A woman cycles through floods in Vietnam

Photo Credit: Tri Le / Pixabay

In climate-related disasters, women, the elderly, children, non-normative genders and sexualities, persons with disabilities, Indigenous Peoples and other marginalized groups face specific challenges. Yet decision making often disregards their concerns and fails to recognize their inherent capacity to contribute to their own resilience. The term inclusive resilience means including the voices of these different groups in climate change adaptation policies, programming and implementation and enabling an environment for these groups to make meaningful contributions.

To operationalize inclusive resilience, do we hear all the voices that need to be heard? Do we hear about all of the challenges that we need to address? Or the capabilities that sectors have to offer? In the virtual dialogue an array of speakers discussed the impacts of climate change, on whom the burden falls, and how we can support inclusion at all levels of adaptation decision making, planning and implementation.

Angie Mead King, an entrepreneur, car enthusiast, vlogger, farmer, and transgender woman, started off the dialogue drawing from her personal experience. King called for all people, regardless of gender or personal interest, to acknowledge that we are all part of the problem and can all be part of the solution.

She was joined by other panelists: Yugratna Srivastava, of Plant-for-the-Planet and UN Major Group for Children and Youth , Dharini Priscilla, of The Grassrooted Trust , Somchai Rungsilp, of the Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability , and Tony La Viña, currently the Officer-in-Charge of the Manila Observatory and Undersecretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The panel highlighted that marginalized groups are always at the forefront when it comes to the impacts of climate change, which exacerbate the many challenges and inequalities they face. For these groups, participation in climate action is a matter of survival as well as a human right.

“Regardless of gender and sexual identity, we are all the same beneath our skin. We breathe the same air, drink the same water and share custody of our planet.”

— Angie Mead King

In reality, there is limited inclusion of communities on the margins of climate decision making and implementation. According to Tony La Viña, a lawyer, educator, and environmental expert, recognition of marginalized groups can be found in numerous global instruments, policies, and processes.

One example is the UN’s various mechanisms to include children and youth as a constituency. But on the ground, structural challenges can either exclude groups by not recognizing their needs or disincentivize participation through, sometimes, violent means. For example, the difficulties facing people with disabilities are not accounted for in disaster preparedness and planning; youth-led peaceful demonstrations are still met with brutal police oppression; and climate finance is inequitably distributed against disadvantaged communities.

“When working with the marginalized, inclusivity is not a choice: we have to do it. We need to be unified. Resilience and climate change adaptation is better when we work together. Inclusivity is not up for debate”, said Dharini Priscilla of the Grassrooted Trust.

Inclusive resilience means not only identifying and labeling marginalized groups but also giving them a seat at the table and ensuring all voices are heard. It requires inclusion to be institutionalized and mainstreamed into all sectors and departments, and community-based resilience to be a de facto part of development processes.

More importantly, inclusion must be tailored to differences. The path to inclusive resilience means different things for each group or community: There is no one-size-fits-all. For young people, it means empowerment through further investment in education, vocational training, and green job skills development. For differently abled persons, and those on autism spectrum or with psychosocial disabilities, it involves addressing their varying needs and challenges in the design of decision-making processes. For many structurally marginalized communities, inclusive resilience requires addressing immediate basic needs, framing climate action as a human right, and learning from their daily resilience practices.

Central to this discussion and cutting across all dimensions of inclusive resilience is the question of power. Albert Salamanca, SEI Senior Research Fellow, and J.C. Gaillard of the University of Auckland both foregrounded power asymmetry as underlying exclusion. Inclusive resilience transfers power to those historically powerless.

Beyond the community level, addressing power relations is also important at the international level. Alvin Chandra of UNEP called attention to the lack of adaptation financing that disadvantages least developed and developing countries, while Katy Harris of the Adaptation Without Borders Initiative reminded us of the transboundary nature of risks and the cascading impacts across borders.

As the dialogue wrapped up, panelists called for greater effort on inclusive resilience. Dhrupad Choudhury of ICIMOD said, despite progress being made, we can all do more to “leave no one behind” by considering the communities and sectors that are not yet part of the conversation.

Communities on the margins have themselves demonstrated that they are not only victims but also active change makers. The burden to achieve resilience, however, should not fall on those who are already structurally resource-deprived. There should be an all-of-society effort to bring together all stakeholders. We need to ensure that resilience works for everyone.

The dialogue was co-led by SEI and ICIMOD and took place in anticipation of the upcoming 7th Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum , which will be held in March 2021. The theme of next year’s forum is Enabling Resilience for All: The Critical Decade to Scale-up Action. SEI encourages everyone to be part of the conversation and help shape the 7th Asia Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum. Join the dedicated Slack channel on inclusive resilience or get in touch with us.