02 / 06 / 2023
Barbados, home to the headquarters of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) one of the proposed hosts of the secretariat of the Santiago Network for Loss and Damage. Image credit: Unsplash (CC0).

At COP 27, Parties reached an agreement to pave the way to fully operationalise the Santiago Network for averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage (SNLD). A fully operational SNLD will be able to catalyse technical assistance for the implementation of relevant approaches at the local, national and regional level in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.

The SNLD has the potential to deliver action and support for loss and damage, which is urgently needed. Its function to catalyse demand-driven technical assistance by assisting developing countries to identify their needs, types of relevant technical assistance, and to access technical assistance from best suited organizations, bodies, networks and experts (OBNEs) will be particularly critical, as will its function to facilitate access to finance and capacity building, including urgent and timely responses.

In an earlier briefing, we unpacked the COP 27 decisions on the institutional arrangements of the SNLD - decisions 11/CP.27 and 12/CMA.4 - highlighting many elements that need to be clarified and are subject to further discussion. Already we have written a short blog on the relevance of the SNLD to the discussions on loss and damage funding arrangements with the fund as the centrepiece. In this blog we turn to the structure of the SNLD, specifically the hosted secretariat that will facilitate its work, to be known as the Santiago network secretariat (SNLD secretariat). 

At the conclusion of COP 27, a selection process for the host of the Santiago Network secretariat was launched.  As agreed by Parties, the UNFCCC secretariat (secretariat) issued a call for proposals to host the Santiago network secretariat. The secretariat received and responded to a number of queries in relation to this call. Two proposals were received to host the Santiago network secretariat, and the executive summaries were made available on the UNFCCC website:

1. Joint proposal by United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) 

2. Proposal by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) 

An evaluation panel was convened to prepare an evaluation report with the support of the secretariat. This was prepared considering the criteria in annex II of the COP 27 decision which include technical capability, management and governance, financial management and vision and management plan - the final criteria includes a proposal for providing the SNLD with in-kind and financial support. This report will be considered by Parties at SB 58 in June 2023, with the outcome being a draft decision with a proposal for the host. The secretariat will develop a draft host agreement or memorandum of understanding with the proposed host to be considered and approved by Parties at COP 28. The initial term of the agreement will be five years, with renewal to be considered by the COP and/or CMA.

The starting point for expectations of the host organisation selected by Parties will of course be for it to deliver on the elements in the COP 27 decision. Its roles and responsibilities have already been agreed by Parties, including that it shall be accountable and operate under the guidance of the Advisory Board and facilitate the implementation of the functions of the SNLD. There are a range of activities that Parties have prescribed it shall undertake as it manages the day-to-day operations of the SNLD. It is useful to set these out to start to build a picture of what this looks like: 

a. Building and managing the network of member organizations, bodies, networks and experts (OBNEs);

b. Ensuring the coordination and collaboration of the work of the SNLD with relevant UNFCCC constituted bodies, and synergies with other initiatives and networks;

c. Receiving, assessing and managing the process of responding to requests from developing countries, in coordination with network members;

d. Developing and executing the work programme approved by the Advisory Board, building on synergies with the five-year rolling workplan of the Executive Committee;

e. Promoting and disseminating information on the SNLD in a manner that is comprehensible and accessible;

f. Managing and directing the disbursement of funds provided for the SNLD;

g. Administering the funds provided for technical assistance under the SNLD;

h. Maintaining a monitoring and evaluation system to assess the timeliness, appropriateness and outcomes of assistance provided;

i. Supporting and facilitating the work of the Advisory Board.

Parties also set out in the COP 27 decision guidance on the organisational structure of the SNLD secretariat, including that it will have a lean, cost-efficient structure led by a director with a small core team of staff. Importantly the director of the SNLD secretariat is to be appointed by the host but this appointment is subject to the endorsement of the SNLD Advisory Board. The critical importance of the SNLD Advisory Board and its becoming operational as soon as possible after the selection of its members at COP 28 will be examined in a subsequent paper.

Other relevant responsibilities of the SNLD secretariat are the preparation of an annual report, commissioning of an independent review of the performance of the SNLD including inter alia sustainability and sources of funding and adequacy of funding levels. Its first task once it is operational will be to elaborate modalities and procedures for the SNLD under the guidance of and by approval of the SNLD Advisory Board, including developing guidelines on the following:

a. The designation of OBNEs as members;

b. Responding to requests for technical assistance including for urgent response;

c. Managing funding provided for technical assistance.

The challenge for the host of the SNLD secretariat will be not only meeting the expectations of Parties but also frontline communities who urgently need support for loss and damage. The SNLD will be operating in the context of enhanced understanding globally of the need for not only measures to avert and minimise loss and damage, but urgent support to address the impacts of climate change beyond mitigation and adaptation especially in the context of ongoing and ex post action (rehabilitation, recovery and reconstruction) across the spectrum of extreme weather events and slow onset events and economic and non-economic loss and damage.

The SNLD will need to deliver technical assistance in a demand-driven manner developed through inclusive and country-driven processes, taking into account the needs of vulnerable people, indigenous peoples and local communities, and taking into account cross cutting issues from the eleventh preambular paragraph of the Paris Agreement. It will also have a role to empower, enhance and create coherence between existing processes and OBNEs including the disaster risk reduction and humanitarian communities and not duplicate existing efforts. It will also need to connect and coordinate networks of expertise across the international, regional, national and sub-national levels. 

Simplicity will be important to ensure that lack of capacity is not a barrier to access for developing countries and already overburdened systems are not further burdened. The secretariat with support of the Advisory Board will need to ensure that activities are Party-led and controlled so that the private sector and donors do not dictate priorities. It will also be key that the secretariat is proactive, not reactive, and has the flexibility to respond rapidly in real time and at the scale needed. Finally, the SNLD must learn from the strengths and weaknesses of existing technical assistance mechanisms such as the Climate Technology Centre and Network

We look forward to engaging further in the host selection process, and seeing the host that is selected for the SNLD secretariat rise to the challenge and deliver on expectations.

Linda Siegele is an environmental lawyer and independent consultant. She has been involved in the UNFCCC negotiating process since 2005 with a special focus on the issues of adaptation and loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change in developing countries.

Heidi White is a lawyer and independent consultant. She supports both government and non-government actors to make progress in the UNFCCC negotiations on Loss and Damage with a particular expertise on the Santiago Network.