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Why aren’t we there yet? Understanding and addressing donor barriers to localisation in climate adaptation

Working papers

Written by Rose Pinnington, Peter Kasaija, Maia King, Annet Ntezi Mbabazi, Nilima Gulrajani

Image credit:Local Village with houses on the green hill at the Bunyonyi lake in Uganda. Credit: Dario Verdugo

Localisation has become a major concern across the development and humanitarian sectors. It is driving donor efforts to increase direct access for local actors to donor resources, as well as promoting local leadership and knowledge in donor-funded programming. Despite widespread enthusiasm for more locally led ways of working, progress has been slow and significant barriers remain.

This paper examines the barriers bilateral donors face in their efforts to promote locally led practices in climate adaptation, where specific commitments have been made to the Principles for Locally Led Adaptation. We examine initiatives in Uganda, drawing on interviews with three bilateral donors (the US, UK and Sweden) and Ugandan stakeholders (government, civil society, academia).

We find that donors face five central barriers: risk aversion, administrative challenges, dual accountabilities, divergent values and power asymmetries. These barriers interact with the specific political and socioeconomic context of Uganda to determine how and how far donors are able to achieve their localisation goals.

To overcome these barriers and ensure localisation commitments can be realised in global climate adaptation efforts, we offer five general recommendations for donors, local and international partners, and climate advocates. These are:

1) Strengthen donor capacities and shift mindsets;

2) Enhance access to quality finance;

3) Create space for local agency and decision-making;

4) Track localisation progress in climate goals and instruments; and

5) Reconceptualise local actor ‘capacity’.

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