SDI Reflects on CBA17

The 17th International Conference on Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change took place from 22-25 May in Bangkok, Thailand. SDI’s delegation made impactful connections while gaining invaluable insight.

Following this year’s event, our SDI delegation reflects on CBA17 after four days of discussion, debate, peer-to-peer skill sharing and knowledge exchange.


CBA was held in person for the first time since 2019, with an SDI delegation of eight representatives attending events, contributing to discussions and hosting our own sessions. The event created a dynamic space for interaction with diverse sessions aimed at learning, connecting, networking and collaboration with the objective to reimagine solutions that enable transformative outcomes through the agency of communities that drive local climate action.

Our delegation included Tamara Merrill (Programmes Manager at the SDI Secretariat), Melanie Chirwa (Community Programmes Coordinator at People’s Process on Housing and Poverty in Zambia), Jane Wairutu (Program Manager at Shack Dwellers International – Kenya), Kelvin Stanley Mburu (Program Support Officer for Youth Engagement at Shack Dwellers International – Kenya), Kamila Gojobe (Community Organiser at Shack Dwellers International – Kenya), Nicera Wanjiru (Founder of Community Mappers), Theresa Caramptana (President of the Homeless People’s Federation Philippines Incorporated and member of SDI’s Board), and Ruby Papeleras (National Community Leader at Homeless People’s Federation Philippines Incorporated).

This year’s agenda focused on key themes such as climate finance, nature-based solutions, youth-led LLA (Locally-led Adaptation), innovation and a novel theme ‘decolonising climate action’ – which explores how unjust legacies, racism, systemic exclusion and power imbalances undermine progressive climate action.

Our delegation shared some of their reflections from the sessions they led at the conference.  In collaboration with IIED and SDI Kenya, an important dialogue was facilitated for the session titled: Every Voice Counts: Decolonising Climate Action Through Equitable Partnerships.   SDI Youth along with Plan Denmark and Green Africa Youth Organisation (GAYO) facilitated a session that highlighted youth’s role in climate action through their session titled How Are Urban Poor Youth Driving Locally-Led Adaptation in Africa?

“We had a lot of donors in the session and INGOs surprisingly,” shares Jane Wairutu.

“It was attended very well, and their participation was also good. And they were very open-minded. The community people are just the SDI team and one person from the government.

In that whole conference, not the session, but the conference, we didn’t have community representation.

As SDI, we are community-led and firmly believe that global spaces often leave local communities out of spaces and discussions that focus heavily on community issues. At CBA17 specifically, community voices we minimally represented.”

🌱🌎Uncover the innovative adaptation projects implemented by the youth from our network at #CBA17!

🗓️: May 25
⏰: 10:35 AM – 12:15 PM

Join the discussion!#SDINetworkNews #ClimateResilience

— Slum Dwellers International (@sdi_net) May 24, 2023

Highlighting SDI’s community ideals, Kamila Gojobe shares that communities have solutions. 

“They know their problems. Donors and NGOs, really need to listen to them, understand their solutions, understand their problem, and then support them.”

Melanie Chirwa notes that many of the sessions were incredibly technical which results in any of the discussions being inherently exclusionary.

“Some sessions were quite high-level, very technical and not so easy to follow. As the conference progressed it became more interactive,” shares Melanie.

“We hope that future community-focused events aim to lower the barriers to access for community members driving solutions at the local level. It’s important to have local and urban youth at this global conversation,” reflects Kamila.

“Communities and youth are doing so much to create awareness, and if they’re not a part of the global conversation, then they won’t be heard. 

We need to have these local communities, practitioners, and all these people learning from each other. We need to understand each other and come up with solutions for climate change together.”

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According to Jane, the idea of capacity strengthening is misunderstood, and she highlights that there is an existing fallacy around it that donors often overlook.

“Donors are being challenged and need to take the time to learn from the existing knowledge on the ground especially when talking about climate action, locally-led action,” shares Jane.

“We find communities have been doing innovative practices and no one recognises that they exist. 

There’s a tendency to come up with new innovations that might not really work instead of looking at what is already in place or happening locally.

Communities are left behind because they [donors] feel like the community is not up to par or up to the level of knowledge to design a solution to their problems.”

She reiterates that it is key for governments, INGOs and donors to come to the table and have discussions about what solutions already exist to local problems.

Reflecting on some of the individual sessions, Kamila praises the Every Voice Counts: Decolonising Climate Action Through Equitable Partnerships session.

“We were able to demonstrate the power dynamics in the room because this is a community-based adaptation and the majority of people who are there are not community—it’s the donors, the INGOs, the NGOs,” says Kamila. 

