The Sustainable Development Goals describe a wonderful future for us all – so what’s getting in the way of us getting there? 

Last Friday, a client asked me if Davos is “just a talk shop”

For one week in late September, it seemed all roads led to New York, to the 74th United Nations General Assembly (aka “UNGA”)

The Sustainable Development Goals describe a wonderful future for us all – so what’s getting in the way of us getting there?

A flame to ignite agriculture reform, nutrition and food security in Africa: will it be nurtured or snuffed out through irrelevance?

Partnerships are in fashion. Donors like the idea that, by asking organisations to work together, to share knowledge, expertise, geographical reach and influence- there is the opportunity to create greater impact and deliver more change. Whilst the theory of partnerships may seem simple, the practice is complex. I was recently asked to lead a workshop that would help build a real, working partnership, one capable of working on one of the most challenging issues we all face – climate change.

BRACED (Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters) is a DFID funded programme that supports NGOs to build the resilience of people to extreme climate events. To be effective BRACED demands that organisations come together to share expertise and work together to create sustainable and scalable solutions. However, delivering change takes more than commitment to a shared cause. It takes commitment to one another; it takes good understanding and a clear, shared direction; and this is where Wasafiri came in.

BRACED Ethiopia, a Christian Aid-led partnership between ActionAid, King’s College London, BBC Media Action and the UK Met Office- invited Wasafiri to lead a workshop for them. The aim of the workshop was to develop the shared commitment, understanding and direction that they needed if they were to secure full funding for a 3-year BRACED project and deliver real, lasting climate change resilience in Ethiopia.

The ‘BRACED Ethiopia Workshop’ was held in April 2014 in Addis Ababa. Over four days it was attended by more than 40 people representing key partnership members, local implementing partners, government, and DFID amongst others. Wasafiri created a process that was participatory and action-focused. We created the space for organisations to build the relationships and understanding of one another that they would need to work together. And then to build a plan and structure that meant everyone knew what they were responsible for and how they would deliver their part. At times the workshop was challenging, there were issues of leadership and participation to address, and agreement of tangible outcomes to achieve. However through shared commitment, a willingness to listen and learn and the co-creation of a tangible plan – together we built a partnership capable of creating real change.

“Thanks Wasafiri – a lot of high energy work in a short space of time” (workshop participant)

“…we all were fascinated by the quality of Katie’s facilitation, light, embracing, probing deeper in to the issues and alternative ideas as well as proper time management and eventually amazing results” (Country Director, Action-Aid)


STOP PRESS: It has just been announced that the partnership has been shortlisted for 3 years of  BRACED funding from DFID.

For more information on BRACED see here


photo credit: <a href=””>CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>cc</a>

In the framework of the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in May 2010 in Bonn/Germany, South Africa, South Korea and Germany launched the International Partnership on Mitigation and MRV. The overall aim of the Partnership is to support a practical exchange on mitigation-related activities and MRV between developing and developed countries in order to help close the global ambition gap.

To this end, the activities of the Partnership contribute to the design and effective implementation of ‘Low-Emission Development Strategies’ (LEDS), ‘Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions’ (NAMAs) and ‘Measuring, Reporting and Verification’ (MRV) systems.

Bringing together climate experts from a variety of countries, the Partnership seeks to foster mutual learning between peers, identify best practices, establish a shared mitigation-related knowledge base, and disseminate lessons learnt. This will contribute to the building of trust, capacity and expertise, allowing countries to find nationally appropriate solutions to address and combat climate change.

Within this context, technical workshops offer the opportunity for members of the International Partnership on Mitigation and MRV to immerse into particular topics of individual interest within the spectrum of mitigation and MRV. Offering technical workshops, the Partnership aims at contributing to an in-depth understanding of key aspects critical to the implementation of ambitious climate policies.  During the workshops, participants from developing countries may together work on strategies and roadmaps for mitigation policies and measures of their individual countries.

The first technical workshop of the International Partnership on Mitigation and MRV took place in June 2012 for negotiators from member countries of the Partnership dealing with mitigation issues.It analysed the existing UNFCCC framework for MRV, identified necessary requirements and interest regarding MRV in developing countries, and supported  informed decision-making in the negotiations.

Wasafiri Consultant, Sampa Kalungu, was contracted by GIZ to facilitate the workshop, ensuring a participatory approach that promoted exchange of knowledge and experiences from participants. The workshop was a strong success, with participants leaving better able to harness their MRV in order to confidently represent developing countries at international climate change negotiations.

2009 was a bad year for natural disasters in the Asia-Pacific.

Cyclones in Burma and the Phillipines, floods in Vietnam and volcanic eruptions in Indonesia stretched the capacity and willingness of neighbouring nations to come to the aid of millions affected. Such regional goodwill was further tested by outbreaks of conflict in Papua New-Guinea, the Solomon Islands and East Timor.

A deployable civilian service?

Against this torrid backdrop, the notion of a deployable civilian ‘public-service’ was proposed by a newly elected, liberal Australian government eager to prove itself on the global stage. Its interventions in the region, often as last-minute provider of humanitarian aid and mediator of local conflicts, served to rouse popular support for a rethink of Australia’s response to such crises.

