By Logan Cochrane, former Professional Development Award Recipient, CARIAA program team
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) demand a shift in how development research and practice occurs. While the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) aimed for reductions (e.g. reduce poverty), the SDGs aim for elimination (e.g. eliminate poverty). Success for the SDGs means leaving no one behind. The 2030 Agenda requires, therefore, that we shift our focus from ‘low hanging fruit’, ‘quick wins’ and ‘value for money’ to the hardest to reach, the marginalized and excluded, and the most vulnerable.
The Collaborative Adaptation Research Initiative in Africa and Asia (CARIAA) program was designed to produce new knowledge and strengthen capacities in order to support better informed policy and practice that helps build the resilience of the most vulnerable in key climate change ‘hot spots’. The program connects over 450 researchers and practitioners from more than 40 organisations. While the design of the program preceded the finalization of the SDGs, the spirit of the shift was embedded within the hot spot models: climate change adaptation research focused on regions wherein large populations experience vulnerability and will be under increasing stress due to the biophysical impacts of climate change.
Within the hotspot model, vulnerability is not uniform. Not all people living in deltas are equally vulnerable to sea level rise nor do they have equal capacity to adapt. Not all livelihoods are being equally impacted in semi-arid regions. Social disparities impact the ability for individuals to prepare for flooding in glacier-fed basins. The SDGs act as a means for researchers – globally and within CARIAA – to critically reflect on the questions being asked (and not asked) because leaving no one behind means explicitly addressing social disparities and marginalization.
A key contribution that CARIAA is making is improved data. In the MDGs we did not need to know all details nor include the most vulnerable in order to achieve the reduction targets. The SDGs, however, require that we have complete and robust data because leaving no one behind necessitates that everyone is included. Beyond inclusion, this also means disaggregating data about gendered disparity, exclusion of minorities, marginalization of ethnic and religious groups and neglect of remote areas, as well as understanding the types of barriers that make them more vulnerable. Effective and appropriate policy and programming responses to these vulnerabilities require this data, and it is this new knowledge CARIAA has a great opportunity to deliver.
Results emerging from CARIAA are promising, as we move toward this objective. For example: the program is strategically linking its work to the SDGs; critical reflections are emerging on how vulnerability is assessed, and the role of gender within them; assessments have been completed on age-related vulnerabilities within a hot spot region; and, analyses offered on how structural inequalities are neglected or under played in the context of climate migration. These are a few examples, of many, of how the emerging research is identifying and including diverse populations and unique vulnerabilities. Yet, CARIAA and its researchers cannot assume that its continued work will ensure that no one gets left behind. As the program and research progresses, we need to continue to critically reflect on the challenge raised by the SDGs and ensure that our research is not only inclusive of, but focused upon, the hardest to reach, the marginalized and excluded, and the most vulnerable.