Local Solutions for Poverty, Environment, Climate Change, and the MDGs: UNDP’s Approach to Building and Catalyzing Local Capacity and Action

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This presentation was delivered by Veerle Vandeweerd at the 14th Poverty Environment Partnership meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. www.povertyenvironment.net/pep14

This presentation was delivered by Veerle Vandeweerd at the 14th Poverty Environment Partnership meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. www.povertyenvironment.net/pep14

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  • Thank you Manish and Steve, for providing a great contextual framework about the importance of local action to achieve sustainable development. UNDP is privileged to have partners such as WRI and IIED, organizations who have been leaders and key thinkers in the environment and development for decades. This is a very natural partnership, as we have benefitted greatly from our collaborations on research, strategies and publications. The question that follows for many of us, and for UNDP as a development agency is, now that we have recognized the significance of local capacity and action, how do we enact the principles and approaches necessary to empower local actors and build capacities to scaling up?
  • Climate change has revolutionized the way we think about our world and our future. We all know that climate change threatens to undo decades of work to achieve the MDGs, and our work as development and environment practitioners. And the poor are the most reliant on the environment for food security, health, and livelihoods and are particularly susceptible to environmental degradation and the impacts of climate change. And they have done the least to cause this problem.
  • Carbon finance and payments for other ecosystem services is emerging as a potentially powerful new funding source for the environment and sustainable development – creating new markets for environmental services. EEG is investing significantly in tapping into these new global environmental financing mechanisms and has developed a set of facilities with the potential to unleash and redirect resources to sustainable development at the local level
  • Following on from Manish’s and Steve’s arguments on the importance of local action to advance sustainable development outcomes, it is becoming clear that local engagement, capacities and inclusion in climate change adaptation and mitigation is essential for global progress.
  • This slide shows how UNDP is organized to be able to contribute to the Local Agenda. Recently, UNDP’s Executive Board approved a new Strategic Plan.  The Strategic Plan sets an overall direction for UNDP operations in its support to programme countries. As seen here, the Environment and Energy Group is one of five main Practice Groups within the Bureau for Development Policy, which provides advisory and strategic support to UNDP’s Regional Bureaux, Regional Service Centers and 166 Country Offices.
  • UNDP’s overall goal in the area of Environment and Sustainable Development is to strengthen national capacity to manage the environment in a sustainable manner while ensuring adequate protection of the poor. This slide shows the four complementary key result areas (or ‘pillars’) identified to achieve this goal: (1) mainstream environment and energy in national policy; (2) catalyze environmental finance; (3) adapt to climate change; and (4) strengthen local capacity to manage the environment and expand access to environmental and energy services, especially for the poor. The Local Pillar is integral to the success of EEG’s other Pillars   Mainstreaming : Local level involvement in policy and programme formulation, implementation and monitoring is critical to the success of national policies.  Local level best practice can make national policies more effective and efficient and provide valuable opportunities for scaling-up. To be effective, national policies need to be relevant on the ground. Environmental Finance : For markets to provide solutions to sustainable development challenges, local actors on the front lines need to be able to access and must have the capacity to receive and manage environmental finance. I mproved linkages between national governments and local actors will facilitate the flow of international financial resources to flow to the local level, those who need them most and to those most capable of delivering concrete action and impacts. CBA, REDD, the Territorial Approach and MDG Carbon mechanisms will be more effective if they engage and benefit local actors. Climate Change : Communities have been adapting to their changing environments for generations. There is a wealth of knowledge at the local level on adaptation techniques. Support to local actors to scale-up successful community-based adaptation approaches will strengthen national adaptation strategies. Similarly, a successful REDD mechanism requires that local actors are involved in programme formulation, implementation and monitoring. On behalf of the UN-REDD Programme, UNDP is advancing this type of stakeholder engagement.
  • Despite a primarily upstream policy direction, the UN System and UNDP has an historical mandate to work at the local level, dating back to the UN Charter.
