World Resource Institute

Question Nine: Civil Society

How can civil society best support, and hold accountable, national-level governments in their efforts to integrate climate change risks into planning and policy-making processes?

Civil society organizations (CSOs) form an essential bridge between the national-level public officials who are tasked with integrating climate change risks into sectoral and development planning and citizens and local communities that are on the frontline of climate impacts. Depending on their mission, they can deliver essential services and/or play a critical role on behalf of citizens in holding government accountable for lack of action or unwise or ineffective decision making. Their role is particularly important in developing countries where there tends to be a high turnover rate among government officials, limited resources for action, and governance gaps.

At the national level, effective CSOs can accelerate government responsiveness to climate adaptation needs, and act as repositories of knowledge and informal advisers to government. They can also promote good governance in decisions made to address climate adaptation. For example, CSOs can pressure governments to balance decision-making processes that can react quickly to change with the need for engaging, and being accountable to, affected citizens and constituencies.

At the local level, CSOs can build community understanding of, and support for, the development of adaptation initiatives such as information gathering and distribution and early warning systems for extreme events. In some developing countries, where governments are hampered by resource and capacity constraints, CSOs can complement the efforts of national ministries, for example in delivering services, such as disaster relief, to communities.

The World Resources Report has commissioned papers exploring how CSOs can potentially act both as an effective partner and, when necessary, as an effective critic, ensuring that government is taking climate change risks into account. Our question to expert authors is how can civil society best support, and hold accountable, national-level governments in their efforts to integrate climate change risks into ongoing planning and policy-making processes? In their responses, we suggest that authors may like to address the following sub-questions:

  • What is the role of civil society in decision making to address long term climate risks, and in engaging citizens in support of such decisions?
  • How can CSOs assist governments in reacting quickly to climate change’s surprises, including extreme weather events? And how should government officials balance inclusiveness via stakeholder processes and the need to react quickly given the urgency that some climate change impacts might present? Or is this a false choice?
  • How can governments provide the conditions for CSOs to be effetively involved in climate change adaptation planning processes?

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Expert Perspectives

Brian Lund and Rebecca Pearl-Martinez: The authors argue that, while it is readily recognized that CSOs have a role to play in assisting in the aftermath of extreme weather events, the greater contribution of CSOs is like to be in...» Read Full Paper

Adriana Ramos: To incorporate the interests and knowledge of vulnerable communities, populations and people, their active and meaningful participation in prioritizing, designing and implementing adaptation...» Read Full Paper

Crispino Lobo: The author argues that countries' adaptation plans are largely state driven and top-down in approach, while climate change is locally experienced and can only be effectively addressed by engaging...» Read Full Paper

Nella Canales: The author describes areas in which civil society can play a positive role in adaptation, and concludes that there are five most significant functions that might be performed by CSOs to promote...» Read Full Paper