The impact of UK overseas aid on environmental protection and climate change adaptation and mitigation

Written evidence submitted by Plan International UK


UK Aid in the past five years has significantly contributed towards reducing impacts of environmental degradation and climate change for those who suffer them most . The focus of DFID on Disaster Risk Reduction is one strong example of this. With DFID’s support, communities around the world have strengthened their resilience to environmental shocks and stresses, and in turn been able to continue making progress with development.

Moving towards a focus on economic growth in development does not require this trend to change. On the contrary, part of ensuring sustainable economic growth is building-in principles of sustainable development and climate and disaster resilience. For the long term, this will equip growing economies – and importantly their citizens– with the capacity they need for coping with the escalating frequency, intensity and unpredictability of environmental shocks and stresses.

Plan’s work with children and young people in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, funded by DFID, further strengthens the long term view of sustainable, resilient development. Girls and boys represent a large proportion of the population in countries most vulnerable in the face of environmental shocks and stresses. With support, they have shown themselves to be strong actors for building capacities to cope with disasters and develop sustainably, in school, in their communities, and at national and international levels as advocates for change.

Through Plan’s programmes, children consistently bring added value as agents of change for reducing risk today, and ensuring a sustainable and resilient future:

Firstly, children and young people bring immediate value to resilience-building. Children are accomplished communicators and enthusiastically embrace new technologies for communicating and managing risk. In identifying risks and vulnerabilities children’s views are unbiased, unadulterated by social norms, honest and perceptive. Children keenly monitor the environmental impact of development interventions and are often enthusiastic to ensure that attention to environmental protection shapes the planning and implementation of measures to reduce poverty and develop sustainably.

Where parents and teachers may feel bound by priorities which do not allow for ‘additional’ considerations of resilience and sustainability, children learn about these at school or with youth groups and share this new information with their families. Children identify closely with medium and long term perceptions of development and have greater appreciation that resilience and sustainability must be built into existing activities rather than ‘adding another item’ to parents’ lists of priorities. We have found that in this respect many adults trust the voices of their children more than they do those of other adults.

The frequency and intensity of environmental shocks and stresses is increasing worldwide. For development – economic or otherwise – to last, it is crucial that risk reduction is integrated into development practices today; and that the most marginalised and vulnerable are a part of it. DFID’s support for disaster risk reduction work has helped ensure that all stakeholders, including the most vulnerable girls, boys, women and men are involved in decision-making and action to reduce their own risk, cope with disasters, and retain levels of development progress which they are achieving.

Prioritising the education and the agency of young people is a fundamental factor in building any society’s capacity to develop sustainably, including adapting to the environmental uncertainties and weather extremes which climate change is bringing. Other environmental shocks and stresses further emphasise the need to understand and address risks in order to develop sustainably. DFID-sponsored disaster risk reduction interventions, including education about risk reduction and environmental awareness, are therefore central to starting children and communities on the road to long term economic growth, and continued sustainable, resilient development.

Secondly, investing in children’s knowledge and capacities [1] today will yield significant benefits in the future: through increasing awareness and knowledge about risk, sharing best practice for resilience and sustainable development, and teaching new generations the skills needed to protect and adapt to a changing environment. Integrating principles of resilience and sustainability into education practices today will ensure that innovations and planning by tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and decision makers will be climate smart and appropriate to the different environmental contexts in which they come about.

Informed, equipped and supported children today will tomorrow be leaders, teachers, civil servants, parents, corporate workers and pastoralists who understand the principles of sustainable economic growth, and thrive on the outcomes of the implementation of those principles. DFID is increasingly aware of the value for money of investing in a great untapped resource – children and young people, who constitute the largest cohort of the population of most developing countries. These young people will go on to ensure that basic services including healthcare, education, water and sanitation, social protection and transport and communications services, are planned, established and run appropriately for their environmental context and as sustainably as possible.

For this to happen, it is crucial that DFID continue its efforts towards climate change adaptation and environmental management, and invest in the increased awareness among children and young people about how to reduce risk and shape economic growth through means which do not threaten to undermine development elsewhere.

Disaster risk reduction should be the cornerstone of efforts to manage the tensions between economic growth and environmental protection. It bridges the gap between good development and the need for protection in the face of environmental shocks. As a leading agency in promoting disaster risk reduction, DFID is in a prime position to take advantage of risk reduction measures to build resilience throughout its development work. Plan’s extensive work on child-centred disaster risk reduction [2] , further demonstrates the cost benefit of empowering young people today, to enhance resilience and environmental sustainability, and to safeguard progress towards the millennium development goals.

Plan UK Recommends that DFID:

1. Ensure that children and young people are an integral part of the resilience-building process which manages the tension between economic growth and environmental protection , by ensuring young people are systematically included in the design, implementation and monitoring of all DFID programmes and interventions – for building their own resilience, and sustainable futures for everyone.

2. Prioritise access to formal and informal education programmes for communicating the value of sustainable development and resilience-building, for children in all countries where D F ID operates , promoting systematic dissemination of knowledge on how to reduce risk, build resilience and adaptive capacity to develop sustainably, especially among children and young people, through structures which already exist, particularly within the education sector and public information campaigns.

3. Advocate for, and s upport civil society to advocate for , cross- sectoral institutional support for children’s agency in sustainable development and resilience building , at both national level in developing countries (including NAPAs) and internationally (including adaptation funding) – through encouraging research, evidence-based advocacy, the two-way transfer of appropriate technology and indigenous knowledge, and the sharing and documentation of practical experience of effective environmental protection and climate change adaptation and mitigation.

17 December 2010

[1] As per Article 6 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change