“As we trickle down the community people were only three in the room and mostly it was us from SDI.”

Kamila shares her recommendations for future events and engagements with communities, which include giving communities the platform to voice their local issues and solutions.

“The community people have solutions,” she says.

“Let’s have more representation because, at the whole CBA, we didn’t have that much representation of the youth and the communities we’re representing.”

Platforms, such as global conferences, are often not developed to accommodate existing power dynamics and structural inequalities.  However, the SDI network was able to use our influence and facilitate conversations that highlighted the disparity by pointing out that very few community voices were included and issuing a call to action to urge actors to insist in the that future conferences are better representative of youth and the communities most impacted by climate change. 

We hope that future community-based events and global events turn their eye to the ground and raise local voices to global heights so these high-level spaces have access to and are represented by local actors with local solutions.reads like it but there aren’t quotation marks.

SDI at the Resilience Evidence Forum

A photo of laundry drying in an informal settlement in Khayalitsha, Cape Town.

Ariana Karamallis from SDI shares their programming at the Resilience Evidence Forum and highlights SDI’s work. 

– originally published by Global Resilience Partnership

Later this week, Slum Dwellers International (SDI) will co-lead the Urban Track at the Resilience Evidence Forum in Cape Town, South Africa. Over the past few months SDI, together with the GRP and USAID, has created a track of programming that spotlights key considerations for building resilience in urban centres of the Global South that are characterised by informality. As the impacts of climate change, conflict, the rising cost of living, and other natural and manmade disasters increase in frequency and severity, so will the number of people living in urban informal settlements continue to rise – increasing demands placed on cities and the need for urban practitioners to develop and implement effective, evidence-based, pro-poor resilience policies and development. 

Urban informal settlement in the Philippines. (PHOTO: Slum Dwellers International)
Urban informal settlement in the Philippines. (PHOTO: Slum Dwellers International)

Over the past two years SDI’s work in the climate and resilience space has been on the rise. As the impacts of climate change are more widely and acutely felt, the urban poor communities SDI works with have recognised a need to understand, embrace, and articulate their struggles, strategies and solutions in a language that speaks not only to urban planning and policy practitioners but to climate practitioners as well. Understanding SDI’s core work of organising urban poor communities to find alternatives to evictions through incremental, in situ slum upgrading is not separate from resilience and climate adaptation work. In fact, evidence increasingly demonstrates that the provision of tenure security and safe, affordable housing, basic services, and other infrastructure for the urban poor are essential climate adaptation strategies – particularly in urban settings. SDI was keen to ensure that this perspective, urban informality, and the role of urban poor communities was central to the #REF2023 Urban Track programming and is hopeful that the sessions developed will generate discussions, questions, and reflections to advance urban resilience efforts. 

Joseph Muturi, chair of the SDI Board and a national community leader from SDI’s Kenyan urban poor federation, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, will speak at #REF2023 about the key role of community-driven slum data as evidence to support policy and development in the precedent-setting, large-scale Mukuru Special Planning Area (SPA) slum upgrading project in Nairobi – as well as countless other slum upgrading and climate adaptation projects across the network. In all of the countries where SDI operates, federations collect quantitative and qualitative data about the settlements where they live and work in order to provide the necessary evidence to government and other development stakeholders in negotiating for and developing effective resilience-building efforts. Increasingly, federations include indicators and other data points specifically addressing climate and vulnerability risk, incorporating this into their profiling, enumeration and mapping methodologies. This kind of community-based evidence is invaluable in addressing the perceived data scarcity that many urban-decision makers face. The question we hope to answer at the Resilience Evidence Forum is how to bridge the various gaps communities are faced with to get their data into the hands of decision-makers to drive meaningful change by influencing climate action plans, resilience strategies, development plans, and more. 

Youth data collector from the National Slum Dweller Federation of Uganda. (PHOTO: Slum Dwellers International)

To complement Mr. Muturi’s inputs, Charlton Ziervogel, director of the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) – support NGO to SDI’s South African social movements – will share a panel with Daniel Sullivan, Director of Resilience from the City of Cape Town, among others, to explore the constraints of data currently being used and how to bridge existing data gaps while ensuring the inclusion and agency of evidence producers – especially the urban poor. This session is sure to provide an important opportunity for community-based practitioners and local government officials to reflect on the use of community-collected data to inform policy and practice, including the experience of the South African SDI Alliance’s 2016 engagement with the Western Cape Provincial Government around the development of a provincial level approach to informal settlement upgrading. Thanks to deep grounding in the informal settlement communities and a strong practice of community-led data collection, CORC was selected in a competitive bid process to use community-led data collection practices to conduct a rapid appraisal of all informal settlements in the Western Cape (RAP) to inform the development of the Western Cape’s Informal Settlement Support Framework and Programme (ISSF and ISSP).  

