Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to two high profile Bangladeshi academics, the majority of climate funds which reach poor countries are being spent on expensive outside consultants who arrive, show a few powerpoint slides, then leave, with very little genuine benefit to the recipient countries.
Stop sending climate consultants to poor countries – invest in universities instead
As we edge closer to global consensus on climate change and the need to reduce emissions, the focus has moved from debating the science or the need for global action to the responsibility of individual countries to provide assistance to those affected.
Not all countries have same capability to reduce emissions, measure and report progress, or increase resilience against climate change. To make matters worse, the countries that do not have these capabilities, such as Bangladesh, are often the ones that suffer the worst effects of climate change. To breach this gap, climate negotiators and officials often refer to “capacity building”.
Powerpoint won’t stop climate change
What does capacity building look like in practice?
Our experience in Bangladesh is this: developed countries allocate funds for projects or programs aimed at climate change capacity building, and allocate the money to their own official development assistance agencies. These agencies often go on to assign private consultancy companies from their own country to the programme.
The private companies then send consultants to the designated country to provide short-term assistance which, in most cases, is given in the form of workshops and presentations.
The consultants usually do not know the local language, and so conduct their workshops in their own language, (which, of course, is usually a second language for the audience, who are trying to build their capacity). Often, do not they know the context of the country they are working in.
After this, we see few more visits by the designated consultants, some report writing, and just like that: capacity building has happened. By the end of the programme, a major part of the funding available for capacity building has gone to the development agency and the consultancy company.
The academics who made this assertion are Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change & Development, Independent University, Bangladesh and Naznin Nasir, Coordinator of Loss and Damage Program and Communications, Independent University, Bangladesh.
I expected that much of the climate cash which finally made it through the UN bureaucracy was being wasted, but I imagined that it was probably being spent on useless climate related infrastructure – solar panels, wind turbines, that kind of thing. I thought that the UN was at least making a pretence of creating climate related preparedness.
The picture Saleemul and Naznin paint is worse than my lowest expectations – the only locals who are likely to profit from such a ridiculous parade of well paid climate powerpoint consultants are a few rich hoteliers, and possibly a few local providers of post presentation entertainment services.