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Local Institutions and Climate Change

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Although climate change is an issue of global importance, the impacts will most severely be felt at local level. Consequently, the adaptive responses to resulting climate variability have been and will be local. Poor, natural resource-dependent households will bear a disproportionate burden of adverse impacts of climate change. Particularly for poor and marginal groups, local institutions (both formal and informal) play a pivotal role in building resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change.

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Though households and communities have historically adapted to climate variability through many different strategies, their capacity to adapt depends in significant measures on the ways institutions regulate and structure their interactions: both amongst themselves and with external actors. In general adaptation practices depend for their success on specific institutional arrangements -- adaptation never occurs in an institutional vacuum. Broadly speaking, different local institutions shape the effect of climate hazards on rural poor and their livelihoods in three important ways:

  1. They structure environmental risks and variability and thereby the nature of climate impacts and vulnerability.
  2. Institutions create the incentive framework within which outcomes of individual and collective action unfold. It is within such incentive frameworks that households and collectives choose specific upon adaptation practices.
  3. Institutions are the media through which external interventions reinforce or undermine existing adaptation practices. 

The World Bank's Social Development Department, together with the Agriculture and Rural Development Department, and external partners undertook a work program to address the importance of local institutions in Climate Change Adaptation. Supported by the Bank-Netherlands Partnership Program, and the Trust Fund for Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development (Norway-Finland), series of activities were carried out in partnership with the Bank's regional departments from Africa, Latin America and Middle East regions and the World Bank Institute. External partnerships were established with the University of Michigan, the Centro Latinoamericano para el Desarrollo Rural (RIMISP), Royal Haskoning, and the Wageningen University.

Strong local institutions and their long-term presence are essential for successful implementation of community-based adaptation strategies

Research examined relationship of adaptations selected by communities and households with physical, social, economic, demographic, organizations, and information variables. The results showed that to strengthen the ability of rural households and institutions to cope with climate risks and associated development challenges, focusing on households or communities alone is inadequate. They also pointed out to the important fact that although strong presence of local institutions is essential, their capacity is limited and the support they receive from national and sub national agencies is often inadequate. Better coordination between different levels of governance and decentralized technical assistance through different line agencies directly to the local institutions are important in increasing the awareness and addressing the impacts of climate hazards at local level.

Data collected on the number and types of institutions within the selected study sites in the nine countries, and comparisons within and between the countries showed that not only is there substantial variation in institutions and institutional access, there is also a lot of difference in the kinds of resources institutions provide, and substantial difference in the kinds of adaptation strategies that different types of institutions support.

Based on this evidence, there is need for anchoring understanding of the relationship between policy interventions and local actions. This means bringing together the means by which policies and decisions aim to influence actions and outcomes. The mechanisms of policy influence are highly varied, but they can be broadly grouped into three types – policies that seek to change behavior and actions at the local level by changing i) incentives, ii) information, and/or iii) institutions. In order to be effective at the local level, governments should use adaptation policies to shape local actions and outcomes through direct action to change institutions, incentives, or information available to local actors and decision makers. At the same time, they can also empower local institutions to change incentives and information relevant to the adaptation practices of their citizens.

The main outputs of the Work Program

The Work Program consists of two global studies: Area Based Development and Climate Change (ABDCC) and Costing Adaptation through Local Institutions (CALI). Description, specific objectives as well as the main conclusions of each study can be found here.

The final deliverables of the work program include reports, workshops and videos. The main reports include:

  • Nine country case study reports: Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal, Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Peru for ABDCC, and Ethiopia, Mali and Yemen for CALI.
  • Two global synthesis reports: One for each study, ABDCC and CALI.

Country reports were prepared in coordination with the international and local consultants as well as the regional technical experts from the Bank. Reports and their main conclusions were presented and discussed at national level workshops. Individual country reports, including the workshop reports are available under the section for each country.

Short videos were prepared of the individual case studies in each country. These videos were prepared in coordination with the World Bank Institute and they document some of the challenges of climate risks faced at the local level and showed collective local response mechanisms. These videos have been disseminated for the broader audience at different national and sub-regional workshops.

Sub-regional workshop in Mali was prepared jointly with the Environment Team from the Africa region, focusing on the role of local institutions in sustainable land management (SLM) and adaptation to climate change activities. This workshop gathered NGOs and research partners from the participating West African countries under the LICC work program (Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and Senegal) as well as the government counterparts working on sustainable land management and desertification issues and activities in those same countries to exchange views, experiences and best practices on how to implement Sustainable Land Management projects and programs at the local level. The final workshop report highlighted how the local institutions could be engaged in the preparation and implementation of the Country SLM Investment Framework, and identified the critical steps in identifying and responding to the needs of the most vulnerable groups.

The main objective of the work program, to identify operational recommendations on how to strengthen local adaptive capacity and resilience to climate change related risks through decentralized and area-based approaches, was achieved through directly engaging with World Bank teams working on different sectors (agriculture, irrigation, rural development, disaster risk management and environment) at the country level. Country case studies from Niger and Yemen have directly contributed to the preparation of the Strategic Program for Climate Resilience under the Pilot Program for the Climate Resilience (PPCR) of the Climate Investment Fund (CIF) by emphasizing the understanding of the distributional, poverty and social implications of climate change at the core of the analysis and investments. In Mexico, the study team has been actively involved in preparing a development policy operation to place social resilience on the agenda in supporting approaches to climate policy and action. In Peru, the study was collaborated with the World Bank’s team (LSCEN) preparing the Sierra Irrigation subsector investment operation by carrying out a study on the climate change impacts on the dairy sector in Mantaro Valley, where different producer groups and water user associations are actively engaged in the planning for adaptation to climate change.

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