  • In addition to a clear mandate, UNDP has d ecades of experience at the local level, (Civil Society Division, Africa 2000, LIFE Programme, Partners in Development Programme). EEG in particular has vast experience at the local level, spread across many thematic areas and programmes, including: Water, Energy, Land, the Biodiversity Programme, the Equator Initiative, the GEF Small Grants Programme, CBA and REDD.   Since 1992, SGP has generated over $500 million for local action, with 10,546 projects in 120 countries The Energy Access Programme has supported more than 600 energy-related projects, reaching more than 5 million beneficiaries. Through SGP, Energy Access has implemented over 1,000 community-based energy projects in over 90 countries. The Biodiversity Programme has allocated $600 million on nearly 90 projects globally that work with local and indigenous communities. Since 2004, CWI has funded 89 community projects, bringing water supply and sanitation services to more than 260,000 people directly with additional capacity benefits. This year CWI projects were finalists for the Kyoto Prize competition for the World Water Forum in Istanbul two weeks ago.
  • Through the Equator Initiative, UNDP has innovated ways to include local voices at international fora and has provided the space and opportunity for local actors to connect with each other and with national and global policy makers. Through these dialogue spaces, community perspectives and positions an key issues that concern them, such as biodiversity, protected areas, intellectual property rights, climate change policy and national MDG strategies, have influenced major policy conferences.
  • Based on our experience at the local level, we have learned one lesson: there is an untapped potential for local capacity and action to significantly contribute to sustainable development, climate change solutions and the MDGs. Local actors are frequently excluded from meaningful participation in environment and energy policy-making processes. Exclusion has served to weaken the impact, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability of initiatives, funding mechanisms, and programmes implemented by international development agencies and national governments. There is a two-way lack of capacity: On the part of states, a lack of capacity to engage with and provide the enabling policy and financial environment for scaling up local best practice; and On the part of local actors, a lack of capacity to increase the scale and impact of their work.
  • To address the climate change-paradigm shift, UNDP’s mandate, and lessons learned from working at the local level, we have developed a strategy to scale up local capacity and action for the environment and sustainable development. I would like to share with you now the major elements of that strategy. But first, let me explain how we understand our approach can affect change. The strategy is founded on the observation that local natural resources and local institutions are keys to the livelihoods of the poor. Improving local peoples’ access to these resources and their capacity to manage them sustainably as sources of income and sustenance can help them break the cycle of poverty, increasing their material and social assets. Increasing the capacity and inclusivity of local institutions can increase the quality of resource management, the productivity of local resource-based enterprises, and the equity with which benefits are shared within the community.   The change sequence to achieve these outcomes is summarized below. In every step of this sequence, UNDP has an important role in catalyzing the needed change among the principal actors, which are national governments and local organizations, including local governments, natural resource management groups, formal and informal associations such as cooperatives or savings groups, NGOs, and individuals.   Reorient toward community-driven development. Revise the development model used by national governments so that it emphasizes the primacy of local action. Strengthen the enabling conditions for local action by granting local resource rights and improving access to finance. Empowering local actors—both individuals and community institutions—with enforceable resource rights provides them with the incentive and security they need to invest in sustainable resource management. Improving access to sources of finance—national and international—provides the means to make the appropriate investments. Strengthen the capacity of local institutions and individuals to take advantage of their resource rights and advocate for their interests in national and international forums. Technical and institutional capacity to manage ecosystems, business capacity to pursue viable nature-based enterprises, and social capacity to participate in joint decisions and activities—both locally and in national and international processes—are all necessary if the poor are to turn resource access into improved livelihoods. Create mechanisms to enhance learning and build adaptive capacity. Shared learning is a powerful tool that communities can use to quickly develop their own capacities, pooling their knowledge and sharing the risks of adopting new practices and undertaking new enterprises. Identify and scale up successful models of adaptation and enterprise. Without efforts to scale up, best practices will remain isolated successes and MDG and adaptation goals will remain unmet.  
