Perspectives on climate finance and resilience : the critical case of Bangladesh




Krishnan, Nisha

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Explicit goals of reducing vulnerability and enhancing resilience permeate international and national policy agendas. Additionally, the international community and national actors have pledged and invested considerable financial resources to addressing climate-related challenges. This dissertation addresses three inter-related critical, but unanswered questions, on international and national climate-related activities. I use Bangladesh, often cited as one of the world’s most vulnerable countries, as a case study. The first paper focuses on the country’s first-of-its-kind domestically financed trust fund’s design and approach and its effects on its procedures and outcomes over 2010 - 2017. I use a multi-method qualitative approach, including document content analysis and interviews with government, donors, and observers to argue that its design did not adequately account for Bangladesh’s current institutional architecture and power distribution, available capacity, and policy coordination practices, fating it to undesirable outcomes. The second paper studies this Trust Fund and other international funds’ sub-national allocation practices, questioning whether these resources reach those in greatest need, a tenet of climate justice debates. I explore several plausible determinants, namely need, political motivations, and donor familiarity. I use newly collected data from the Trust Fund, a Resilience Fund, and five donors’ contributions and use geographic information systems (GIS) to spatially overlay these data on climate-related vulnerability assessments, poverty incidence, and previous donor activity locations to assess correlations. I interviewed 45 representatives from government, donor, and non-governmental organizations to understand patterns. I find that climate-fund allocation does not match demonstrated need as climate justice debates advocate, instead revealing for political expediency and donors’ previous operations as determinants. The last paper asks how resilience, a nebulous concept, is operationalized in Bangladesh. The concept’s uncritical use in policy documents has forced frontline actors to operationalize it. I analyze publicly available strategies and interview 43 representatives from 22 organizations, finding that, while a useful framing concept, resilience often is an elusive and distracting goal that diverts organizational resources from other activities. To be useful, resilience should be integrated more seamlessly into existing agendas. This dissertation highlights international and national climate policy and practice and furthers critical discussions on its progress.



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