How knowledge brokering is catalyzing resilience and gender equity in Global South’s climate plans

The uneven distribution of climate impacts between the Global North and South is irrefutable. As the Global South mobilizes to build the resilience of its communities, their primary tool is knowledge – and lots of it. Held at the Multilevel Action Pavilion, the session Time4MultilevelAction Dialogues: Global South showcased the knowledge products and services less developed countries are using to fast forward climate resilience.

What is knowledge brokering?

Knowledge brokering involves developing relationships, strengthening networks and connecting knowledge actors with one another to improve access to reliable and robust information. By linking urban practitioners, decision makers, researchers and communities and creating a space for them to exchange methods, experiences and knowledge, their ability to make impactful, well-informed decisions can be significantly raised.

“Success is not the number of publications, but how knowledge gets used by people to achieve climate resilience….Ultimately, success lies in providing information that helps meet our goals.”

Bruce Currie-Alder, Programme Leader for Climate Resilience, International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada

Just launched at COP26, the CLARE program, co-funded and designed by the UK and IDRC, Canada, is exemplary of this knowledge brokering process. The program focuses on filling knowledge gaps and boosting the capacity of governments in the Global South, by helping them develop better decision-making tools and better adaptation solutions to implement transformational change.

In India, the CapaCITIES project is reaching for the same goal. Funded by Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC) and with ICLEI as an implementing partner, the project seeks to use knowledge generation and dissemination to support integrated climate-resilient planning

“The commitments of India and other emerging powerhouses will make a huge difference, allowing us to stay below 2°C […] Today approx 90% of GDP is under climate commitments, which considering last year it was just 30%. That’s significant”

Matthias Bachmann, Programme Officer, Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC), Switzerland

Knowledge assets raise India’s ambition

The SDC has been partnering with India for over 60 years. For the last 10 of those, they have focused primarily on climate change issues, looking at low-carbon settlements, city climate planning, and improving the government’s knowledge of scaling up action through bankable projects. In the municipality of Rajkot, for example, its support has helped secure approximately $60 million to install four photovoltaic plants, secure 150 electric buses and manage an urban forest.

“Until a few years ago, the department handling environment and forests in Tamil Nadu didn’t even use the word climate change […] we’ve made leaps since then”

Supriya Sahu, IAS, Principal Secretary, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Forests, Government of Tamil Nadu

Rajkot isn’t the only Indian partner charging ahead. The state of Tamil Nadu in south India has developed three ambitious missions with the help of capacity building and knowledge brokering efforts: (1) the Tamil Nadu Climate Change mission, (2) the Green Tamil Nadu mission to enhance tree cover from 23.8 to 33% in 10 years and (3) the Tamil Nadu Wetlands mission to restore wetlands and regenerate ecosystems, which seeks to simultaneously address climate mitigation, adaptation and biodiversity loss.

The state has also established Tamil Nadu’s Green Climate Company, a non-profit, to manage these missions while looking to enhance climate finance and reduce resource constraints. Yet they understand the importance of involving the community in these efforts.

“The pledges, documents, webinars and conferences are fine. But climate change needs to be a people’s movement. A bus conductor, a poor woman, a daily wage worker: How do they see their role? We need to achieve at the community level what we have set out to achieve at the government level.”

Supriya Sahu, IAS, Principal Secretary, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Forests, Government of Tamil Nadu

Similar success is abound in Africa, reports Charlotte Scott, Project Manager at SouthSouthNorth (SSN) as she tells of their experience of knowledge brokering on projects in Namibia, co-led by SSN.

“The knowledge brokering approach has helped strengthen vertical and horizontal integration. Fragmentation of knowledge has meant high transaction costs when working across scales and sectors. We’ve found that using existing structures, including existing grant schemes, has been the best way to realign this fragmentation.”

– Charlotte Scott

Oftentimes the resources and finance already exist but there are barriers in funneling climate funds to where they’re most needed and to link project implementers and governments to the private sector. That’s exactly why knowledge brokering services are now focusing on supporting project design to improve bankability and encourage private sector investment.

 “We have a situation with low interest rates, so all good projects will find the money. If the project is solid and bankable, it will happen.”

Hans-Peter Egler, Project Director, South Pole, Switzerland

Piecing together gender and climate

Sharing knowledge, technical expertise and good practices on subnational climate action is just one component of knowledge brokering. The other addresses equity and inclusivity concerns within climate response processes. Women’s participation in policy-making processes is unequal and gender inequality may limit the adaptive capacity of women, their families and their communities.

“Women are 51% of the population, 70% of the poor, producing 50% of food but owning 1% of the land. Women can and do play a critical role in climate responses due to their local knowledge and their leadership in sustainable research management. Women are also informed about community dynamics. If policies and projects are implemented without women, inequality and exclusion will increase.”

Patricia Velasco, Gender specialist, CDKN


In response to this, the Climate & Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) released two knowledge products at the Glasgow climate conference, which highlight the proximity of gender to just climate action and resilience. The Gender Equality Guide encompasses learning and good practices on target setting and monitoring, while the Climate Finance Guide seeks to strengthen women’s participation in climate funding.



Tamil Nadu Credits:  Photo by Remi Clinton on Unsplash