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Institutional network to address climate change in Bangladesh

2017-06-28 14:32:29

Bangladesh is extremely vulnerable to climate change impacts mainly because of its low lying geographic position, high population density, poverty and high dependency on agriculture. Flood is a regular phenomenon where about 70% land is usually affected every year. Besides, cyclones, riverbank erosion, landslides, salinity intrusion, thunderstorms, droughts and heavy rainfall frequently affect the country. Evidently, the incidents and intensity of these climatic events are growing further due to climate change. Therefore, climate change is now considered as a major development enemy in Bangladesh.    

Given that, Bangladesh is well advanced among the Least Developed Countries (LCDs) in addressing the climate change and its detrimental effects. This country has recently adopted two comprehensive national plans on climate change that address both adaptation and mitigation. All state and non-state institutional actors are recognised in these plans to be involved in a well-coordinated manner to face the challenge of climate change. Importantly, national development plans have incorporated these climate change plans with a view to mainstream climate change issue in national development process. As a result, an institutional network has already been developed to address climate change in Bangladesh. This article will explore the scale of climate change network and its potential to address climate change.

The Climate Change Unit (CCU) of the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) is the central point of climate change governance in Bangladesh. This unit operates with the overall direction of the National Environment Committee headed by the Prime Minister and the National Steering Committee on Climate Change chaired by the Minister, the MoEF. The overall responsibility of CCU is to coordinate and facilitate the activities of line ministries as well as maintain network with all other relevant state and non-state actors. Every concern line ministry has Climate Change Focal Point that administers (from designing and seeking approval from the CCU to help implementation) climate change related projects and programmes under its jurisdiction (subordinate department/institutions) in coordination with CCU.

Also, CCU looks after climate finance such as Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund (BCCTF) which is a government fund, and Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund (BCCRF), a major donor fund. Lastly, the CCU maintains communication with the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and represents Bangladesh in international climate change negotiations with the support of the National Steering Committee on Climate Change and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The type of activities of actors/institutions at national level involved in network are presented in the following table:




Activity relating to climate change


National Environment Committee

Overall guidance

National Steering Committee on Climate Change

Coordinating and facilitating actions on adaptation; reporting to the  National Environment Committee; providing guidance to various international negotiations


Mentioned above

Line Ministries/Climate Change Cell (subordinate department/institutions)

Adaptation and development programmes/projects designing and implementing projects/programmes approved by the Climate Change Unit and the Planning Commission (PC) with the active support of subordinate departments/institutions


Formulating development plans, giving effort to mainstreaming adaptation into development process

Global Climate Change Governance

Assisting in climate change policy formulation; organizing international climate finance; monitoring and evaluating guided actions on climate change

Donor/international financial institutions

Providing financial and technical support to the GoB (Government of Bangladesh) and NGOs; 


Raising awareness; mobilizing people; contributing to formulate adaptation policy; developing capacity; generating climate change  knowledge through research; providing inputs in international negotiations; implementing pilot projects in vulnerable communities


Sharing adaptation priorities, experience and traditional knowledge;  participating policy formulation and implementation

Academic/research institutes

Generating knowledge; contributing to formulating policy

 Table: Activities of actors/institutions involved in network at national level

The institutional arrangement of climate change in Bangladesh can therefore be characterized as a network mode of governance where government, non-state and international actors are intimately working in order to address the growing climate change threat to Bangladesh. The climate change plans such as the NAPA (National Adaptation Program of Action) and BCCSAP (Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan) are formulated through a participatory consultative process in which all these actors contributed and more significantly, both the documents call for strengthening climate change network.  

In practice, however, as a policy instrument how this network is shaping the relation between climate change adaptation and development is focused below both at national (central) and local (Upazilla) levels though in a limited scale:



At central level:

First, both national and major donor funds are channelled through the MoEF where the PC (central planning body), has no authority over those fund management. Conversely, PC also allocates money for climate change projects through its ADP (Annual Development Plan). Therefore, the parallel approach of climate finance from usual development planning within the national climate financing governance is antagonistic and thus undermining mainstreaming effort of adaptation. Besides, the government partnership with donors in climate finance remains critical due to their different priorities. Donors usually focus on mitigation while government gives emphasis on adaptation as it is the primary necessity for Bangladesh. Thus, the divergence priority of national government and donor institutions and within the government between the MoEF and the PC have weakened network effectiveness.


