When 2+2 equals more than 4! Friends of EbA

Ali Raza Rizvi, Programme Manager, Ecosystem-based Adaptation at IUCN and Katherine Blackwood, Programme Officer, Ecosystem-based Adaptation in the Global Ecosystem Management Programme of IUCN; Photo: PB IKI/Karin Beese

Ali Raza Rizvi, Programme Manager, Ecosystem-based Adaptation at IUCN and Katherine Blackwood, Programme Officer, Ecosystem-based Adaptation in the Global Ecosystem Management Programme of IUCN; Photo: PB IKI/Karin Beese

Friends of EbA (FEBA) is a global network of agencies and organisations involved in Ecosystem based Adaptation (EbA) at the policy and field implementation levels. The network enhances mutual learning and sharing of experiences between these organisations to make EbA more effective and demonstrate its value-addition as an adaptation option. FEBA is supported by the German Environment Ministry’s (BMU) International Climate Initiative (IKI).    

We talked to Ali Raza Rizvi, Programme Manager for Ecosystem-based Adaptation at IUCN and Katherine Blackwood, Programme Officer, Ecosystem-based Adaptation in the Global Ecosystem Management Programme of IUCN about the key success factors of the network:

You are managing the project FEBA - Promoting Ecosystem-based Adaptation through Friends of EbA. Who are these friends of EbA and how did it all start?

Rizvi: In the past, many of our friends used to discuss how we could best collaborate and how we could make our voices on EbA stronger. So at Lima 2014 COP Conservation International (CI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), World Bank, UN Environment, Rare, and IUCN - we all got together around a coffee table and we asked: Can we work together and promote EbA jointly, and what lessons do we have? Since a lot of work has already been done, how do we learn with each other? With that in mind, we said: let’s have an informal network and let’s call it Friends of EbA (FEBA). Then we slowly started working together. Then at the Paris COP we were discussing with BMU and that is how it became an IKI project. And now we are over...

Blackwood: ... 50! Including the federal governments of the Seychelles, Mexico, Italy, Uganda, multilateral agencies, NGOs, IGOs, academic institutions, and we are growing.

Rotary grazing in grassland management ensures a livelihood in Peru; Photo: Ali Raza Rizvi

There are many networks and many topics popping up every day. Many of them are not successful while yours is growing constantly. What is the key to your success?

Blackwood: The key to our success is to tell our members that we do not want to increase their workload in any way. Rather we want to take what they are already doing and use it together.

Rizvi: That is the key and we keep repeating: Do not commit to something, which is not already part of your projects or your plans. For example, UN Environment’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre has collated more than 223 tools developed and used for EbA. So our information to others is: Do not go for another invention of tools. Use the tools that are already there, but let us strengthen them. Another phrase, which I use very often, is: Unless 2 + 2 is more than 4, things will not sustain – the partnership will not succeed. If we can achieve something alone, we do not need to invest time and resources to bring it to others. The moment it becomes more than 4, then people see the value of coming together.

Can you name a concrete example for the benefit of knowledge sharing within FEBA?

Blackwood: One example was when we - FEBA as a group - were approached by UNFCCC Nairobi Work Programme. They asked us to help develop an official Adaptation Synthesis Report for SBSTA. It was based on submissions from Parties, as well as NGOs and other contributors on lessons learned from adaptation efforts. FEBA was key in reviewing that and some of the members also provided inputs based on the their own institutional engagements. And we launched this official report together with the UNFCCC Secretariat in May of 2017.

Rizvi: That is also a great indicator of when we come together we can achieve a lot more than what we can do alone. We always used to do policy briefs or technical briefs that used to be distributed before the UN Climate or Biodiversity Conferences. Those briefs often have a short shelf life and few policy makers read them. But then all our key messaging in EbA was part of this official Synthesis Report, which Parties in fact requested and then the UNFCCC Secretariat presented together with FEBA. It is now part of the official negotiation processes.

How do you organise the FEBA community, which is working on several levels and with many actors at the same time?

Blackwood: IUCN is acting as secretariat coordinator of FEBA. But like we said, it is a loose and informal network and a lot of the partners are already working together on projects. FEBA actually acts to bridge those levels. That is what is great about it! If one programme is working on the ground on something very specific, it can bring it through FEBA and all of a sudden the partners working in policy or at the international level see it and can interact with it.

Rizvi: Another mechanism, which we put in place and slowly is evolving, are the Working Groups. As you said, there are different levels and then different sectors also. EbA adresses cross-cutting areas. So we are bringing people together who are working on tools, on guidelines and standards. One working group is on biodiversity and climate change linkages and they look at what can be done at the policy level and at the operation level. We are very happy that FEBA is also working with the CBD Secretariat to bridge that gap. Similarly, we have a working group slowly coming up on Urban Environment. Working groups come at different levels. Most of the people who come to our meeting at UN conferences are – naturally – policy representatives. But we also reach out to operational people and link them in. Our job is to provide an enabling environment and encourage all not to reinvent the wheel when it comes to EbA – especially not square wheels.

EbA Knowledge Day organized by the FEbA; Photo: GIZ

Is there any regional focus or do you notice that any parts of the world are more active, when it comes to EbA?

Rizvi: Overall, I believe that governments and practitioners in Asia, Latin America and Africa are strongly taking up EbA. Europe and Central Asia are catching up. But it has also a lot to do with donors’ priorities. Until now, our outreach is to those people who are able to attend international meetings, but we are thinking about mechanism how to reach out also to others who are involved. We were discussing webinars and other means for those who cannot attend these meetings in person.

Community Nursery in Nepal; Photo: Ali Raza Rizvi

One last question: If I am a small NGO or maybe a farmer and I hear of Friends of EbA and I am interested, how can I join? And where can I get information?

Blackwood: All information can be found at the IUCN website: http://www.iucn.org/FEBA. In terms of how you could engage, we have biannual meetings and we do not want to limit them to the policy people only. We come to UN Climate Conferences: SBSTA and COP. We want to expand the knowledge sharing and the collaboration. And are discussing how we can make it more applicable to people of every level and everyone who´s working in EbA.

Rizvi: At the same time, we are very conscious that we do not want to replace other existing good networks who are working directly with farmers or practitioners. There are already very good community-based networks available. We would rather work with them to integrate EbA into their networks because their outreach is then to thousands of people. We want to have multiplied effects within our resources. So we will work in partnership with others be efficient and effective and not reinvent wheels.

Energy effcient stoves in Uganda; Photo: Ali Raza Rizvi

Thank you very much!