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Can civil society actors from different countries agree on what is good public policies for pro-poor adaptation to climate change? In Kathmandu the Southern Voices on Adaptation took a first bold step by launching the Joint Principles for Adaptation (JPA) in Kathmandu on 28th of April in connection with the CBA8 – the 8th International Conference on Community Based Adaptation.
 
The JPA are a statement by civil society organisations from across the world of what they consider to be a benchmark for good adaptation planning. It is a first pilot version to be tested and further developed during the 2014 – 15 by civil society actors working to influence government adaptation policies. The JPA launched in Kathmandu was prepared with input from Africa, Asia and Latin America, and subjected to critical reflection in the Southern Voices / CANSA workshop on 22 – 23rd April prior to the CBA8.
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In the workshop the SV-networks were joined by members of CANSA (Climate Action Network South Asia) and the Adaptation Learning Programme, who had not been part of the preparatory work, and contributed with experiences of civil society advocacy on adaptation policies from South Asia and Africa.
Despite the many differences in the adaptation challenges and the different political contexts civil society actors are working in, it was striking that there was so much convergence in civil society perspectives on how civil society and local communities must be involved to shape pro-poor adaptation policies.
The interest and enthusiasm for the idea of having joint civil society expectations to government policies, still raised a number of questions:
 
  • Can the standards be applied flexibly according to country contexts? Can we have "soft" standards?
  • How can the document be used? Is it only for adaptation planning – or should they cover also implementation?
  • Is it possible to create room for further development? And are standards the right term?
From Standards to Principles
This led the SV-Adapt Secretariat into a rethink on how to present the document. The 15 principles were reduced to 7 of a more general nature, with each 3 or more qualifying criteria to serve as a benchmark for measuring the extent to which the principle has been achieved. The Joint Adaptation Standards (JAS) became the Joint Principles for Adaptation (JPA) – as it was found that using the term standards was problematic when they had to be applied flexibly and in different ways in according the country contexts. Three different modes of using the standards by civil society were also identified and presented in the introductio. In the Advocacy Mode the principles can be used to set advocacy objectives for civil society; in the Dialogue Mode they can promote and shape civil society dialogue with government, and in Capacity-building Mode the principles can be used for determining capacity building needs of public institutions.
 
The Perspective of the UNFCCC
Paul Desanker, Manager for National Adaptation Plans at the UNFCCC Secretariat in Bonn, joined the workshop on the second day, and emphasised the importance of civil society being focused in their climate change initiatives: 'The role of civil societies is quite clear. They need to support government for successful adaptaion policies. One of the challenges now is to find the entry points for civil society to be active players in civil society planning" ... 'The standards the Southern Voices are developing here can help alert governments to better prioritize community involvment.'
 
The Joint Principles at the CBA8 
The JPA was launched in a separate evening session Monday 28th April, at CBA8 –and attracted a following from some dozens of participants interested in working promoting community based adaptation and civil society perspectives at the national policy level. Southern Voices also provided input into several sessions in the CBA8 which focused on Finance for Community Based Adaptation. The SVA contributed to the Kathmandu declaration, which now has a separate paragraph with recommendations for national governments which includes many of the principles in the JPA, although in another wording. In the final CBA8 pledging session, Southern Voices Programme Coordinator Peter With pledged that the SV-programme will work to promote the Kathmandu declaration, with a focus on influencing national adapataion policies and finance in the years to come. 
 
Figueires: NAPs a key entry point for scaling up CBA 
In the CBA closing session of the CBA8, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christina Figueires mentioned the opportunity of using the National Adaptation Plans - the NAPs - as a key entry point for scaling up community based adaptation approaches into the broader policy framework of governments. For the Southern Voices on Adaptation this is a recognition of the fact the Joint Principles for Adaptation is a timely initiative. 
 

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