Second, there is no direct coordination mechanism between the MoEF and the PC with regards to climate change and development projects. As noted before, PC governs sectoral development projects including climate change related projects in accordance with the ADP. On the other hand, the MoEF administer climate change projects from selection to implementation. Consequently, these two parallel project selection mechanisms undermine the coherence of climate change and development projects and also generate overlapping and duplication within the climate change projects. This is a shortcoming of overall network performance that results into an inconsistent relation between climate change and development planning.

Third, there is a lack of trustworthy relation between government and donors. Donors usually remain suspicious whether their money is spent efficiently. As a result, donors want to retain fund management power. The Government also has some kinds of mistrust on the donors as donors sometimes serve their own interest. As for example, in the case of climate finance, donors usually push government to give more emphasis on mitigation rather than adaptation although adaptation is our first priority. Thus inherent tension regarding mutual trust is also an impediment for network performance of climate governance. 




At local level:

It is evident from climate change project that both state and non-state actors at Upazila level are working interdependently as like a network to build communities’ adaptive capacity to climate change effects. For instance, land department provides lands to the coastal farmers/fishermen; Upazila Agriculture Extension Department coupled with the NGOs provides information, training, technical and financial support to the farmers for climate resilience crop cultivation; Upazila Fishery and Livestock departments assists and support communities to develop climate protected fish culture and livestock management; private sector market climate tolerance crop varieties; forest department provides all technical and financial supports on plantation; CBOs mobilizes people at community and individual households level; the UzDMC (Upazila Disaster Management Committee) and the UDCC (Upazila Development Coordination Committee) facilitate and coordinate all such activities that maintain alignment of climate change adaptation and development projects to bring synergy. Thus the resources are shared among all local actors to attain the common goal of coastal community resilience to climate change effects.

Importantly, the Upazilla Parishad maintains coordination between adaptation and development projects through the two vital committees (UzDMC and UDCC). The members of both these committees are almost same. The Upazilla Chairman, (an elected representative) who is the Chief Executive Officer of the Upazilla Parishad, is the chairman of these committees while Upazilla Nirbahi Officer (UNO), a member of central administration serves as the Member Secretary of these committees and also the Secretary of the Upazilla Parishad. The other elected representatives and the heads of the various government departments at Upazilla level are the members of that committees. Additionally, NGOs representatives (one representative each from local, national and international NGOs), CBOs representatives are also the members of that committees.

All elected representatives including Chairman and the government officials are collectively accountable to the Parishad. Although the Upazill Parishad retains the monitoring power of government departments, it has no ultimate power to make them answerable as they are accountable to their superior line authority. Thus, they enjoy some kind of autonomy. Therefore, the interconnection between various government departments at Upazilla is loose and mostly horizontal in nature rather than hierarchical command and control relation. As networks imply fluidity, this relation among Upazilla government department is compatible with idea of network governance. The resource sharing, coordination, autonomy etc. are few elements of network governance found to be existed at local level adaptation activities to climate change in Bangladesh. Therefore, given coordination mechanism in the network and remaining of the climate change adaptation and development projects governing authority within the same network, an environment of synergistic relation between local climate change and development activities exists.

Thus it is seen that, the network within the state actors is mostly hierarchical at national level and at Upazilla level it is predominantly horizontal. But the connection of Upazilla officials with the District, Divsion and Central level is vertical. The non-state actors are connected horizontally at all levels. Thus, overall the adaptation networking is a combination of both vertical and horizontal in nature. Despite effective coordination framework in place at Upazilla, empirical literature shows that in general coordination and poor institutional capacity between various government departments regardless of national, sub-national or local still remain as a significant challenge. 

All above analyses suggest that the intuitional arrangement of climate change governance in Bangladesh is a well-developed network that extends from top tier of national body to local community.  The CCU of the MoEF is a central point that steers the network. State ministries and agencies, non-state actors, and donors are engaged in this network under the coordination of the CCU. This analysis, however, have found that parallel financing mechanisms and divergent priorities of the national government and donor institutions, and within the government between the MoEF and the PC, have weakened network effectiveness. Comparatively, the network is stronger at the local level because the same governing authority oversees both climate change and development activities. Overall, despite good networks, the inherent tension in terms of divergent priorities and parallel financing, and project management mechanisms remain a significant barrier to overcoming existing coordination challenges of mainstreaming. 



Editors Notes:    0

The opinions expressed and information shared are those of the writer's and commentators; do not necessarily reflect that of Scientific Bangladesh.Scientific Bangladesh accepts no responsibility, legal or otherwise, for the accuracy or content of writers' and commentators' opinion and information.

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