COP15 side event challenges UN practices on knowledge sharing
14 December 2009
Knowledge sharing is fundamental to efforts in tackling climate change, underpinning processes of analysis, learning and action, particularly in the most vulnerable countries. An IDS-hosted side event held on Friday at COP 15 in Copenhagen challenged the current knowledge sharing practices outlined by the UN Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC). Panellists argued that more needs to be done to engage vulnerable communities, develop better links between the local and global, and provide relevant adaptation knowledge that can be put into action.
The event, ‘From knowledge to action: Knowledge sharing to support implementation of the Nairobi Work Programme' critically examined how the UNFCCC's ‘Nairobi Work Programme on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change' frames information and knowledge sharing and it is taken up by its partner organisations (including IDS). The Nairobi Work Programme assists countries to improve their understanding and assessment of impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change, and make informed decisions on practical adaptation actions and measures to respond to climate change.
Climate Change Secretariat representation at the event
The event was chaired by Ms. Xianfu Lu of the UNFCCC Secretariat, who welcomed it as an opportunity to reflect on new approaches to knowledge sharing at a moment when negotiators are determining how the impacts of climate change will be addressed for years to come. Blane Harvey (IDS) provided participants with a background on how knowledge sharing has been addressed through the Nairobi Work Programme to date and identified a number of key questions and challenges that remain unanswered. Among them was whether the current emphasis on web-based tools and platforms produced by international institutions or networks has left Southern communities underrepresented in these processes, and how we might draw on knowledge intermediaries to bridge the link between sharing knowledge online and on the ground.
Testimonies from southern practitioners
The side event drew on firsthand testimonies from knowledge intermediaries working in the global South. Binetou Diagne (ENDA-TM, Senegal) and Ricardo Costa (World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters - AMARC) described the constant challenge of engaging communities in knowledge sharing, providing them with relevant information and strategies for adaptation, and drawing on their wealth of local knowledge to help others adapt. Diagne spoke about working on the ground with African communities, and the importance of understanding how to best approach these communities, who to talk to, and the need for translating knowledge between languages and formats such as photography, video, and audio recordings. Costa described the work of AMARC, highlighting the valuable role that community radio can play in both sensitising local communities, and in providing them with a forum to voice their concerns and demands. He noted that challenges remain in helping broadcasters share materials across communities and countries, but that radio's great potential still remains underexploited by organisations working on climate change in the South. Partners contributing to the Nairobi Work Programme have much to learn from these experiences.
Finally, Osvaldo Munguia (MOPAWI, Honduras) shared his experience as member of a community based organisation and highlighted the knowledge needs/gaps that they face in helping their communities. He described the struggle of making informed decisions amid increasing uncertainty about future environmental conditions and called for better access to climate information and improved sharing of experiences between communities. Audience questions drew out new dimensions to this discussion, highlighting the influence of donor organisations on how to prioritise technologies and practices; how low-cost micro-technologies might play an important role moving forward; and how to support traditional forms of communication (through churches, elders, etc.).
Key messages to take forward
These discussions highlighted the urgent need to better understand how to capture and share knowledge within different cultural communities and communities of practice. It offered concrete suggestions on how the UNFCCC might broaden its understanding of knowledge sharing under the NWP and acknowledge the important role that intermediaries play in making the all-important linkages between North and South; local and global; and online and offline. The urgency of climate change, particularly for Southern communities already facing its impacts, demands that we begin addressing their knowledge needs in order to actively contribute without delay.
Working with community radio at COP15
AMARC's participation at COP15 marks the first time community radio broadcasters have been accredited to cover the Climate Change talks. The AfricaAdapt network - of which IDS is a partner organisation - is supporting AMARC journalists from Kenya, Burkina Faso and Mali to ensure coverage reaches African communities in forms and languages they can access. AfricaAdapt is funded through the DFID-IDRC ‘Climate Change Adaptation in Africa' programme.
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