People’s stories from around the world

Filed under - Climate governance

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People’s stories from around the world:
how to ensure climate funding and action reach those in need

Millions of lives worldwide depend on the response to climate change – from the Maldives, where people forcibly relocated have found themselves homeless on a strange island, to Peru, where indigenous communities are fighting destruction of their ancestral rainforest. Kenya’s people have seen state officials try to embezzle millions of dollars meant for investment in green energy, while in Bangladesh, villagers cannot reach cyclone shelters wrongly located due to corruption.
These communities are among many supported by Transparency International’s Climate Governance Integrity Programme. All face the impact of corruption and misuse of funding for climate change adaptation and mitigation. Such funding is set to reach over US$100 billion annually by 2020, but high rates of corruption often prevent help from reaching those who need it most.
In response, we work from global to local levels to safeguard climate finance and action from corruption and misuse. By exposing existing corruption risks and engaging civil society to improve the governance of climate adaptation and mitigation projects, we are fighting to ensure climate funds go where they should. We also help witnesses and victims of climate corruption speak out and seek redress. These measures help the world’s climate funding and adaptation programmes make the maximum difference in halting climate change and helping affected communities respond.
People’s stories show that communities and civil society can improve transparency and act as effective watchdogs, demanding accountability from governments and businesses in their actions against climate change. National and international climate organisations, both public and private, can prevent and penalise corruption. And victims and witnesses of corruption can demand justice and be heard, to successfully achieve redress.

Together, these changes build trust and integrity in climate finance, ultimately increasing the funding delivered to those most in need.

See the stories from:

Bangladesh: Shelter where it's needed

In Bangladesh’s Barguna district, a large new building looms above the river, built to double as a school in calm weather and a community shelter during cyclones. But its rooms stand empty; no lessons take place. The fishing community it should serve lives on the opposite riverbank, and is unable to row across during storms. Ignoring their needs, the government engineer responsible for building the shelter located it near his house, for his own convenience and to demonstrate his power – leaving local people angry and at risk.
Highly vulnerable to climate change, Bangladesh receives inadequate international grants for climate adaptation projects. But without local people’s input, even those funds can be misspent. Transparency International Bangladesh uncovered the cyclone shelter case while monitoring climate fund use. We made a video to lobby local government, national policymakers and international donors for full community participation in climate response projects. Now, a shift is slowly taking place towards greater local involvement in deciding and monitoring the use of climate funds. With community participation, future cyclone shelters can be built where they are needed most.

Cameroon: From forest floor to government

Illegal logging is big business in Cameroon. Forty per cent of the country is covered by rainforest, but the illicit timber trade places unsustainable pressure on the ecosystem and its communities – who see few benefits from logging.
In response, Transparency International Cameroon works with civil society partners to help local people monitor illegal logging and pass their findings to timber companies and Cameroon’s Forestry Ministry. Our partner FODER runs a scheme which trains forest communities to report illegal logging to local NGOs. Their members verify the findings, gather evidence and write an investigative report, which they send to the logging company involved. If they receive no response within 14 days, they write to the Minister of Forestry. After a month, if there has been no reply, Transparency International Cameroon contacts the authorities, with whom we work closely on climate change projects, to press for action. As a result, officials have seized illegally cut logs and initiated legal proceedings. The process creates a powerful upwards cascade, enabling forest communities to act to protect the environment they depend on.

DR Congo: The courage to speak out

In 2009, a director of the ministry that manages forests in DRC wrote to the country's president and prime minister exposing the large-scale theft of funds from the country’s REDD+ forest protection programme. He alleged that the
secretary general of the ministry had diverted around US$38 million of REDD+ funding. But the secretary general had powerful friends, and the director was soon arrested. When his family came to Licoco (Transparency International in DRC) for help, we asked officials from the Prosecutor’s Office and the Finance Inspectorate to launch an audit. A month later, their report confirmed the director’s claims. He was released, and the secretary general and several accomplices were dismissed.
Political resistance to the investigation means that nine years on, the legal case is still ongoing. But it has already led to governance changes. Funds are now channeled through structures with stronger safeguards, and officials know they cannot steal funds. Following strong interest in the case from media and the public, Licoco is now working with the new secretary general to increase transparency throughout the REDD+ process.

Kenya: Keeping a watch over government spending

In 2015, six top managers of Kenya’s state-owned Geothermal Development Company (GDC) were charged with inflating procurement costs so they could steal the excess. A whistleblower revealed that in 2012, they awarded a contract worth US$19.5 million to move equipment. In 2011, the same contractor had charged another client US$230,000 for similar work.
When national media uncovered the case, Transparency International Kenya offered to help GDC’s new management team strengthen the company’s procurement processes. We are now working together to improve GDC’s practices – as well as the wider procurement context for renewable energy. When the scandal broke, GDC was applying for accreditation to the UN’s Green Climate Fund, which helps developing countries adapt to climate change. In 2018, Transparency International and the Open Contracting
Partnership profiled the GDC case in a major report exposing loopholes in Green Climate Fund procurement processes. Recommendations for improvement include greater community consultation and monitoring of compliance. In countries like Kenya, people must demand transparency, and hold governments accountable for how they spend climate funds.