SDI’s experiences in Kenya, South Africa, and across the roughly 20 countries represented by the SDI network will hopefully showcase the tremendous value and opportunity for transformative impact available to urban practitioners through meaningful collaboration with urban poor communities – particularly around the production of community-based evidence for resilience-building efforts. 

SDI Co-developed a Working Paper on Locally Led Adaptation

As part of our climate justice work, SDI co-developed a working paper entitled “Locally Led Adaptation From Principles to Practice”, highlighting the value of Locally Led Adaptation (LLA) in managing climate risks faced by local communities and Indigenous peoples.

The paper was co-developed by a consortium of global partners working together to deliver the Adaptation Action Coalition’s Locally Led Adaptation Workstream. These partners are Centro para la Autonomía y Desarrollo de Los Pueblos Indígenas (Center for the Autonomy and Development of Indigenous Peoples), the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute, ENDA, Huairou Commission, the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, the International Institute for Environment and Development, Save the Children Australia, Slum Dwellers International, SouthSouthNorth, and World Resources Institute.

Presently, LLA recognises that there is value in local knowledge and expertise in addressing climate risk and ensures that local actors on the front lines of the climate emergency have equitable access to resources to build adequate resilience.

READ |The Worlds Poorest Have the Strongest Resilience, yet Their Voices Remain Unheard

May 2022, saw more than 70 organisations and governments across the globe endorsing eight Principles for Locally Led Adaptation which provide foundational guidance for an approach to adaptation which emphasises priorities on the ground.

There is a growing focus placed on ensuring that adaptation finance is accessible by grassroots players. Simultaneously, there is a growing body of knowledge and research offering guidance for the implementation of LLA and underscoring it as a global priority.

What the working paper addresses

The working paper SDI co-developed, reviews 21 examples of approaches to implementing the Principles for LLA through interventions, programmes and policies across Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and the Caribbean and Latin America. The aforementioned paper provides real-life examples of how funders and governments can follow through on their commitments to fast-track and scale the implementation of LLA. Governance and financing processes that prioritise the agency of grassroots actors are vital for LLA. Adapting these processes to redress power imbalances and emphasise local priorities can be complex and challenging. This paper provides examples of approaches to make these shifts and demystify funders and governments’ steps to operationalise and scale adaption.

Subsequently, these approaches can be utilised to turn investments and commitments to LLA into policies, practices and actions to ensure that grassroots partners have equitable access to climate finance and are the centre of decision-making processes.

The Principles for Putting LLA into Practice

Principle 1: Devolving decision-making to the lowest appropriate level
Principle 2: Addressing structural inequalities faced by women, youth, children, people living with disabilities, the displaced, Indigenous peoples, and marginalized ethnic groups
Principle 3: Providing patient and predictable funding that can be accessed more easily
Principle 4: Investing in local capabilities to leave an institutional legacy
Principle 5: Building a robust understanding of climate risk and uncertainty
Principle 6: Flexible programming and learning
Principle 7: Ensuring transparency and accountability
Principle 8: Collaborative action and investment 

Recommended Strategies for Advancing LLA

Based on the review of 21 projects, the paper found recommended strategies for advancing LLA.

Early on funders and governments should pursue opportunities to scale LLA by increasing the amount of climate finance it allocates, improving the quality of finance by making it more accessible and flexible for grassroots actors, and adjusting governance and decision-making processes to ensure that those actors have agency in adaptation planning and implementation.

Undoubtedly, the Principles for LLA must be addressed holistically to ensure that adaptation investments, policies and interventions enable and scale LLA in a multitude of ways simultaneously.

Funders and governments are to commit to advancing active learning and research on LLA processes, outcomes and impacts to continue to fill knowledge and evidence gaps and improve the collective understanding of best practices for equitable and effective LLA.

We encourage funders and governments to ensure social equity is integrated into LLA efforts. This may include building such considerations into standard practices, processes and decisions, and investing in mechanisms which are specifically designed to support groups that experience disproportional vulnerabilities.

SDI co-developed this working paper alongside incredible partners. W encourage engagement around the implementation of the Principles of LLA and its importance in pro-poor urban development and ensuring grassroots players are at the fore of climate change solutions. 