  • Recognizing that human rights and sustainable development are interdependent and mutually reinforcing, and in line with the UN’s policy recorded in a document entitled: UN Common Understanding on Human Rights-Based Approach to Development Cooperation and Programming, which was endorsed by the UN Development Group in 2003, the Strategy will adopt a Human Rights-Based Approach .   A Human Rights-Based Approach leads to better and more sustainable outcomes by analyzing and addressing the inequalities, discriminatory practices and unjust power relations which are often at the heart of development problems. It puts the international human rights entitlements and claims of the people and the corresponding obligations of the State in the centre of the national development debate, and it clarifies the purpose of capacity development. Key programming principles as a result of this approach include: (read slide)
  • Scaling up requires: (i) that national governments and donors have the capacity to successfully recognize and support local level best practice and integrate lessons learned into policy formation; and (ii) that local actors have the capacity to articulate needs, access resources, inform policy, and sustain up scaled initiatives. UNDP capacity development and support will be provided to both national governments and to local actors to bridge gaps and facilitate effective national-local partnerships for scaling up. Our Strategy for Scaling-up is guided by 4 Strategic Priorities: Strengthen institutional, policy, and legal frameworks to broaden local access to environment and energy resources and services, and to enable finances to flow to the local level Enhance the capacity of local actors to access environmental finance and manage environment and energy programmes, projects, and initiatives Facilitate learning to make local action more effective, sustainable, and replicable Advocate for local actors’ rights and entitlements related to environment and energy, and ensure local actors are positioned to advocate for themselves
  • Though resources exist to support local environment and energy initiatives, they are often out of reach for local actors due to exclusionary institutional, regulatory and legal conditions. Without the necessary rights and entitlements, local actors cannot qualify for or benefit from finance flows. UNDP is positioned to work at national and international levels through global outreach, working on policy, and creating cross-scale linkages to increase local access to resources. Integrating local concerns, needs, and realities into institutional and financial mechanisms upstream saves resources and time downstream by reducing transaction costs. Ultimately, it is local actors that deliver environment and energy programmes and they are more likely to support and benefit from policies they have had a say in formulating.
  • In addition to working upstream, it is also important for UNDP to strengthen local capacity and to build upon existing local institutions downstream. Local actors require capacity development in a range of areas, from public expenditure management and business development to partnership and networking skills, from resource diversification and adaptation techniques to documenting local practices and asset mapping. Local actors need to have the tools and skills to manage projects and programmes accountably in a way that can be communicated to governments and donors and provides for project sustainability when funding flows decrease. Supply-driven policies can result in the disintegration of local institutions, which may in turn result in social destabilization, a loss of trust, and resource conflicts. Building the capacity of local actors, helping articulate local needs, and building on local institutions is an exercise in risk management, serving to increase investor confidence by decreasing the risk of investing in local initiatives.
  • There are many examples of local organizations that are effective at supporting sustainable development on small budgets, drawing mainly from local resources and capacities. However, local actors often lack the resources to effectively share their expertise, or may need incentives to begin sharing. Local best practice in isolation is opportunity lost. Facilitating the peer-to-peer sharing of best practice between local actors is a powerful tool of local empowerment and a highly effective means of best practice replication.   In its work with local actors, UNDP has consistently encountered a clear articulation of the need for greater long-term and targeted investment in community-to-community knowledge exchange. UNDP experience also shows that uptake time of a best practice can be reduced by half (if not more) when shared peer-to-peer or community-to-community, allowing local actors to avoid past mistakes This demand has been heard at Equator Initiative community dialogue spaces and is well documented in a series of community declarations. Demand for more long-term investment was in fact the impetus for creation of the Community Knowledge Service, a platform for peer-to-peer knowledge exchange which now connects over 80 community-based organizations.
  • Increasing the visibility of successful local environment and energy initiatives will encourage international donors, national governments and the private sector to invest in and support local efforts to scale-up.   UNDP is in a strong position to develop a global partnership in support of scaling-up local initiatives, facilitating multi-stakeholder dialogues and strategically situating local and indigenous voices in national and international policy-making processes so they are able to advocate for policies that make sense on the ground and ensure that sustainable conditions are in place under which local actors can operate.   UNDP also recognizes the benefits of ensuring all voices are included in decision-making and policy-making and the need to advocate on behalf of local actors and indigenous communities, to remove barriers to their participation in policy formation, and to demonstrate effective local action in achieving national and international targets.
  • The Global Environment Facility–financed Small Grants Programme implemented by UNDP will play a crucial role in delivering this strategy. SGP provides an effective modality to deliver a range of services directly to the local level, through a tried and also tested decentralized institutional governance architecture operating across 120 UNDP country offices, and which guarantees the highest levels of international fiduciary accountability.   Building on the example of previous institutional arrangements, UNDP will compensate SGP (to ensure full cost-recovery) in order to use SGP’s infrastructure on the ground to undertake additional activities to implement this local strategy – beyond the normal mandate of SGP. Activities will advance UNDP’s and SGP’s shared sustainable development goals around local capacity and action in ecosystem services, biodiversity conservation, energy, water, community-based adaptation, and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). In cases where an SGP office has effectively expanded its capacity to deliver these additional services, National Coordinators will be supported to share their experiences and best practices with other National Coordinators, in order to replicate their model of success.
