The Loss and Damage Fund must not leave fragile states behind 

Comment: Unless the unique needs of conflict zones are prioritized, climate-vulnerable communities risk losing out on finance again

The Loss and Damage Fund must not leave fragile states behind 

Afghan farmer Ghulam Hussain sits on a fallen tree after his agricultural land was destroyed by a flash flood, in Burka District, Baghlan, Afghanistan, May 12, 2024. (Photo: REUTERS/Sayed Hassib)


Adrianna Hardaway is senior policy advisor for climate with humanitarian aid agency Mercy Corps.

As the Loss and Damage Fund’s board meets this week, it is addressing key issues such as selecting a host country, how to disburse its financial resources, and lobbying for more funding from donors. However, the agenda currently doesn’t address the challenges communities in fragile contexts will face in accessing the fund. This oversight mirrors a recurring pattern in international climate talks, where the needs and realities of fragile and conflict-affected situations (FCS) often receive little to no attention. 

FCS, as defined by the World Bank, experience high levels of institutional and social fragility and violent conflict. These nations, which include Afghanistan, Mali and Niger to name a few, often face extreme climate hazards and struggle to cope due to weak institutions, poor governance, and ongoing conflict.  

Together, fragility and climate risks make these countries particularly vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis. Because of their vulnerability, fragile contexts are frequently deemed too risky for climate finance investments, as project partners find it challenging to operate and donors are concerned about their return on investment.   

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While the Paris Agreement prioritizes Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) for international climate finance, LDCs and SIDS with additional challenges like violent conflict and fragility face barriers, receiving significantly less financing than more stable regions.  

Mercy Corps’ analysis reveals that the 10 most fragile states received only $223 million in climate adaptation financing in 2021, less than 1% of total flows. Without prioritizing the unique needs of fragile contexts, the Loss and Damage Fund risks excluding these climate-vulnerable communities once again. 

Action needed from the start

There are no references to fragility or conflict in the COP decision that established the Loss and Damage Fund or the Governing Instrument, which sets the Fund’s rules and practices. Additionally, there is no mention of how fragile or conflict-affected places in more “stable” countries will receive financing through the Fund.  

Fragility and conflict can limit how communities and institutions across a particular country respond to climate impacts. For example, in Northern Kenya, where Mercy Corps implements several climate adaptation and food security programs, unpredictable rainfall affects water resources, creating pressure on pastoral livelihoods and leading to conflict over water and pasture. Relatively weak institutions at the local government and community level lack the capabilities and resources to plan and implement climate adaptation interventions.

If the Loss and Damage Fund does not address how to support both fragile states and contexts like Northern Kenya now, it will be hard to incorporate these considerations later.   

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Advocating for specific challenges in fragile contexts during the Fund’s initial setup is crucial, as evidenced by Mercy Corps’ experience with the multi-billion-dollar UN-backed Green Climate Fund (GCF). Although the GCF has made strides to consider communities affected by climate change, conflict, and fragility through its policies and programs, including endorsing the UAE’s Declaration on Climate, Relief, Recovery, and Peace at COP28 last year, it still struggles to effectively serve communities in fragile contexts.  

Prioritizing finance for those who need it most

At the second meeting of the Loss and Damage Fund’s board this week, its members should take the following steps to realize the Fund’s promise and ensure loss and damage financing reaches those who truly need it most: 

  1. Designate a board member for fragile and conflict-affected situations: This idea, initially proposed by Afghanistan for the GCF, was never fully realized. Board Members play an important role in shaping the policies and procedures of the Loss and Damage Fund and in the future, approving projects. Additionally, an active observer from civil society can represent the views of FCS at Board meetings.
  2. Develop a framework to identify “particularly vulnerable” countries: The Loss and Damage Fund board will need to determine which countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change and thus, eligible to receive financing. To ensure a comprehensive understanding of vulnerability, the LDF must include fragility metrics such as economic, political, social cohesion, and security dimensions in any forthcoming vulnerability framework. 
  3. Develop and approve operational policies and frameworks for fragile contexts: To effectively utilize loss and damage finance, the Fund should adopt policies and tools that allow fragile contexts to flexibly respond to shocks and disrupt the climate-conflict cycle. Mercy Corps’ Assessment for Adaptation to Conflict and Climate Threats, for example, examines the dynamics between climate change and conflict, and identifies entry points and approaches to interrupt the cycle of fragility. In Mali and Niger, where we piloted this tool, program participants identified the rainy season – especially the beginning and the end – as the time when many of the land-based conflicts take place between farmers and herders. It is being used by the UK government to plan ways to resolve tensions and support women who are particularly vulnerable.   

The creation of the Loss and Damage Fund was a significant victory for nations that have contributed the least to climate change yet bear the brunt of its impacts. The board of the Loss and Damage Fund now has a critical opportunity to ensure inclusion and equity by guaranteeing that all communities, especially those in fragile and conflict-affected states, have access to the necessary funding to address loss and damage. It is imperative that no one is left behind in this global effort to combat the climate crisis.

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