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!

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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 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.