Achieving participatory governance for adaptation

The Binational Commission for the Sixaola River Basin (CBCRS) needed to diversify participation in the basin’s governance. Although it brought together actors from different sectors and levels of government (national and municipal), some actors were still missing (such as the Municipality of Bocas del Toro, Panama, which joined in 2016). The CBCRS management was not yet consolidated, because of its complex composition and that it had neither a binational territorial planning tool with which to articulate efforts on both sides of the border, nor its own budget. Through an extensive participatory process, the CBCRS drafted a Strategic Plan for Transboundary Territorial Development (2017-2021) and expanded its project portfolio. Encouraging participation in this process, and in bi-national activities, has created conditions for civil society and municipalities to take an active role in the implementation of the plan and adaptation actions. Providing a space particularly for women, youth and indigenous people, usually marginalized of decision making. CBCRS plan also urged greater equality in the access to and use of natural resources on which local communities depend, thus favouring those groups most vulnerable to climate change and creating a sense of ownership.

  • Communities are willing to participate in dialogue, learning, search for solutions and joint actions. Most stakeholders in the basin are concerned and affected by climate change excessive rainfall that causes flooding.
  • In order to achieve a broad participation, the integrating role of the CBCRS as a binational governance and dialogue platform, and of the (Talamanca-Caribe Biological COrridor Assotiation) ACBTC as a local development association, was indispensable.
  • In governance for adaptation, effective participation can enrich planning and decision-making processes, leading to results that are accepted by all parties involved
  • Coordination between projects, and initiatives such as the Central American Strategy for Rural Territorial Development (ECADERT) that provided funding for the first project awarded to the CBCRS, contribute to the up-scaling and sustainability of the actions.
  • Social participation and strengthening of organizational capacity, through the identification of spokespersons and leaders (amongst youth, women and men) is an important factor for the consolidation of these processes and, with it, governance structures.
  • Encouraging public participation increases dialogue and the assessment and incorporation of knowledge (technical and traditional), as well as the inclusion of lessons learned from each sector.
  • Future efforts should consider how to strengthen the incorporation of the agri-business sector (e.g. banana or cacao) into the governance for adaptation agenda.