Locally Led Climate Adaptation

What Is Needed to Accelerate Action and Support?


3. Scope and Methodology of the Literature Review

This review focuses on interventions in the Global South that aim to strengthen resilience through locally led adaptation, whether in the face of climate impacts, development challenges, or both. In the search for these locally led examples, the authors reviewed over 70 adaptation-focused and community-centered program and project evaluation reports and briefings, funded by global, national, and local climate funds, including government funders and mechanisms that aid in the devolution and decentralization of financing. While this paper’s definition of local actors goes beyond communities and includes local governments, local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and civil society organizations, most of the literature reviewed focused on the communities and local governments.

Most of the literature was collected through internet searches (in English) in repositories like EBSCO, JSTOR, and Google Scholar, and targeted projects and programs that finance resilience interventions at the subnational level. Key search terms included “community-driven development,” “community resilience,” “community resilience investments,” “devolved finance,” “decentralized finance,” “locally led,” and “local investments.” Appendix A provides a detailed look at the types and number of sources and projects reviewed.

In assessing projects to review, the authors focused on evaluations and aggregated assessments and reports written by implementing bodies and independent research institutes of major climate and adaptation funds, which at times comprised dozens of projects (e.g., the four Huairou Commission Community Resilience Fund sources together cover 50 projects). Programs and projects that indicated the inclusion of local agency and leadership, addressed socioeconomic disparities, and/or sought to devolve finances were examined further to assess whether locally led elements were central to their frameworks or designs.

The authors limited their locally led adaptation examples to interventions implemented in the last two decades and literature in which local actors played a decision-making role, rather than being just target beneficiaries or engaged in more consultative ways. A project that invited communities to workshops or consultations would not be considered locally led, while one that included local leaders in the project design and implementation committee and accounted for how projects could be sustained after their allocated funding lifetimes would be (see Section 4 for a more in-depth explanation of locally led principles and sample activities).

The sources reviewed cover 374 specific interventions worldwide, of which only a small subset (22) featured a locally led approach as a core or central component for how activities were designed or carried out. Some of these 22 examples are featured throughout the paper, as well as compiled in Appendix B with an explanation of the locally led elements they embody. The authors synthesize the trends and characteristics that were featured most frequently in locally led investments, and what enabled them to scale or lead to longer-term change. Much of the literature was limited when it came to whether locally led adaptation led to more effective, sustainable, and climate-resilient outcomes. Likewise, it is important to note that more examples of locally led adaptation efforts likely exist that are self-funded at the subnational or local level and therefore have little or no documented evidence available via online documents.

The review included projects across a range of relevant sectors like agriculture, infrastructure, and housing to understand whether and how they embedded resilience and local leadership. Efforts to identify opportunities to strengthen such elements in their design and implementation were considered as well. The authors reviewed sources from both rural and urban settings to delineate differences and commonalities between these contexts. Over 20 relevant peer-reviewed articles on best approaches for monitoring adaptation and the challenges and barriers of climate finance for locally led resilience were also consulted.

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