Bringing Gender Equality to Adaptation Financing II: Least Developed Countries Fund

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Ecology Brief

Bringing Gender Equality to Adaptation Financing II: Least Developed Countries Fund

December 11, 2009
By Liane Schalatek

Climate change has already severe impacts especially in the poorest countries and for the most vulnerable people and groups, among them disproportionally many women. Adapting to these impacts will be very costly—new studies have estimated costs in the order of tens of billions of US dollars a year—but unavoidable. Supporting the adaptation needs of developing countries with sufficient funds is not just a matter of necessity, but also of global fairness and respect for human rights, including womens rights. Currently none of the multilateral adaptation finance mechanisms systematically considers gender equality in its operations or project funding.

This brief provides an analysis of the status of gender considerations at the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), an adaptation financing instrument under the United Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It gives some recommendations for incorporating gender equality in LDCF funded projects in order to improve their adaptation outcomes. A second separate brief looks at how gender-aware funding decisions and projects at the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) are.

Several new multilateral climate funds for adaptation have been set up in the past two years to assist developing countries with efforts to foster climate-resilient development and improve ecosystem resilience. A lot of attention has been focused on the new Adaptation Fund (AF) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Strategic Climate Fund (SCF) with a Pilot Program on Climate Resilience (PPCR) at the World Bank; both funds are expected to generate hundreds of millions of US dollars in a relatively short period.

However, these new instruments have distracted attention—and funding—from the two oldest existing adaptation funds, the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF). While their future role and weight in a new climate finance architecture is uncertain, they are expected to remain in operation for the foreseeable future. Thus, their history of interaction with developing countries up to now—including on gender issues—can provide some important lessons for deciding on the best way to fund climate resilience in developing countries in the future.

Origins, Mandate and Scope of the LDCF

The Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) was established in 2001 by a decision of the 7th Conference of Parties (COP 7) of the United Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the same time as the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF). The LDCF is tasked to address the special needs and vulnerabilities of 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) with respect to adverse climate change impacts by supporting the preparation and implementation of National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs). These spell out the urgent and immediate needs of LDCs, identified by the countries themselves, to adapt to climate change. The LDCF is to fund only additional costs for immediate adaptation needs over a development (“business-as-usual”) baseline. LDCF grants, as in with the SCCF, are supposed to leverage significant additional resources from other multilateral and bilateral sources, including the recipient countries themselves.

The LDCF receives voluntary contributions of currently 19 Annex 1 (industrialized) countries, which have pledged USD 180.8 million to the fund as of September 30, 2009. However, so far the LDCF has only received USD 155.4 million in payment. A large proportion, namely USD 108.3 million, has already been spent for project preparations and projects.

The actual funding amounts contrast poorly with the UNFCCCs own estimate of at least USD 800 million (and possibly up to USD 1.5 billion) needed to fund the more than 400 adaptation projects already identified under the NAPAs as urgent and immediate. The GEF advocates for the replenishment of the LDCF of at least USD 500 million over the next four years. Some outside experts go even higher, demanding that Annex 1 countries allocate USD 2 billion over five years for the same purpose.

The current size and unpredictability of available funding constrains the LDCF to offering relatively small scale funding for project or sector focused priorities, not programmatic or transformative approaches that would feed into wider development coherence objectives. LDCF money is disbursed as grants, but fully counted toward Official Development Assistance (ODA) figures. This contradicts the UNFCCC call for Annex 1 (donor) countries to provide new and additional resources for adaptation.

Under the currently available funding, each eligible LDC would receive just USD 3.7 million for the implementation of its NAPA. This makes co-financing from other sources, including multilateral development assistance, imperative. As of October 1, 2009, the USD 122.3 million committed for NAPA priority project implementation solicited an additional USD 283.1 million in co-financing.

So far, 43 country-owned NAPAs have been completed with the financial support of the LDCF (which spent on average USD 200,000.00 per NAPA); six more are in the final stages of preparation. Additionally, some 34 countries have submitted NAPA implementation projects to the GEF. Yet, seven years after the funds establishment, only nine LDCF implementation projects have started, with another 22 in the pipeline awaiting final review or approval within the next 6 months.

The complicated and slow approval process, a despite attempts at streamlining still lengthy GEF project cycle, as well as the difficulty in accessing the funds, high transactions costs and fees, and the grass underfunding of the LDCF are the main complaints of many recipient countries with the LDCF. Developing countries also criticize the complexities of differentiating between “additional costs” and regular development needs and chafe at the expectation that they contribute themselves to LDCF projects. A recent external LDCF evaluation, echoing many of the LDCs concerns, found the funds problems to be structural, urging an expansive restructuring of the fund.

The Gender Relevance of the LDCFs Funding Mandate

The adverse effects of climate change, including extreme whether variability with increased natural disasters and droughts, are already felt acutely in many parts of the developing world and nowhere more so than in the poorest countries, as these countries lack the resources and capacities to address urgent adaptation challenges head-on. They threaten to negate or even reverse many development gains of the last two decades. The poorest and most disenfranchised population groups in LDCs (many of them Sub-Sahara African and Small Island Developing States) in turn are those the most vulnerable to climate change impacts, many of them women.