  • We have been consulting a range of stakeholders over recent months in the preparation of this strategy, and we are delighted to be able to engage with you now. IIED, WRI and UNDP are eager to hear your views and we are open to discussing the possibility of partnership with you going forward.
  • One specific initiative that we are considering is the organization of a “Community Dialogue Space” at the Copenhagen UNFCCC COP15 in December 2009. We have received expressions of interest from CSO and IP stakeholders over recent months about how to help ensure that local voices and perspectives can contribute to UNFCCC deliberations. Let us know if you would like to collaborate with us on a feasibility study on a major local agenda for Copenhagen.


  • 1. Local Solutions for Poverty, Environment, Climate Change, and the MDGs: UNDP’s Approach to Building and Catalyzing Local Capacity and Action Veerle Vandeweerd Director, Environment and Energy Group, UNDP 14 th Poverty Environment Partnership (PEP) Meeting 31 March – 2 April 2009 Geneva, Switzerland
  • 2. Climate Change: Driver of a New Development Paradigm Those who contributed least to the problem are suffering the most
  • 3. New Opportunities for Sustainable Development from Environmental Finance UNDP’s Environmental Financing Facilities
    • MDG Carbon Facility
    • Community-based Adaptation (CBA)
    • UN Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN- REDD Programme)
    • Green Commodities
    • Energy Facility
    • Territorial Approach
    • Regional Adaptation Programme
    • Carbon Auction
    • Multi Donor Budget Support (MDBs)
    • Climate Change Risk Transfer
  • 4. Local Capacity and Action is Integral to an Effective Global Climate Change Response
      • Community-based adaptation
      • initiatives are key to inform
      • national adaptation efforts.
      • Similarly, a global scheme to
      • reduce emissions from
      • deforestation and forest
      • degradation (REDD) will surely,
      • not succeed without the
      • legitimate empowerment
      • and engagement of local actors.
  • 5. How UNDP is Organized to Contribute to the Local Agenda 133 UNDP Country Offices 160+ Client Countries Bangkok Bratislava Pretoria Dakar Panama Cairo 6 Regional Service Centers 5 Regional Bureaus RBEC RBLAC RBAP RBAS RBA Bureau for Development Policy Crisis Prevention and Recovery HIV/AIDS Democratic Governance Poverty Reduction Environment and Energy
  • 6. UNDP’s Strategic Framework for Environment and Sustainable Development Combining/ sequencing various sources of funds to implement priority actions Strengthening national and local capacities to scale up local action Mainstreaming climate change risk management into national development strategies Mainstreaming Local Capacity and Action Environmental Finance Climate Change Identifying priority activities for sustainable development at the national & sub-national levels Energy and Climate Change Adaptation Mitigation Energy Access Ecosystems and Natural Resources Biodiversity Water Land Ozone Depletion and Chemicals Ozone Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
  • 7.
    • United Nations Charter (1945)
    • Agenda 21 commitment to Major Groups (1992)
    • UNDP Public Information and Documentation Disclosure Policy (1996, revised 2008)
    • UN Millennium Declaration (2000)
    • UNDP and CSOs: a Policy of Engagement (2001)
    • UNDP Policy on Engagement with Indigenous Peoples (2001)
    • Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development (2002)
    • UN World Summit (2005)
    • UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007)
    • UN Development Group Guidelines on Indigenous Peoples (2008)
    • UNDP CSO Advisory Committee and Liaison Committee on Indigenous Peoples (2001-2008)
    • UNDP Strategic Plan 2008-2011
    • UNDP Global Strategy to Strengthen Civil Society and Civic Engagement: Voice and
    • Accountability for Human Development 2009-2011
    • 4th UNDP Global Programme 2009-2011
    UNDP’s Mandate to Work at the Local Level
  • 8. UNDP’s Local Initiatives
    • Biodiversity Programme
    • Community Water Initiative
    • Energy Access Programme
    • Equator Initiative
    • Land
    • GEF Small Grants Programme
    • Community-Based Adaptation (CBA)
    • Reducing emissions from deforestation and
    • forest degradation (UN-REDD Programme)
  • 9. Community Dialogue Spaces: Community Poble , IUCN World Conservation Congress, Barcelona, Spain, 2008 Community Dorf , CBD COP9, Bonn, Germany, 2008 Community Taba , CBD COP8, Curitiba, Brazil, 2006 Community Commons, 2005 World Summit, 2005 Community Vilaj , UN Meeting for the Sustainable Development of SIDS, 2005 Community Kampung , CBD COP7, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2004 Community Mubaan, World Conservation Congress, Bangkok, Thailand, 2004 Community Shamba, International Ecoagriculture Conference, Nairobi, Kenya, 2004 Community Park, World Parks Congress, Durban, South Africa, 2003 Community Kraal, World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2002 Empowering Local Communities to Influence Global Policy
  • 10. Untapped Potential for Local Capacity and Action
    • Manage or administer at least 22% of developing country forests and over half the world’s 102,000 Protected Areas
    • Vast majority of environmental decisions (including on investment and land use) are made at the local level.
