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Climate policy needs local voice

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As published in vietnamnews on 20 April, 2012

HA NOI — Communities, despite playing a vital role in climate change adaptation, did not have their own voice in major dialogues, prompting a change in the way we should communicate about climate change.

Margareta Wahlstrom, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction, pointed out that although communities were often the first to be affected by natural disasters, very often they were only heard through intermediaries.

She said: "When I met strong communities who have gone through and recovered from serious disaster issues, they told me their biggest concern was how they could impact the policy-making process in their Governments."

Wahlstrom was speaking at the sixth international conference Community-Based Adaptation that opened in Ha Noi yesterday with more than 300 participants from 61 countries to discuss adaptation at the community level with a focus on communication.

Participants discussed how to scale up communication at local levels into broader dialogues.

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in her video message for the conference emphasised the need to bring all the stakeholders together to ensure the success of adaptation.
 
"Connecting the dots – between the policy and implementation among different levels from the global down to the local – is important to really get the adaptation agenda moving and unleash an unprecedented drive for adaptation implementation," she said.

Harjeet Singh from ActionAid said a main challenge for communicating climate change was that how communities were able to understand why changes were occurring.
 
When it comes to what is the key message to communicate, Wahlstrom said, it should begin with a perception that disaster should be seen as a development issue.
 
She emphasised: "Unless we can get it into development thinking, planning, action and investment, it is going to be a major challenge to make some sustainable progress."

She further explained that as many communities in disaster prone areas were also the poorest, they actually needed more development assistance than just disaster assistance.
 
"The right approach is to work on strengthening the economic capacity of these vulnerable people while making sure they have capacity to cope with disasters," Wahlstrom told Viet Nam News.

This conference is the first major community-level adaptation conference following the UN climate summit in Durban last year to keep track of how communities around the world are adapting to climate change.

As the host of this year's conference, Viet Nam has an opportunity to showcase its efforts in adapting to climate change.

Statistics from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment showed that over the last 10 years, 10,000 people were killed or missing due to unusual natural calamities believed to have been triggered by climate change. The monetary loss accounted for nearly 2 per cent of total GDP.

Deputy Chairman of the National Committee on Climate Change Dao Xuan Hoc said Viet Nam was implementing an ambitious community-based disaster risk management programme involving 6,000 communes in the most at risk parts of Viet Nam.
 
The communities, for the first time, would receive extensive training on disasters that could potentially occur in their areas and how to best prepare for them, he said, adding that the first batch of trainers for 18 provinces were ready to go into the field.
 
He said what was no less important than awareness-raising for communities was to have certain infrastructure in place.

"Even if a resident is well aware that he has to go to higher ground to avoid a storm, what is the point of it if there isn't a road?" Hoc said. — VNS

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