In Advocacy Hub, Annual Report

Written by Kees Knulst, Political advisor at Woord en Daad

In March, civil society representatives from the Benkadi partnership* in West Africa met with government and civil society representatives in Brussels and The Hague. Their goal: to draw attention to West Africa’s need for support for climate adaptation and climate finance.

Why come to the centres of Dutch and European politics to advocate for something that is already known? you might say. In general, climate adaption seems to be high on the global agenda. However, there’s a difference between discussing the abstract challenges climate change is presenting us in a conference venue in Sharm-el-Sheikh or Glasgow, and facing the concrete needs and concerns of people who experience the effects of climate change directly. On top of that: not every region seems to be equally heard, as geopolitical developments, economic interests and cultural ties usually play a big role in prioritizing the issues at hand.

“West Africa is being forgotten because of what’s happening in the world – not least because of the war on Europe’s borders”
Christelle Kalhoule, president of SPONG, national platform Burkina Faso and chair of the Benkadi Steering Committee

But there’s more. The debate on climate adaptation support and climate finance is grounded in the principle of solidarity. Solidarity based on interdependency and accountability, to be more precise. The question then is how that system of solidarity is defined, and by whom. Who decides who should be part of a system of financial support and compensation for loss and damages, and who should not? How far should it go? What are the underlying power structures that consciously or unconsciously – though undeniably – shape the debate?

As one of the Benkadi delegates stated: “In the end it’s all about Southern-led solidarity. We know our context. We know our people.” It is precisely their local embeddedness, their legitimacy, their on the ground knowledge that make it essential and worthwhile for Southern partners to make their voices heard at the tables of policy-makers in Brussels and The Hague. Meanwhile face-to-face interaction provides an opportunity for civil servants and politicians to listen carefully, directly consult local stakeholders and include these voices in formulating policies and legislation that work for all.

“Working with local CSO’s would be an advantage to EU Delegations, providing the EU with access to local communities.”
Sylvestre Tiemtoré, regional director of Benkadi

During their visit to the Netherlands and Brussels, Benkadi partners spoke with Dutch MPs Chris Stoffer, Stieneke van der Graaf and Jan Klink about the need for policy coherence for development and regional security in the Sahel. In Brussels, they met with representatives from the European External Action Service and discussed various topics – including Europe’s Green Transition and its potential effects on African countries – with MEP Mohammed Chahim. Facilitated by EU-CORD’s Secretariat, they also had useful encounters with Brussels-based CSOs. L’Equipe, as they use to call themselves, is looking back on a fruitful and inspiring field visit to the Northern arena.


*Benkadi is a strategic partnership between civil society organisations from South and North. The national platforms of Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Ivory Coast actively engage with their respective governments regarding policy-making, planning and implementation of activities related to climate adaptation. Benkadi means ‘working together in the same direction.’ Woord en Daad, being the Northern partner in Benkadi, facilitates policy-influencing on EU level and in The Netherlands. The Benkadi partnership is led by a Steering Committee with representatives of each of the five partner organisations. The program is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the Power of Voices framework.

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