In the past week Adaptation Futures was held in Rotterdam, a bi-annual global conference, bringing together science and practice around climate adaptation. The UNSGSR on Inclusive Finance Her Majesty Queen Maxima of the Netherlands graced the audience with her presence, underlining the importance of the topic. Ironically finance was a bit of the missing link during the conference as many recommendations with regard to public policy measures pointed to public resource allocation issues. Following the agreement reached in Paris and preceding conferences on Sustainable Development and Finance for Development in New York and Addis Ababa, the momentum clearly needed to be sustained and the Netherlands offered the perfect spot to do so, also in view of its presidency to the European Union.
The urgency is clearly demonstrated by the current debates around migration which also percolated into the discussions in Rotterdam. How many of the refugees, in particular from Africa, are in fact climate refugees? As Europe struggles to deal with the long-term consequences of climate change, Africa is experiencing climate change first hand with El Nino hitting large parts of East and Southern Africa. Next week the World Humanitarian Summit needs to address these direct needs in an appropriate manner. Given the banner at the conference website (as depicted below) the sense of urgency is certainly felt in the humanitarian community. However, should the same sense of urgency not be present with those responsible for the rapid depletion of natural resources causing a global tragedy of the commons?
Public policy and private capacity
It is therefore very timely that the Dutch government has made funds available for advocacy by civil society towards both public and private parties, as changes should primarily come from these two domains. However, even if the social contract between governments and their citizens is strengthened, will citizens prioritize long-term goals over short-term needs? An activist in public life may turn out a pragmatist when it comes to personal choices. Does the social contract also function the other way around? Will modern citizens accept measures that will infringe on their freedom obtained through modernity itself? First a new type of global consciousness should emerge which inspires and shapes a new economic order, not based on economic growth but based on well-being of people and the desire to steward this planet responsibly for the next generations to live. The profit objective should either be completely transformed into social and ecological benefits or taken out of the equation altogether when measuring business success. Multiplying impact should be the next generation of economic models allowing for an 'ecolomy' of social and ecological impact investment, with citizens and consumers valuing natural capital, zero-waste solutions and ecosystem services performed on their behalf. Or as Feike Sijbesma of DSM put it: "I don't like to think of Philantropic CEOs, we need to think different about business".
Ministers of Finance
The usual 'solutions' governments and their cabinets have to their disposal are shifts in budget allocation, marking new priorities. However, who shapes these priorities? A countries' income may partly be derived from exploitating a countries natural resource base, not necessarily backed up by a proper social contract. Hence the influence of national states on the exploitation of natural resources needs to be reduced or at least brought under citizen control and be part of the ecolomy, in support of social and ecological development. In the academic world this will require intensive cross-disciplinary research directly linked to ongoing policies and practices with a strong normative framework derived from global commitments on combatting climate change. Civil society is best positioned to bring these vdarious perspectives together and maximise synergies between public and private actors.
In order to civil society take this middle ground, NGOs should let go of some of their implementation capacity or turn these project based delivery systems into social enterprises, modeling alternative business models to the private sector. Instead they can stay focussed on their key-role, reconnecting formal and informal economies to public socio-economic or green investment policies. For this to happen, they need to substantially increase their advocacy and policy influencing efforts and may require to strengthen their capacities to do so. Knowledge of each of the three domains (public policy, private investment and informal economies) is important to be a good broker between the three of them.
Capacity Strengthening for Advocacy
Do capacity strengthening for advocacy and effective lobby go hand in hand? Clara Bosco of CIVICUS argued on Vice Versa that they hardly go together. However, that is exactly what is expected by civil socoiety organizations that partner with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in supporting their peers in developing countries to take on this new role. From implementer of projects to advocating for inclusive programming that adheres to international norms and standards. For effective lobby you would normally go for the strongest partner, best positioned to take the issue forward. Capacity strengthening would aim at weaker civil society players. Also here an inclusive approach is required. Stronger NGOs can take weaker NGOs along in a process of awareness raising and in a practice that increasinly requires citizens, governments and private industries to take their responsibility and account for impacts on climate and vulnerable groups. The capacity to relate and collaborate may turn out the most important ones in taking care of our planet.
My name is Reinier van Hoffen.
Click here for a summary.
Also find the text of a lecture Dr. Achterhuis held at the 2012 Bilderberg conference.