Deriving ‘Power Sensitive Design Principles’ for long-term climate change adaptation policies in South Asia

19:00 Tuesday 28 May




Sumit Vij (Netherlands) 1

1 - PhD Candidate

Questions of power and politics are central to the formulation of climate change adaptation (CCA) policies. Despite advances in social science research, there is little focus on how power-relations influence policy actor’s decisions and processes related to CCA policies in South Asia. There is a lack understanding for insight into considerations and practices that can counterbalance power and favour long-term adaptation decision making. In fact, most literature is fragmented and not focused on solutions, but rather acknowledges that power is an important aspect of CCA policies. In this article, we used a two-layered systematic review, considering a total of 4589 articles to answer two questions: First, what are the key power-related issues that influence the long-term climate change adaptation policies in South Asia? Second, how can we formulate Power Sensitive Design Principles for the power-related issues? PSDPs are referred to as a set of practices and considerations to be used by policy actors to decide long-term adaptation measures for the future climate change impacts.

Results from the first layer of systematic review highlight three power-related themes influencing adaptation policies in South Asia. First, actors use a variety of material and ideational resources to exert their power over other actors. Second, adaptation policy processes create power imbalances. Lastly, contextual and historical axes of social differences (i.e. class, caste, gender) are responsible for shaping power relations. We focused on the first theme (use of material and ideational resources by actors), specifically on knowledge and authority to derive PSDPs in the second layer of systematic review. Regarding domination by knowledge, our analysis suggests three PSDPs – (1) shift in ‘transfer of knowledge’ to ‘mutual learning’ during the formulation of CCA policies; (2) use of participatory methods to combine technical and traditional knowledge systems; and (3) creation of safe spaces for continuous dialogue, interaction and raising concerns for future planning.

For use of power by authority, article proposes three PSDPs – (1) focus on power and political nuances that shapes CCA policy processes; (2) democratic devolution is the response to the authority and control in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious environment; and (3) enable mechanisms to build communication competence, knowledge and confidence to encourage self-empowerment for community members both as individuals and as collective entities. We conclude that systematic reviews are a useful method to find answers relating to messy and complex concepts such as power and climate change adaptation.