By Trina Loken, MAGG Graduate (2017)

I knew that the month of November was going to be a whirlwind at UNDP Viet Nam before it even began. As I write this “dispatch from the field” at the end of the month, there is a lot to take stock of from the past few weeks that pertains to the work of the Climate Change and Environment Unit at the UNDP country office.

In the first week of November, Typhoon Damrey or “Storm No. 12” struck South-Central Viet Nam with a fury, killing more than 100 people and causing destruction to over 100,000 homes in the region. The enormous losses and damages occurred right as international leaders were convening for the 2017 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in the Central region city of Da Nang, only slightly north to the impacted areas. Elsewhere, in Bonn, Germany, delegations from around the world were arriving for COP 23 to discuss global climate action and to detail the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

How the global community decides to move forward with climate change mitigation and adaptation is of high consequence for local communities that feel the effects of climate change the most. Unfortunately, storms similar in strength to Typhoon Damrey are likely to become more frequent in light of current and forthcoming climate realities. Low-lying coastal areas around the world are particularly at-risk. Furthermore, risk is amplified when communities lack appropriate coping capacity mechanisms such as coastal buffer zones, robust housing and infrastructure, and/or training on disaster risk management.

This point brings me to the next major event of this month: the organization of a productive 3-day Inception Workshop from November 22 to 24 to kick off the implementation phase of Viet Nam’s first coastal community resilience project supported by the Green Climate Fund. The project aims to build up the climate change resilience of vulnerable communities while also ensuring that the Vietnamese Government’s coordination capacities, policies, and regulatory frameworks in this area are strengthened.

A common feature of other UN agency projects, an Inception Workshop provides the opportunity to convene stakeholders to review the fund disbursement, monitoring and evaluation, and social and environmental safeguard requirements of the donor and UNDP prior to funds being mobilized. Implementing partners are invited to share progress and challenges on key early implementation issues; for example, setting up project management units or opening project bank accounts. Institutional arrangements are also clarified – an important step to ensuring the smooth functioning of roles and responsibilities.

Our GCF-project involves multiple sectors and levels of the Viet Nam Government, therefore making the outcomes of the Inception Workshop particularly critical. Thankfully, discussions over the 2 days of internal working sessions which preceded a more formal 3rd day (to which members from civil society, diplomatic missions, and the media also joined) led to a productive set of recommendations and action points to move the project forward. On this 3rd day, I was also honoured to give a brief presentation summarizing the key results accomplished through the previous days of internal working sessions.

In general, supporting the Inception Workshop helped me to appreciate just how challenging organizing this type of event can be. Getting to the point of hosting this event was no small feat: from logistics to agenda-setting to communications activities, and consulting with Government focal points at each stage along the way, there was no shortage of work for the UNDP-side GCF project team. Thankfully, the hard work paid off and now all stakeholders are in a better position to move forward with implementation in the year ahead.