07 Dec 2017 - 08 Dec 2017
Academiegebouw, Utrecht

Confirmed key note speakers:

Arun Agrawal, University of Michigan

Jun Borras, ISS The Hague

As countries worldwide push for a greater focus on climate change adaptation, and more adaptation financing is made available through global mechanisms, understanding the local impacts of global adaptation strategies becomes increasingly important. Adaptation is rarely the technical, apolitical process which it is framed as being. Instead, it creates new winners and losers, exacerbating conflict and the risk of conflict, as well as forging new alliances within and between scales.

Bottom-up, participatory, community-based approaches – where local actors participate in the selection of and decision-making about adaptation strategies to be pursued in their area – are commonly presented as a requirement for successful interventions. This notion is fundamentally embedded in popular adaptation programming, such as Ecosystems-Based Adaptation (EBA) and Community-Based Adaptation (CBA).

Yet despite the emphasis on community participation in adaptation, the ‘communities’ themselves are increasingly implied as abstracted, isolated, homogenous and static units, through which resilience is automatically strengthened. In reality, we know very well that communities are also sites of internal conflict and changing patterns of cooperation. They exist in complex, multi-stakeholder landscapes where competing claims to natural resources are intertwined in fragile and sometimes violent relations between different livelihoods, ethnicities, gender, generation and political affiliations, with, in many instances, very different definitions of sustainability. This suggests that bottom-up approaches should not be considered as an alternative or in opposition to top-down approaches from national and/or regional authorities; rather the two should be combined and integrated in order to achieve better overall results.

The idea that bottom-up approaches automatically enhance local adaptive capacity is often centre in adaptation thinking. As a result there is very little critical reflection on what we can really learn from local communities and their indigenous or local knowledge systems. What roles do local communities play in global climate change adaptation? Are bottom-up approaches really community-centred, or even effective? This conference will contribute to discussions about the role of communities in adaptation, as well as the position of other stakeholders (such as private actors, NGOs, civil society organisations etc.) who often compete with involved communities over access to scarce natural resources, in view of the question: how to make adaptation interventions more participatory, inclusive and conflict-sensitive?

This interactive seminar is a follow up from last year’s conference Climate Change Interventions as a Source of Conflict, Cooperation and New Mobilities. We now invite proposals for pitches and presentations during this 2 day event, to be sent to landac.geo@uu.nl on or before 22nd September 2017. Please also contact us if you have suggestions for sessions or topics, or if you would like to register as a participant.