Saleemul Huq, senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), spoke to Viet Nam News about the sixth international conference on Community-based Adaptation co-hosted by IIED and the Vietnamese Government.
What were the major outcomes of the conference?
This was a successful conference in terms of sharing knowledge. More than 300 people came from all over the globe, most of them from countries in the developing world hardest hit by climate change. They gathered here to discuss various aspects of climate change adaptation, particularly at the community level. This dialogue is very important because if we are going to adapt successfully to climate change, we have to work together. For example, coastal communities in different countries may learn from Viet Nam how to grow and maintain mangrove forests in flood-prone areas.
The results of this conference will also be used as the output for the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scheduled to be released in 2014.
This year's theme was climate change communication, so that local voices will be heard and their concerns addressed. Do you think the discussion coming out of this will improve communication among stakeholders across multiple levels?
There are several ways we intend to make it happen. The attending representative from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate
Change will take the results of this conference to the upcoming UN climate summit in Doha. Communities in Viet Nam are doing interesting things that should receive global attention. At the same time, the Vietnamese Government will be coming to present their story and so will other groups. So the Government, UN agencies and civil society will bring this message together to the international level.
We experimented for the first time with a wide range of social media tools to publicise the needs of vulnerable communities and what they are doing. Thousands of people follow us on Twitter and the interesting thing is that a lot of them are young people in America. Without social media, they may not even have heard about the meeting in Ha Noi. That audience needs to learn about the good practices taking place in developing countries because sooner or later rich countries will have to face the same problems.
Prior to the conference, the international participants spent three days in the field at eight different locations across Viet Nam. What were their impressions about the country's progress?
I think the international community recognises that Viet Nam is taking the situation very seriously. There are good indicators from the highest level of Government and now we see many things happening at the grassroots level. For example, the participants were particularly impressed by Hong Ca Commune of Yen Tran District in the northern mountainous province of Yen Bai, where the local community has got children involved in climate change risk reduction. This is very impressive, and Viet Nam is, I would say, one of the leaders in this field.
So what is the theme for the next conference?
The theme for the next conference is integrating the programmes into Government policies. So far community-based activities are overseen by local Governments and NGOs, and we want the Government to replicate them on a larger scale. — VNS