Interview with Sonja Greiner - CFE Project Manager- Austrian Red Cross
Reviewing the last two years of project implementation, what are the greatest achievements of the Climate Forum East (CfE) project?
The CfE contributed strongly to building the capacity and developing the networking of civil society organizations (CSOs) in the field of climate change adaptation in EaP countries. Climate change adaptation is a topic for today and for future generations and the concerted work of CSOs from different sectors such as humanitarian, health, environment and youth towards a common goal is still in its infancy. In each country, the project developed differently, with various country-specific focuses, speed and strengths. In Armenia, awareness about climate change was raised in communities, on decentralized levels; in Azerbaijan, a large and diverse civil society network working jointly on climate change was established; in Georgia, the work of the CSO network filled a gap to address climate change and health issues, developing now a heat action plan for Tbilisi together with stakeholders; in Ukraine, expertise on urban climate change adaptation has been developed by our project partners from NECU, inspired by the outcomes of the national climate vulnerability assessment (CVA); in Moldova, climate change adaptation was brought to the attention of the media; and the Belarus Red Cross Society has had a huge success in implementing projects on community level to increase climate awareness linked to climate related diseases. The formation of these unique selling points of each of our partners and the roughly 80 civil society organizations plus stakeholders as members in the Climate Forum East platform allows for well-informed Eastern Partnership country best practice. The project and project related initiatives have high potential to foster further development towards more climate aware policies, education, communication and concrete actions. Many of the CfE achievements were shared with decision-makers and government representatives for evidence oriented policy-making. The partnership between the Red Cross and the WWF grew further, to combine humanitarian and environmental approaches in climate change action.
Having emphasised the strengths of the project, where do you see potential for improvements?
In the project design, we strongly underlined the development of relationships between different actors relevant for climate change adaptation and the building of trust for sustainable networks between different stakeholders from the governmental, non-governmental and scientific sector. We brought the humanitarian and environment community closer together. Each of the actors mentioned brings in specific expertise when it comes to responding to climate related disasters or impacts on biodiversity, water resources and health. The networking and learning about the expertise of various organizations has bundled lots of resources by project partners, CSO network members and stakeholders in all countries and on regional level. Consequently, concrete climate action on the local level based on the CVA recommendations did not get enough attention. Targeted cross-border exchange between different organizations included in the Climate Forum East platform could also be improved, for joint learning and sharing of innovative approaches to tackle climate change.
What is the Climate Forum East II (CfE II) project about that is planned to follow the CfE project?
The CfE II project builds on the success of the ongoing CfE project and mitigates its weaknesses. It aims at further developing the strengths of the individual civil society organizations in the national CSO networks on Climate Change Adaptation and also those of locally active CSOs based on four pillars: organizational (sustainable CSO structures), technical (climate change adaptation), cooperation oriented (network activities going local) and contributing to policy making, awareness raising and education for youth. The CfE results from national policy dialogues, awareness raising and the six CVAs will be expanded more to decentralised and local levels where climate change is happening; concrete climate change adaptation action will be systematically implemented in a multi-partner approach in rural and urban communities and documented for replication; study visits between different CSOs will be fostered for joint learning; policy dialogue with local and national government stakeholders will be intensified and, in the ideal cases, institutionalized. Last but not least, existing and new partnership with other EaP climate change and disaster risk reduction projects will be encouraged. First and foremost, we will elaborate on our current coordination with the ClimaEast project and government led initiatives in the different countries wherever synergies make a difference for people and nature affected by the impacts of climate change.