6 June 2012. Effective political, administrative and fiscal decentralization is crucial to support localized initiatives for adaptation and mitigation. In order to promote sound climate change governance at the local level, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), in partnership with Management Resources for Good Governance (MaRGG) and the Ministry of Environment of Sri Lanka, held a Workshop on Climate Change and Decentralization, from 8-9 May 2012, in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
The two day workshop brought together sector interest groups from Sri Lanka and seven other regional nations from the Asia Pacific – Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, the Pacific Islands and Vietnam. Over 60 decision-makers and practitioners from national and local government agencies, international and national development agencies, community organizations and academia, shared knowledge and experiences towards identifying strategies for better decentralization of climate change action.
The workshop was opened by Anura Priydarshana Yapa, the Minister of Environment, who said "Sri Lanka faces overabundance of climate related challenges today. Among the major impacts of climate change in Sri Lanka are soil erosion and land degradation, pollution of inland waters, loss of biodiversity and depletion of coastal resources." He appreciated the strong partnership between the ministry and UN-Habitat, which has resulted in the formulation of the National Climate Change Policy.
Mr. Laxman Perera, UN-Habitat Country Programme Manager, highlighted that densely populated and developed areas such as cities, face the heaviest burdens from the impacts of climate change. The impacts of related disaster affect the poorest communities more adversely, as economic and social barriers confine them to the most vulnerable areas. 70% of Sri Lanka's urban population and 80% of its economic infrastructure networks are concentrated in coastal cities, highly vulnerable to climate change impacts such as sea-level rise, flooding, salination of water resources, storm surges, cyclones and droughts.
Mr. Chris Radford, Senior Human Settlement Officer of UN-Habitat stressed that according to UN-HABITAT's "Cities and Climate Change: Global Report on Human Settlements, 2011", there could be as many as 200 million environmental refugees worldwide by the year 2050, if cohesive and sustainable action is not taken to mitigate and respond to climate change issues at global, national and local levels. Mr. Douglas Keh, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Country Director also spoke at the inauguration ceremony.
Facilitated by Mr. Bernhard Barth and Mr. Kibe Muigai, technical experts from UN-Habitat headquarters, as well as Mr. Saman Senanayake, a leading local practitioner, the day one dialogue centered on presentation of country papers, and how climate change initiatives can be better implemented through localized participatory approaches and multi-level governance. On day two the participants explored ways forward through working group sessions utilizing UN-Habitat devised International Guidelines on Decentralization.
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