In times of crisis, communities frequently rally together.
Whether physical, emotional, or financial support, community members often understand what their neighbours need. Young Power in Social Action (YPSA) is helping families in Bangladesh navigate the complexities of relocation after cyclones, rising sea levels, and other detrimental effects of climate change. To do so, they’re leveraging the power of community knowledge and expertise.
“Community Teams help people ‘move’ together,” said Mohammed Shahjahan, deputy director of YPSA. “They help stand beside displaced people to mobilise them. They support them through transitional times.”
YPSA’s Community Teams include people who have lived through the tragic experience of relocating after a cyclone destroys their home or sea-level rises and ruins farmland and crops. Local leaders and students also join these teams as volunteers to support community members facing challenges.
These Community Teams lead project activities, including helping to connect people to available services and assessing the needs of climate-forced displaced people to better identify what responses to addressing loss and damage will be most effective.
Loss and damage
For YPSA, loss and damage occurs when there is no option for adaptation in the aftermath of climate-related events. For example, sometimes land is damaged to a point where people cannot alter farming practices to adapt to the changing environment. Then communities must migrate and leave behind their homelands, livelihoods, and traditions.
“Climate-forced displaced people have lost everything. Fifteen thousand people don’t have land or homes on the southeastern part of the coast of Bangladesh,” Shahjahan said. “They’ve built temporary housing on the roadside or near the embankments.”
YPSA’s loss and damage efforts help displaced people in the Bangladeshi communities of Banskhali in the Chittagong district and Kutubdia Island in Cox’s Bazaar district meet their basic needs, including shelter. YPSA hopes its efforts will help climate-forced displaced households live in safer places with dignity and basic services.
The organisation also works to ensure that local government agencies, journalists, and others will play a positive role in assisting the climate-vulnerable population to secure their rights. YPSA is advocating for the Bangladesh government to meet its legal obligation to help displaced community members, who often lack the literacy skills needed to claim government assistance.
“Government services often don’t reach the areas that displaced people go, so there is a barrier when they try to receive government support,” Shahjahan said. YPSA’s advocacy efforts include writing to media outlets, government agencies, and members of parliament. In addition, YPSA provides Community Teams support to organise people to claim their rights through events such as rallies and demonstrations.
Shahjahan says the goal of YPSA’s advocacy is to create rights-based solutions for those experiencing climate-forced displacement. He also says that Community Teams are critical in helping those forced to relocate from their homes to recognise their own agency.
“Community Teams are mobilising people through community engagement. They’re empowering them to claim their rights so their voices can be heard,” he said.
As the organisation continues this work, YPSA hopes to strengthen Community Teams. One way they are trying to accomplish this is by increasing youth involvement. Thanks to funding from Climate Justice Resilience Fund in partnership with the Scottish Government, YPSA plans to host ten Youth Forums to engage young people in community organising and problem-solving to support displaced people.
“Local people listen to the young population,” Shahjahan said. “Once we’ve built the capacity of the youth, they can help us build a plan and move it forward for the rights of the displaced people.”
This article is the third in a three-part series that explains how loss and damage impacts communities across the globe and what organisations are doing to address these challenges. In the first part of this series, we explored how Helvetas Bangladesh addresses loss and damage in Bangladesh through their Panii Jabon initiative. In the second series, we turned our attention to the Pacific Islands to uncover how the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) will advance human rights amid loss and damage.