Climate change impacts are not gender-neutral, as a growing body of scientific studies underscores. As the majority of the worlds poor and as primary caretakers for families, women are affected differently, and often disproportionately worse than men by climate change. Their traditional roles in the provision of food, water, care and health services for their families and local communities forces them to rely heavily on the use and management of natural resources for their survival and livelihood. At the same time, women have often untapped existing knowledge of coping strategies already utilized at the grassroots level. Many of these employ cost-effective, low-technology strategies which could be beneficial if included in national and international adaptation response strategies and plans.

With the LDCF being narrowly focused on financial assistance for the completion and implementation of country-owned NAPAs, the action plans in which LDCs prioritize the most urgent and immediate projects to address vulnerabilities to climate change, it is mainly through the NAPAs, their development and implementation that the LDCF relates most directly to poor women and mens livelihoods.

Status Report on Gender Considerations in the LDCF

UNFCCC COP Decision 28/CP.7 identifies gender equality as a guiding principle for NAPAs. In fact, the guidelines for NAPA preparation which were developed by a Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG) established by the UNFCCC, spell out the need for participatory processes with the involvement of a wide array of stakeholders, including men and women at the community level, in formulating a countrys NAPA. While these guidelines are not meant to be prescriptive and give countries flexibility to address individual country circumstances, they nevertheless stress that “Women are often the main repositories of vital local and traditional knowledge, and they need to be recognized as key stakeholders in the consultations and in decision-making.

Unfortunately, expert reviews and analysis of most of the 43 NAPA reports financed through the LDCF and submitted to the UNFCCC to date show that the majority fails to sufficiently incorporate and acknowledge either gender differentiated vulnerabilities to climate change or the specific contribution of women to adaptation efforts. This is despite the fact that almost all of the submitted NAPAs identify for their country significant climate change impacts on food security, water resources, health, early warning and disaster relief, or sanitation—all areas where men and women are affected differently, as the experience from the development sector shows. In fact, of over 400 priority projects identified in completed NAPAs, more than 100 projects related to food security, an area with clear gender implications. Management of water resources, another area where gender differences are apparent, was the focus of another 57 priority projects.

Where NAPAs reference gender equality explicitly, it is more often than not in general, broad terms. And few NAPAs address womens adaptation needs and contributions other than in terms of their vulnerability. They focus solely on women as victims of climate change, not as powerful actors with the capacity to initiate and contribute to change through participation in strategic adaptation project planning, decision-making and implementation.

There are positive examples of NAPAs that successfully integrate at least some gender concerns and address gender equality as imperative for climate-resilient development (see Box 2) . However, mainstreaming gender into NAPAs remains the exception rather than the rule, and none of the NAPAs so far could be cited as best practice in showcasing a comprehensive and systematic gender mainstreaming effort.

To date, most of the NAPAs requested under the UNFCCC have already been written (43 of 48 possible). Nevertheless, in understanding NAPAs as flexible planning tool and part of an ongoing process (rather than an end in themselves), their very existence represents a tremendous opportunity to advance gender equality in LDCF adaptation financing. Fittingly, the LEG advices least developed countries to consider regularly updating and re-structuring NAPAs, for example on a biannual basis, in order to better align them with national budget processes. Gender concerns could thus be directly injected, refined or improved upon in any future update of a countrys NAPA.

With few actual LDCF funded NAPA implementation projects of the ground, it is also still possible to refine and strengthen existing NAPAs in the national contexts (for example where a reference to “most vulnerable” groups as target of an action is mentioned) by introducing gender-awareness and gender criteria in a NAPA post ante at the project level. Likewise, least developed countries in preparing projects for implementation approval by the LDCF should work with the ten GEF implementing agencies in mainstreaming gender into those projects. Most of them—although not the GEF itself—have an institutional approach to gender equality in the form of formalized gender policies or gender plans of action.

This could be done by developing gender-sensitive indicators for a project to allow the tracking of progress or through the inclusion of quantitative and qualitative targets—measurable and verifiable of course—which address gender considerations and womens needs and capabilities in the specific project. Likewise, the project budget should be developed gender-responsive, and expenditures tracked and monitored accordingly.

That the level of gender-awareness in LDCF funded adaptation measures is lacking, is revealed by a review of several LDCF implementation project documents. Even projects in countries which had elaborated a gender-aware NAPA, gender issues and womens roles as participants, beneficiaries and actors in adaptation efforts were addressed only sporadic—or not at all. A more thorough research and analysis is needed, and should be taken up as task by the LDCF team at the GEF. Looking at the project documents for more than a third of the currently 29 full-sized implementation projects, only the ones for the projects in Bangladesh (see Box 4), Bhutan and Malawi make any mention of gender or women.

While many of the documents publicly available correspond to early stages of the GEF project cycle (the project identification form , PIF, or the project preparation grant, PPF), the absence of any consideration of gender issues and women as a group in these documents—be it as part of the project analysis, as indicator for the success of the project, as target group for priority actions under the project, as expertise for the job description of project leaders and specialists—does not bode well for the project implementation. It is at these earlier stages of the LDCF project cycle that a systematic inclusion of gender equality in planning documents is needed.

