Create more leaders, not victims, in climate change fight

Images: Yayasan Usaha Mulia (YUM)

Alex Ritchie, UK Chief Executive of GlobalGiving, argues the case for a climate resilience approach to corporate philanthropy.

The need

Ongoing geo-political crises around the world have left whole regions unstable, and there is huge pressure on the humanitarian system to respond. This pressure is only going to increase due to continued climate shocks, which have tripled in the last 30 years.

The need for aid that addresses the root cause of instability, and seeks long-term change is more pressing than ever. The climate crisis increases the likelihood that a conflict or socioeconomic vulnerability will become long-lasting.

Gradual changes in the climate also augment existing inequalities, such as unequal access to land ownership for women, and lack of access to education and economic opportunities. In many places, women culturally hold the burden of providing water, food and caring for family, with these tasks exacerbated by the pressures of a warming climate.

Climate change disproportionately affects children too-a UN Report suggested that in rural communities children work an hour longer when temperatures rise-impacting their education and wellbeing.

The case for community resilience

It is not new to claim that communities must have a leading role in determining their futures. Despite this, the 2022 Global Humanitarian Assistance report from Development Initiatives found that of the funds donated in 2022 to international humanitarian assistance, only 2% reaches local changemakers, with the vast majority channelled through few large nonprofits who have tight restrictions on how the money can be used.

This stark figure illustrates the challenge which GlobalGiving was established to address: to transform the way that aid and philanthropy works by supporting local charitable organisations to access the funds available from corporate and individual donors in a way that is transparent, fast, and reliable for all. Local communities are experts in their own situations.

Solutions defined and led by communities are going to be more contextually appropriate, impactful and sustainable. The unfortunate reality is that with climate change acting as a threat multiplier, the need for our donations, and the GlobalGiving approach, is growing.

It’s essential that those who are most affected by the climate crisis, particularly those in communities in the Global South, can access funds both for their immediate needs of food, water, shelter and education, and for the long-term goals of protecting their communicates, fostering growth in the local economy and safeguarding homes and infrastructures.

For example, in September 2023, heavy rains brought on by Storm Daniel caused devastating flooding in eastern Libya. Thousands of people were killed, with many thousands more reported missing.

Due to the uniquely challenging political context in Libya, few to no peer funders or INGOs in this space were able to mobilise funding or resources into the country directly. This isolated affected communities further amidst both conflict and the effects of natural disaster. There was a clear need for our work when we launched our Libya Flood Relief Fund, because our established local networks and ability to rapidly onboard new ones meant we could channel support rapidly into communities to where it’s needed most.

The first of these emergency grant rounds was dispersed by GlobalGiving’s Disaster Response Team in less than ten days after the flooding began and have continued well into 2024, with 16 grants going to a range of local-led, diaspora-led, and Middle East and North Africa-region-based aid organisations.

Community resilience through agroforestry

Away from the emergency settings of climate disaster response, projects around the world are focusing on building resilience to the impacts of climate change, with community participation and knowledge at their heart.

One such project, supported by GlobalGiving, is an agroforestry project in the Central Kalimantan region of Borneo. Climate change has led to increased temperatures, water shortages and flooding during the rainy season, and threatens the livelihoods of communities reliant on agricultural work. Agroforestry methods, which prioritise plant variety to encourage greater soil fertility, helping farmers to transition away from harmful pesticides too.

This project demonstrates the value of framing projects around climate resilience. Rather than victims of the climate crisis, communities in Central Kalimantan are supported to lead on an appropriate transition to a more sustainable form of income which reduces damage to the land done by slash-and-burn forestry techniques and pesticide use, while also increasing preparedness for temperature rises and supporting women community leaders to take an active role.

Where businesses can play their part

Just as nations discuss the responses to the climate crisis in terms of mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage, businesses need to address the climate crisis from multiple angles too.

We recognise that it can be challenging for businesses to identify their role in what appear such intractable, and sometimes distant, problems relating to climate change and humanitarian disasters. That is why we advocate for placing climate resilience and community empowerment at the heart of corporate giving; enabling local leaders and existing charities with the direct experience of an area to determine the best course of action.

This applies both following disasters and as communities work to ensure future shocks do not have the same damaging effects.

Climate resilience, and the positive impact of corporate philanthropy and charitable giving to support communities, are a key part of this shift. By considering community climate resilience in their corporate giving strategies, businesses can support truly impactful change.

In 2023, GlobalGiving was awarded full beneficiary status which will allow for tax efficient donations to be made to GlobalGiving nonprofit partners using the Transnational Giving Europe (TGE) platform from donors registered in France and Germany.

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