3 success factors for sustainable development in 2019

Liesbeth Wilschut

Imagine you’re working for a development organisation for farmers in Nepal. Farmers are terrified of the consequences of climate change: mudslides are destroying villages, monsoon rains are becoming more and more intense, and glaciers are melting faster than ever before. The farmers are concerned and are taking their own measures to adapt to the changing climate, but it’s is not enough. How do you start a dialogue with the government so the urgency of climate change can be brought to their attention? How do you reach stakeholders and how do you improve knowledge sharing among farmers? And is funding available to provide this much-needed support? 

Enter Both ENDS. Both ENDS knows which channels must be followed to contact the government and identifies the best approach for this process. Both ENDS also puts you in touch with similar organisations (e.g. in Bolivia) so you can exchange ideas and knowledge. This peer-to-peer exchange offers you a step-by-step insight into how a farmers’ organisation approached climate adaptation in Bolivia, which can spur you on in you in your efforts. Over several years, you can use the network of Both ENDS to exert influence over some of the larger stakeholders (for example, the World Bank and the Green Climate Fund), so more money becomes available for climate adaptation in the most vulnerable parts of Nepal.

Establishing connections

The example above demonstrates the work carried out by Both ENDS, which is a Dutch NGO that has focused on the environment, climate change and poverty prevention since the 1980s. Both ENDS is a network and knowledge broker: it brings social organisations together and helps them to gain access to information, funding, government bodies and umbrella organisations.
I interviewed Annelieke Douma, who is responsible for themes like climate adaptation and water management, and discovered why Both ENDS is so effective and essential in its field of work.

Success factors Both ENDS

Success factor 1: Support at organisation level

The core business of Both ENDS is supporting and collaborating with (primarily) social organisations in the southern hemisphere in their pursuit of sustainability, social equality and human rights. The approach adopted by Both ENDS differs from NGOs, which tend to adopt a programme or project-based approach. Because Both ENDS establishes long-term collaborations with organisations and improves their institutional capacity, they are able to avoid a ‘yo-yo effect’: major results during ongoing projects, but everything coming to a standstill afterwards.

Success factor 2: Based on the local context

Both ENDS primarily works with organisations that serve the interests of people as well as the environment. These organisations are familiar with local challenges, know which opportunities can be exploited and are in direct contact with people ‘on the ground’. “Challenges relating to water management and climate adaptation are context-specific, meaning they require context-specific solutions”, says Douma. “There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution; that is why it is so important to collaborate with civil society, which is familiar with local conditions, knowledge and needs.”

The problem is that large water and climate projects often overlook local knowledge and initiatives, and do not give enough consideration to existing power structures or specific consequences for certain ethnic groups. Consider the example of climate financing. Douma says, “Money provided by the Green Climate Fund is distributed in large portions. This means relatively small organisations that focus on the environment or women’s rights - which do important work on climate adaptation in e.g. Indonesia - will not be able to access these funds because they do not have the capacity to complete the required paperwork. The money therefore goes to governments or large international organisations. We believe this is not the way to achieve sustainable results, because not enough money ends up where it is truly needed, and sometimes even has the opposite effect. Medium-sized organisations have a range of opportunities to access climate funds, and we do a lot of work in this field by influencing policy and helping groups to express their views.”

Success factor 3: Integral approach

Although it may seem obvious, the importance of having an integral approach cannot be underestimated. The problem is that due to external factors, some projects are accompanied by so much pressure to achieve visible and fast results that there is no time, money or inclination to study the bigger picture. Therefore, even if a project has good intentions, it can have disastrous consequences.

Here’s an example: as part of a climate project aimed at preventing deforestation, a forest is cordoned off in order to protect its trees. Surrounding residents, who rely on the forest, are not involved nor are they compensated. This means they are forced into an adjacent area, where the rate of deforestation quickly increases. In addition, conflicts arise between existing and new inhabitants.

How do you make sure enough attention is paid to the bigger picture? Both ENDS possesses a lot of knowledge, concerning physical matters (such as the environment, water and land use) as well as social aspects (such as human rights, land rights or women’s rights). This makes us well placed to assess the potential risks of interventions and bring them to everyone’s attention at the start of the project.

But above all - which takes us back to success factors 1 and 2 - a lot of time and knowledge can be garnered by collaborating with organisations that already have a very good insight into complex aspects and relationships within particular contexts. As a result, we gain a better and faster overview when it comes to the positive and negative consequences of our actions.

And this is an effective approach, which can also serve as a good resolution for 2019: let’s occasionally make time to stand still and consider the consequences of our actions. This will give us the confidence to follow the right path, in our efforts to create a better world.

How can we help?

Ask our experts