One of the highly anticipated themes of COP27 will be addressing loss and damage caused by climate change. There are 2 key elements to consider here:

  1. Compensation: How, how much and by whom should countries that have experienced heavy economic loss due to climate catastrophes be compensated?
  2. Technical support: Which approaches and solutions should be implemented to avert, minimise and address loss and damage resulting from climate change in these countries; who should do it, and how?

The inauguration of the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage (SNLD) will be crucial to deliver on the latter. COP26 made good progress in funding the Network and COP27 is now expected to launch it into action. But how exactly does one operationalise a multi-stakeholder network like the SNLD?

We have summarised it here in 3 steps:

provisional measure taken

Step 1 - Bring clarity to the mission

It is one thing to rally a diverse set of stakeholders behind one cause; making sure all stakeholders involved are aligned and sufficiently informed to deliver the joint mission is another. Clarity starts with approaching a complex topic like “loss and damage” from a “systems” view, holistically dissecting and linking the key factors and interactions that form the basis of both causes and solutions.


economic losses data
Source: UNFCC

Besides the complexity of the topics, the variety of stakeholders, their different backgrounds and individual missions might lead to miscommunication or worse, misalignment. It is therefore key to bring clarity to the mission early on in order to move a multi-stakeholder network like the SNLD in the right direction to implement the most appropriate solutions in the right places at the right time.

There are 3 best practices that help bring clarity to a multi-stakeholder network’s mission:

  1. Alignment:
  2. Ensure that all stakeholders involved agree on priorities, nuances and are aware of the social, environmental and governance implications of the issues and solutions at hand.
  3. Knowledge development and sharing:
  4. Set up the infrastructure that allows stakeholders to share knowledge, monitor the implementation progress, and track individual and joint milestones.
  5. Horizon scanning:
  6. Keep a finger on the pulse around what is happening in the larger external ecosystem including emerging trends, geographical hotspots and stakeholder developments.

An example to follow: In September last year, the United Nations hosted the first-ever Food Systems Summit, a convention of and collaboration between several UN agencies, philanthropic foundations and private-sector organisations with the mission to catalyse change in the way that food is produced and consumed around the world. In order to steer conversation and focus in the right directions, the Summit’s leadership designed its objectives to be driven by five “Action Tracks”, each of which was designed to identify the challenges and game changers to deliver sustainable food systems.

Step 2 - Understand the potential of your network

The SNLD as it stands today counts over 19 global and regional organisations from across 5 sectors (funding & development, science & academia, think tanks, risk & insurance, and humanitarian), including 4 UN agencies. This is impressive and promising - yet, we need to look beyond a mere list of logos like we not only ready the book’s cover but also the novel inside. It is crucial to dive into the network and dissect it. Only then we can understand the dynamics of a network and realise its full potential.

There are 3 questions we need to answer to understand the potential of a multi-stakeholder network:

  1. Who’s involved?
  2. Identify who’s who, which “loss and damage” topics they’re involved in and what objectives they’re following.
  3. What are the dynamics?
  4. Understand the different skills, expertise and solutions that different stakeholders are able to offer, and to whom and where they should be deployed.
  5. What are the synergies and gaps?
  6. Assess whether the skills, expertise and solutions sufficiently match the needs on the ground. Join forces where there are synergies and expand the network where there are gaps.

An example to follow: The UN Environment Program (UNEP) brings together experts from civil society, industry, academia and government in the Global Partnership for Marine Litter (GPML). It aims to combat plastic pollution and marine litter worldwide. The GPML launched a digital platform to allow these multi-stakeholder experts to efficiently identify operational opportunities (who is who, what they work on, and what skill sets they bring to the table) as well as strategic opportunities (in which geography or on which topics there is a need to grow the network).

Step 3 - Transform an interconnected network to an impactful coalition

The mission of the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage is clear. Whereas the SNLD hopefully helps alleviate the grave impacts that climate change has on communities and economies in developing countries, there remains a lot more to be done if we want to address “loss and damage” as a system and in the long run. Think of - policy influencing, encouraging funding and investments, developing technologies and innovations. We will not advocate for the SNLD to take up these tasks, but multi-stakeholder coalitions are well equipped to drive impact in these areas as well for the following reasons:

  • If aligned in mission and vision, such network will be able to produce a “coordinated voice” and leverage the “power of many” principle
  • A single network is always part of a much larger ecosystem that can be mobilised to drive change. For example; the SLND counts only 19 members, yet - its directly connected ecosystem is made up of more than 1,300 highly impactful organisations across government, development, civil society, and industry.