The task falls equally to experts and officials from the recipient country, the GEF implementing agency, the LDCF staff at the staff, and hired project consultants).

In their quest to mainstream gender into LDCF projects, least developed countries should also be able to rely on expertise and recommendations from the LEG, whose gender awareness could likewise be improved. Of the twelve experts (nine from least developed countries) making up the LEG, only one is currently a woman. And a newly UNFCCC published Least Developed Countries Step-by Step Guide to Implementing National Adaptation Plans of Action, which the LEP developed in collaboration with the GEF and its agencies, mentions gender mainstreaming just once as adaptation strategy to reduce vulnerability, but not as cross-cutting intervention in other nine identified adaptation sectors such as food security or water resources management.

Providing the Missing Gender Link at the LDCF—Some Important Steps Forward

Several steps should be taken to improve the consideration of gender equality in the preparation and implementation of LDCF funded adaptation projects:

  • Prepare and institute a strong gender-mainstreaming policy and/or a Gender Plan of Action at the GEF: A formalized gender policy at the GEF would give GEF staff clear directives, incentives and specific mandates to systematically incorporate social and gender analysis in its approval processes.
  • Develop a coordinated joint gender approach to adaptation among GEF and its partner agencies: The GEF should coordinate and consult with its partner agencies to develop a common understanding and practice on how to incorporate gender awareness in LDCF funded adaptation projects and how to monitor them for concrete gender outcomes. For example, they should develop minimum gender standards or a gender safeguard policy, applicable to all LDCF funded projects.
  • Use gender indicators to track progress toward gender equality in LDCF project implementation: Developing countries should work with GEF implementing agencies in order to mainstream gender into projects that are being prepared for implementation approval by the LDCF. Countries should develop gender-sensitive indicators for projects to allow the tracking of progress, or include measurable and verifiable quantitative and qualitative targets that address gender considerations and womens needs and capabilities.
  • Generate and disseminate knowledge products on gender and adaptation: The Climate Change and LDCF teams in the GEF Secretariat should generate and disseminate knowledge products that identify how LDCF adaptation projects can address gender equality issues and support women as agents of adaption. They should compile existing research, identify research gaps relevant to their work, and request and fund additional research.
  • Provide gender training to staff: Joint workshops involving relevant staff of all GEF agencies should be held regularly focusing on the correlation between gender equality and improved adaptation outcomes. By utilizing periodic gender audits for implementation projects, the GEF experts should showcase “best practises” and formulate recommendations on LDCF project implementation to be shared with donor and recipient countries and implementing agencies.
  • Refine and strengthen existing NAPAs: LDCF recipient countries should include gender considerations in all stages of NAPA preparation and updating, as well as in the design of adaptation projects. They should ensure and foster womens direct Use existing gender tools early and systematically: Adaptation projects under the LDCF should take the differentiated impacts on and contributions of men and women into account in project development and implementation by utilizing tools such as gender indicators, social and gender analysis, gender-differentiated data-sets, gender documented in the development context (f.ex. gender-responsive budgeting) and Include gender equality in all LDCF funding decisions: LDCF donor as well as recipient countries should ask the GEF and the LDCF/SCCF council to include gender equality in all their funding decisions. Donor countries should provide tied or ear-marked additional resources for gender equality projects under the fund; they should also significantly increase the amount and reliability of their financial contributions to multilateral adaptation funding mechanisms, including to the LDCF.
  • Allow funding access for non-governmental and community-based organizations: The LDCF/SCCF Council should consider new approaches to financing projects under the LDCF, including opening a window to support the implementation of climate change adaptation projects by non-governmental and community-based organizations, giving special consideration to womens and gender groups. For such a funding window, the project approval process should be significantly shortened and the project documentation requirements reduced. Project preparation funding should provide sufficient resources for community consultations and targeted outreach to marginalized groups, especially women.
  • Adapt gender equality language for the Convention and make gender equality a guiding principle for national actions on climate change: The UNFCCC COP should adapt gender equality language for the Convention and request its Secretariat to initiate a work program on gender and climate change, particularly on adaptation, financing and technology transfer. The COP should also request that expert groups involved in preparing NAPA guidelines and national communications incorporate gender considerations and womens roles in adaptation, and develop training workshops and capacity-building activities related to the guidelines.
  • Focus research and lobby efforts on adaptation on the benefits of gender equality for building climate resilience: Civil society organizations and gender advocates in multilateral and government institutions and agencies can contribute to fill the perception and knowledge cap on utility of considering gender in adaptation projects by conducting relevant research, especially by documenting best practises of successful gender-aware projects in community settings. They can also help by attending stakeholder consultation meetings and by lobbying their national governments to ensure that gender equality is an important criterion of project selection and approval.

Bringing Gender Equality to Adaptation Financing II: Least Developed Countries Fund
Editor Heinrich Böll Stiftung
Place of publication Washington
Date of publication December 2009
Pages 8
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Date of Publication
December 11, 2009
Heinrich Böll Stiftung
Number of Pages
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