Maldives: Ma Bassaa — "Include me!"

Homeless on a strange island, with nothing but empty promises of new housing. This was the nightmare facing 52 families from the Maldives who were relocated without any alternative from islands vulnerable to erosion and sea surges. The government gave them no compensation and no housing. Other families lucky enough to receive housing on arrival faced worse flooding than on the islands they had left, as the government had ignored local knowledge when building their housing units.
The Maldives is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change – but without strong community involvement in design and monitoring its climate response projects, they weren’t responsive to people's needs. In 2016, Transparency Maldives launched a national campaign called Ma Bassaa (“Include me!”) to promote community ownership of climate projects. Among its many initiatives, Transparency Maldives made a video about the relocated families’ story and launched a hugely popular social media campaign to lobby the government for proper compensation and housing, reaching over 60,000 people on Facebook. Within months, the promise of proper housing was included in the 2018 national budget.

Peru: Forest traditions versus corrupt business

Vast palm oil plantations scar the riverbank opposite the village of Santa Clara De Uchunya. This destruction of forest habitat is also destroying the ancestral territory of indigenous people in Peru’s Ucayali region – but local leaders who challenge it face death threats. Powerful foreign investors bribed former local officials to override regulations, and took ownership of 12,000 hectares of rainforest in the area, which they then destroyed for profit.
Proética – Transparency International in Peru – worked with investigative journalists to uncover the role of corruption in deforestation, and is now monitoring legal investigations. We aim to help guarantee traditional ways of life for indigenous people, and serve justice to those responsible for the illegal destruction of the rainforest. Local officials claim there is already enough protected forest, and that poor indigenous communities need economic development. Yet the plantations bring villagers no financial benefit. Instead, the ecosystem has been destroyed and traditional lifestyles made impossible. Despite ongoing intimidation, the community will continue to fight – with
Proetica’s support – for their priceless ancestral forest.

Republic of the Congo: Uniting communities to safeguard their forests

When RPDH (Transparency International in Congo) arrived in Komono to help the community design and monitor UN forest protection projects, we found Bantu and Pygmy residents driven apart by logging. The timber industry was putting pressure on land, but bringing neither income nor development to the community. Discrimination means that Pygmy people earn lower wages than the Bantu, so timber companies employ them as cheap labour. This fueled jealousy among Bantu residents, who began to intimidate the Pygmies, bribing the village chief to evict them from traditional land where for many decades they had grown produce for market.

Komono’s residents needed to unite to protect their forest, so RPDH arranged a community meeting. We explained that the Pygmies' right to make a living was being violated, and we would help them bring a lawsuit against the Bantu
unless the land was returned. The community agreed to restore the Pygmies’ land and allocate plots elsewhere to the Bantu. With support from RPDH, Komono residents are now working together for better relations with logging companies, and better protection of their forests.

Zambia: Making a living from forest protection

In Zambia, the UN’s forest protection scheme aims to compensate communities for protecting forests, instead of depleting them to make a living. People have been offered alternative livelihoods, such as eco-charcoal
production or chicken farming, and communities were given payments and new infrastructure, such as borehole wells. But these benefits were imposed without consulting people about their needs. Unsuitable livelihood projects failed, forcing people to revert to logging protected tree species, or using slash and-burn farming to feed their families. Money paid to village heads did not reach community members, and diverted funds meant boreholes were not properly drilled.
In response, Transparency International Zambia has trained local communities to participate fully in designing and monitoring forest protection projects. We produced a guide to the process in English and local languages, and brought together partners in five local projects to agree to full community involvement. People are now able to demand appropriate alternative livelihoods and full transparency in the use of funds – meaning they can protect what’s left of the forest that has sustained them for centuries.

Zimbabwe: Women’s voices against climate corruption

Zimbabwe’s forest protection scheme depends on strong partnerships between communities, local government and private investors. In return for protecting their forests, communities choose the infrastructure projects they need and monitor how funds are used. But they often lacked adequate information about processes and budgets. Excluded from decision-making and losing benefits to corruption, they were disillusioned, meaning the forest protection scheme wasn’t working.
When Transparency International Zimbabwe heard about these challenges, we launched a training programme in villages such as Masoka. People learned about the forest protection process and how to work with partners to allocate and monitor expenditure. Responsible for farming and gathering firewood, women are especially affected by deforestation, so we held women-only meetings to help them speak out without inhibition. Now, Masoka residents work with the local council to direct and monitor funds. Women take leading roles, asking tough questions to hold their partners to account. Projects funded by the scheme now meet people’s needs, improving clinics, schools and boreholes. This gives communities a real incentive to use their forests sustainably.

Topic - Climate governance   
Tags - Climate change   

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