    • Chief users and guardians of the world’s ecosystems
  • 11. UNDP’s Strategy on: Local Capacity and Action for the Environment and Sustainable Development
  • 12. Human Rights-Based Approach
    • People are recognized as key actors in their own development, rather than passive recipients of commodities and services.
    • Participation is both a means and a goal.
    • Programmes focus on marginalized, disadvantaged, and excluded groups.
    • The development process is locally owned.
    • Both top-down and bottom-up approaches are used in synergy.
    • Programmes support accountability to all stakeholders.
  • 13. Strategy for Scaling-up
  • 14. Priority 1: Enabling Environment
    • At the global level , ensure key international environmental financial mechanisms benefit the local level (e.g. through EEG ‘facilities’ and UNFCCC processes and decisions on CBA and REDD)
    • At the national level , strengthen:
      • Relationship between state and non-state actors (e.g. through multi- stakeholder dialogues and policy formation)
      • Government capacity to identify local best practices and support local e fforts to scale-up
      • SGP national systems (National Coordinators and National Steering Committees) to carry out additional, UNDP-supported local activities
  • 15. Priority 2: Local Capacity
    • Capacity to scale-up sustainable management of
    • natural resources and environment and energy
    • programmes:
        • Institutional Development
        • Financial Development
        • Business Development
        • Network Development and Social Mobilization
    • Capacity to understand and demand access to
    • available resources, through:
        • Rights and Access
        • Effective Participation
        • Demonstration and Documentation
  • 16. Priority 3: Local Learning
    • Facilitate peer-to-peer dialogue and site visits
    • Support communities to maintain ongoing learning platforms
    • Establish “centres of excellence” for training and demonstration
    • Support the implementation of new knowledge and acquired lessons
    • Support local actors to document best practice in locally relevant forms
    • Adapt existing information and training materials to be made more useable for
    • community groups.
    • Develop training kits, information sharing workshops, analytical case studies,
    • and open source information exchange.
  • 17. Priority 4: Advocacy
    • Spearhead partnerships and constituency building for strategic advocacy of local action
    • Broker multi-stakeholder dialogues to integrate local voices into national and international environment and energy policy formation
    • Equip local actors with the skills and tools to advocate for themselves
    Global Partnership for Local Action
  • 18. Responding to Increasing Demand for Small Grants Programme Services The demand from developing countries has doubled the number of SGP country programmes from 65 in 2003 to 120 today.
  • 19. Consultation Process
    • Consultations (in-person and e-discussion)
    • November 2008 – April 2009
    • EEG
    • UNDP Regional Bureaux and Regional Service Centers
    • BDP Practice Groups
    • Civil Society Division
    • Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor
    • Partnerships Bureau
    • UNCDF
    • SGP National Coordinators
    • Selected UNDP Country Offices
    • Internal & external local level experts and practitioners
    • Local and indigenous community representatives
    • Potential partners and donors
    • 14 TH Poverty Environment Partnership Meeting
    • March 2009
    • Strategic Planning Meeting and Finalization of Strategy
    • April 2009
  • 20. Help Us Empower Local Voices Community Dialogue Space, UNFCCC COP15 , Copenhagen, December 2009
  • 21. Questions for Discussion
    • Comments/Advice/Guidance on our Strategy?
    • Share experiences/lessons from your own work at the local level?
    • Join us in empowering local voices at UNFCCC COP15?
    • (Other questions to be based on WRI and IIED presentations …)