Read the full report here

SDI at CBA14: Claiming Space for Communities



From 21 – 24 September, a delegation of SDI slum dweller leaders and support professionals will participate in the 14th International Conference on Community-based Adaptation to Climate Change (CBA14) – “From local solutions to global action.” The conference brings together practitioners, grassroots representatives, local and national government planners, policymakers and donors working at all levels and scales to discuss how we can drive ambition for a climate-resilient future.

SDI federations and other grassroots groups use innovative approaches to address climate change in their communities, yet their unique experiences, needs, and priorities continue to be overlooked — or they are seen as the consumers or beneficiaries of other stakeholders’ planning and development, rather than important partners in the planning and development of their own communities, cities, and futures. SDI believes – and our work at all levels reflects – that effective interventions must involve representative organisations of these communities as stakeholders that lead the design, planning, implementation, evaluation and learning from the changes that are needed so urgently.

We hope that those of you planning to attend CBA14 will join SDI at some of the events listed below, where you will be sure to find community representatives speaking directly to their own needs, priorities, strategies and solutions.

CBA14 Opening Plenary | 21 September, 13:00 CET : In this opening session, the LDC Chair – Bhutan, will welcome participants to the CBA14th Virtual conference. We will use this opportunity to take stock of progress on the Global Commission on Adaptation’s Locally-Led Action track – first introduced at CBA13, asking the CBA community to help shape future milestones for locally led action. These milestones will frame discussions at CBA14 and set the stage for an engaging, interactive conference.

COVID-19 and Grassroots Responses from the Frontline| 22 September, 08:00 CET: The dialogue style session will provide an interactive platform for grassroot speakers/leaders to exchange lived experiences of responding to an immediate crisis such as COVID-19 given existing capabilities, resources and knowledge. It will create a learning opportunity to identify the patterns of community actions; navigate the challenges faced and determine ways of scaling up such locally-led responses to build a future that is more resilient to shocks and uncertainty. Through capturing their response and drawing lessons from their practices, grassroots organisations and social networks can enhance community resilience in the face of future disruptions, disasters and emergencies such as those driven by climate change. Session is capped at 35. Sign up here. 

Listening to Grassroots Voices / Voices from the Ground | 22 September, 13:00 CET: This session will showcase grassroots leaders’ experiences and insights gained over years of organising to build community resilience and influence policy. Urban and rural grassroots leaders will describe how they have transferred and scaled up their efforts, claiming resources and recognition from local, national, regional and global institutions. They will share effective organising skills for addressing climate change issues through community based adaptation, including key challenges and successes in resilience-building work. Leaders will showcase the power of community data collection and mapping to negotiate with local level stakeholders to strengthen local plans and service delivery of programs. Finally, leaders will highlight the critical role of collaborative partnership to champion community-based solutions to climate change will be another key point of discussion. Session is capped at 35. Sign up here. 

Preparing the next generation of youth leaders to accelerate Climate Adaptation in cities | 22 September, 16:30 CET: Climate change science requires the assessment of complex nexus issues at the intersection of natural, built and human environments. Resilience planning requires collaboration across disciplines, political boundaries and sectors to address gaps and respond to emerging and current risks from climate change. There is considerable need to support knowledge development and capacity building at all levels from science to practice in order to support scaled action on urban resilience, while addressing the divide in the educational system itself. Universities are uniquely positioned to mobilize talent, develop knowledge and experience across disciplines and continental divides. Partnerships between universities, community organizations, city governments and the private sector can drive inclusive and resilient urban development. Session is capped at 35. Sign up here. 

Impacting Policies – perspectives, trends, challenges and success factors | 23 September, 08:00 CET: Grassroots movement building and leadership in community based adaptations have played a significant role in shaping policy debates on climate change adaptation. Despite this, barriers remain in the decentralisation of power and decision making, flow of financial resources, and policy support towards community based adaptation efforts. This session will bring together grassroots leaders and policy makers, calling attention to the influence of social movements on global policies, highlighting the current policy trends, shifts in local and national budgets, accomplishments, and roadblocks experienced in attempting to bring more policy incentives and financial resources to urban and rural grassroots communities. Session is capped at 35. Sign up here. 

Putting Money Where It Matters | 24 September, 08:00 CET: Financing for climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction (DRR) is not getting where it matters, neither to the countries nor communities that need it most. This session first presents findings from new research showing donor funding for adaptation and DRR financing has not targeted the most climate vulnerable countries, and when funding does reach the countries that need it most, local actors are currently unlikely to access it. The session then looks forward, offering an opportunity to collaborate around advocating for greater adaptation financing and co-develop practical principles for better climate adaptation and DRR financing with the CBA community – so that it is more effectively helping the most vulnerable countries and communities. Session is capped at 35. Sign up here.