Climate proofing development co-operation through sustainability assessment: potential and limitations

2012 EEEN Forum / Evaluation

Jean Hugé, KLIMOS Research Platform on Climate Change & Development Co-operation, Forest Ecology & Management Research Group at KU Leuven and Centre for Sustainable Development at University Ghent

Climate change adaptation entered the field of development cooperation fairly recently. Inter­national organisations, civil society and academics rapidly flooded policymakers with new jargon, recommendations and best practices. Recipient and donor countries alike need to adjust to this new reality in a very short time span.

Although policy-supporting instruments for environmental integration sensu lato have been used in development cooperation for many years (e.g. EIA & SEA), a two-way perspective is necessary to successfully integrate adaptation into development co-operation: assessing the impacts of an inter­vention on climate change is not enough, as risks posed by climate change on an intervention also need to be assessed.

Sustainability assessment can provide an answer to this challenge by its intrinsic focus on resilience. However the practice of sustainability assessment is subject to many influences, ranging from shifts in dominant discourses and the existing institutional landscape to organisational capacity issues. Hence discrepancies can potentially arise between policymakers’ expectations and the actual per­formance of sustainability assessment. This contribution provides an analysis of the emerging experi­ence of the Belgian development co-operation sector with sustainability assessment in a climate change adaptation context. Obstacles and opportunities for adaptation-development syner­gies are identified in the partnerships between Belgium and respectively Morocco and South Africa.

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