World Resource Institute

How Development Agencies Can Best Assist Effective Decision Making for Adaptation to Climate Change: Reflection on Missing Issues

By Richard Muyungi, Assistant Director of Environment in the Vice President’s Office of the United Republic of Tanzania and the National Climate Change Focal Point

Commentaries were commissioned by the World Resources Report to react to the Expert Perspectives series. This commentary responds to Question 3: How can development agencies help vulnerable countries adapt effectively?

In my view and experience, the featured papers fail to reflect some key issues regarding how climate change is shifting the focus and approach required from development agencies. This response addresses these gaps.

Climate change is inevitably forcing many developing countries to redefine their development process and priorities ensuring integration of climate change adaptation principles for sustainability and a low carbon economic path. This translates into a need for development agencies to redefine their focus and approaches as well. Programmatic, holistic and incremental support, through a learning-by-doing process informed by the refocused development priorities of recipient governments, is important.


Climate change is increasingly becoming an economic and political issue and as such addressing climate change in developing countries is informed by broader geopolitics. To date, there is greater south-south cooperation than ever seen before (e.g. China and Africa). Such south-south cooperation should inform the traditional development agencies on how best to shift their approach and focus so as to support climate change adaptation needs of developing countries within the rapidly changing geopolitical environment. Support and initiatives by development agencies should focus on the recipient government's priorities and should be truly owned and embedded in the national poverty eradication agenda.

There is still a challenge in comprehending the differences between traditional bilateral support and the negotiated financial commitments under the Climate Change Convention process (such as the green funds under the Copenhagen Accord, the GEF climate change funds or the Adaptation Fund under the Kyoto Protocol) and how such support could be harmonised in support of climate change adaptation in recipient countries. Development agencies should support recipient governments to put in place nationally owned processes and mechanisms that will allow financing harmonisation (including expedited processes for accessing financing) and complementality. Ministries responsible for finance, planning and climate change should lead the process of financial harmonisation taking into account the national budgeting process and guidance. Development agencies have traditionally focused on specific areas of support for a number of reasons; hence coordination of development agencies trade support at national level is still a challenge and needs to be improved.


Climate change is new and unfolding with many implications and long term solutions and approaches still unclear for both development agencies and recipient governments. Because new challenges are emerging, over and above research, a holistic support for climate change knowledge building (including technology) embedded in national education systems from the lowest level possible should be a continuous agenda of the development agencies. This will allow for a new development path that takes climate change into account as a key factor in determining long term cause of actions (embedded in national legal frameworks) towards a low carbon, more sustainable development process in developing countries.


Climate change coordination requires action over and above having a department or coordinating office at the highest level alone (as highlighted in the paper on Uganda). It is also about a mechanism which brings together national governments, nongovernmental actors and development agencies in a coordinated approach to address the problem. As climate change increasingly becomes an additional burden to the national development agenda, additional financial support, through a process that ensures national ownership, is required to support and to address the additional challenges of climate change adaptation. Climate change adaptation, particularly to extreme weather events, is already happening at local community level in some developing countries. While communities may not be aware that what they are doing to adjust to the changes is indeed adaptation, development agencies (and other actors including government agencies) do not have in place strategic (bottom up) approaches to capture such adaptation approaches which could be enhanced and replicated. Development agencies could support and enhance the already existing adaptation measures as a way of expanding knowledge over this complex issue, as well as replication.


It is also increasingly being appreciated (particularly in developed countries) that climate change is a security issues (see, for example, Sustainable development in developing countries will not be achieved without peace and reduced conflict. While climate change will trigger trans-border conflicts (even internal conflicts) over the increased scarcity of natural resources (particularly water), it is high time for development partners to assist developing country governments in the supply of knowledge and competencies to the armed forces and other security organs in the area of climate change. This will allow and support the designing of mechanisms to avert possible conflicts and ensure trans-border dialogue for better resource sharing and use.