Advancing Integration Series


Top down vs bottom up ‘DEC’ integration
While global discussions and agreements on climate, disasters and development have trickled down to national and local levels in many countries and a certain degree of improvement has indeed been achieved, the truth is that, compared to the scale of all three dimensions of the problems, namely tackling poverty, tackling disasters and preventing significant climate change impacts, these successes have been inadequate.

The development, humanitarian and climate change arenas all have global top down agreements such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for development, the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) for disaster reduction and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for tackling climate change. These global agreements in turn have top down guidelines to be followed at national and local level which have been taken up to varying extent over the last few decades. All three arenas are at a critical turning point with some important changes being discussed, debated and negotiated over the next couple of years. Thus for the MDGs which expire in 2015 there are negotiations currently taking place for a possible replacement with a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are due to be agreed at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York in September 2015. At the same time the UNFCCC is in a critical phase of intense negotiations to reach an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol at the twenty-first conference of parties (COP 21) to be held in Paris in December 2015. Finally the HFA is also due for renewal in 2016.

As these top down agreements were discussed and committed to and then implemented there has also been another bottom up approach in many countries. In some cases these were by communities themselves such as the slum dwellers associations in many cities, while in other cases they were led by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and sometimes by local and national governments.

However, the bottom up initiatives have not always received much support from top down global initiatives. Thus for example the community of practice on community based adaptation (CBA) recently held its 8th international conference in Kathmandu, Nepal, where they adopted the Kathmandu Declaration on financing local adaptation trying to link global funding for adaptation to climate change to the most vulnerable countries and communities.

In most developing countries the early focus was on development issues such as poverty alleviation, health and education and other elements of the MDGs. This was then followed in many cases by linking disaster risk reduction to development since so many development investments were lost due to disasters and lack of preparedness for those disasters.

While not all disasters were linked to weather and climate (such as earthquakes) there were many that were (such as floods, droughts and hurricanes) so the next logical step was to link the DRR elements to Adaptation to Climate Change (ACC). This linking of disaster risk reduction to climate change adaptation is still in an early stage while some countries, such as Bangladesh have made significant progress, others are still beginning.

Hence the future post 2015 discussion and global goals and institutions set up or charged to achieve those goals on the development, disaster risk reduction and climate change fronts have an opportunity to not only synchronise their goals and efforts across the three themes, but also to synchronise their efforts at achieving their goals at global, national and local scales.

The most important way for this aspiration of coherence and harmony across the scales to be achieved is to allow sufficient time and effort for the grass roots, community based efforts to be recognised and built on by the global and national decision makers who hold the purse strings. Once the commitments are signed and attention turns to action, we will turn to look at how integration can happen in practice; this will be the challenge beyond 2015.