Further impetus for expanding Australia’s aid and diplomatic reach lay in a domestic economic and political climate ripened by a decade long natural-resources boom and a warming of relations across the region

Launched the same year as the militaristic sounding ‘Australian Civilian Corps’, the ACC is now a standing capacity of some 120-odd specialists in public administration and finance, law and justice, engineering, health, stabilisation and humanitarian assistance.

I was recently invited to join an elaborate Foundation Training required of all members, and learned that the Corps aims for a 500 strong cadre by 2014 to enable ‘the rapid deployment of civilian specialists to countries affected by natural disaster or conflict.’

This ambition reflects a wider interest amongst Western nations to bind foreign aid budgets to national security interests. Such trends are grounded in an increasingly popular ideology which views violence and instability as magnified by extreme poverty (Cramer, 2006) – prompting a dramatic growth in funding for so-called ‘fragile states’ such as Afghanistan, Sudan, Yemen and the like. Founded on this newly coined ‘stabilisation doctrine‘, the ACC draws heavily from the experiences of similar efforts by the UK, US, Canada and EU.

Integrating development, diplomacy and defence

This assimilation of development, diplomacy and defence policy is also reflective of a growing shift amongst Western governments toward more integrated, ‘Whole of Government’ approaches. Such trends however, risk obscuring of the distinction between international military, political and poverty reduction objectives.

Regardless, the ACC’s humble achievements to date belie its ambitions beyond simply serving as firefighter and policeman for the Asia-Pacific. Recent forays into Afghanistan, Libya and Haiti give some indication as to the depth of Australia’s determination to flex its international muscle in regions far removed from its own.

On the way, it hopes to ‘advance its reputation and influence in the international community’. Some might look to Australia’s ambitions to secure a seat on the UN Security Council next year as one spur for such ventures (lending further weight to Australia’s self-perception of itself as a ‘Middle Power’ in the region).

Seat or no seat, the birth of the ACC reflects a more prosperous, globally confident, and politically ambitious nation. That said, the test of the Australian Civilian Corps itself will lie in the impact it actually achieves in generating action to overcome crisis and conflict – beyond its own audacious rhetoric.

Following Copenhagen, there seemed to be a feeling and perception that the world had let itself down by failing to reach the kind of international agreement and commitment that would significantly and urgently begin to tackle issues of climate change. For many people and organisations, there is a disconnect or a weak link between climate change discourse and development thinking and practice.

Mid 2010, the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) began to think about how to strengthen the nexus between climate change and development. A consortium of organisations were convened by CDKN to try and host an event that could bring new life into the issues of Copenhagen and discover new ways of ensuring that climate change and development were complementary sides of one coin. This thinking culminated into the CDKN Change Lab Event that took place in Oxford from 3rd to 7th April 2011.

The preparation to the Change Lab Event involved setting up of a cross-sectoral group of process designers and facilitators. Wasafiri Partner Martin Kalungu-Banda was invited to lead on the key methodology to be used during the event.

The emphasis in preparation was about designing a process that would allow the 200 participants from over 70 countries, covering public, private and civil society sectors to interact and think together in order to come up with innovative ways of establishing the nexus between climate change and development. The internet was extensively used to learn from the experiences and expertise of all the participants. Guest speakers who could help the participants gain quick understanding of the some aspects of the challenge were identified and properly briefed. Weekly internet meetings were held over a period of four months in order to design and test the process for hosting and conducting the event.

The hosting environment was carefully chosen (Oxford University) because of its capacity to provide the space and atmosphere required for break-through thinking. The best practices in human interaction and systems thinking were tapped into and brought into the design. The entire process was a mix of plenary conversations; small group discussions; and individual moments of reflection. To maximise the creativity of the participants, various tools and techniques in creative processes such sculpting, drawing and painting; systems games and journaling, among others, were used.

Working in small groups created on the basis of interest and work/ organisational focus, participants came up with 26 prototypes that are going to be implemented in order to bring about the new situation where issues of climate change and development would be simultaneously worked on. Equally important were the different collaborative relationships and networks that emerged during the four-day event. These networks, it is hoped, will leverage the distinctive competencies of the various institutions and sectors that in the past had never tapped into each other’s strengths, experience and expertise.

The context: The world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are the ones most affected by Climate Change. Yet they bear little responsibility for humankind’s contributions to the problem. Achieving a fair and legally-binding deal from multilateral climate negotiations has become quite simply an issue of survival for the most vulnerable.

Wasafiri’s role: Wasafiri consultant Liberal Seburikoko has been contracted to lead Climate Analytics’ work in Africa, providing LDC’s with real-time, cutting-edge scientific, political and strategic support for global Climate Change negotiations.

Generating action: The capacity of Africa’s poorest countries – those most affected by Climate Change – to negotiate a fairer deal at global Climate Change forums has been greatly increased by Liberal’s work. LDCs are in a stronger position than ever before to ensure their interests as considered alongside those of the world’s richest nations.