sectors and issues, we identified parliamentarians as a key group with the authority to address the complex challenges and opportunities presented.

We engaged some parliamentarians to act as ‘champions’ to disseminate new evidence emerging from the research. These are actors who are not only part of influential, high-level political fora. They are also individuals who we believe can help to voice important policy messages.  They are deeply interested in and willing to build their own capacity on climate change issues. We held one-on-one meetings and focus group discussions to engage and inform parliamentarians on local climate issues and their impacts.

A network of climate champions

The process of targeting ‘champions’ was an important part of the PRISE approach of evaluating, refining and re-evaluating stakeholder engagement processes and it enabled us to update our outcome mapping and learning approach.

It led to the creation of a network of champions with whom we are now collaborating, on an ongoing basis, to support ‘Research into Use’. These champions will help promote the legacy of PRISE. SDPI will continue to provide research support to these parliamentarians on crucial policy issues – even now that the PRISE programme has formally ended:

“Continuous interaction with SDPI and the PRISE research team has allowed me to gain new and useful insights about climate change, its socio-economic impacts and policy action,” said Ms Romina Khursid, the Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change. “PRISE is striving to generate implementable policy solutions for addressing key national climate adaptation issues. I will continue to be its ambassador and take forward these messages for the welfare of women and vulnerable people of this country.”

“SPDI’s research, particularly through PRISE, has been an invaluable asset in helping us discuss and deliberate knowledge-based policy interventions, as well as in identifying and communicating Pakistan’s migration and water challenges effective in international policy circles,” said Mr Malik Uzair, Chair of the Standing Committee on Climate Change.

Lessons for stakeholder engagement

We might sum up our key lessons on stakeholder engagement and Research into Use from the past four years as follows:

  1. A ‘one size fits all’ approach to stakeholder engagement often limits the transfer and uptake of research evidence and information. It is essential that engagement should be tailored to fit the need, capacity and interest of the target stakeholders. A targeted strategy to engage a particular type of stakeholder delivers more – as opposed to a single approach used to target a diverse range of stakeholders.
  2. Engagement strategies do not effectively deliver if they do not take into account changing socioeconomic contexts and behaviours. In other words, engagement strategies should be dynamic and flexible in terms of time, to meet the changing needs of the stakeholders. Be ready to alter your engagement approach with changing socio-political environments and behaviours.
  3. It is also important to recognise that stakeholder engagement is more than just information sharing. Long term partnership building calls for a two-way relationship, which is based on information sharing and feedback, but also trust, respect and open dialogue.

This project was part of the Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA). Occasionally CDKN invites guest bloggers to share their views on climate compatible development. These do not necessarily represent the views of CDKN or its alliance partners.

 

Editing by Mairi Dupar.
Image: Pakistan, credit IRIN.

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