Climatelinks Champion Becky Chacko Navigates Complexities of Climate Change Integration
USAID is entering full implementation of climate risk management this October. This effort to improve the sustainability and impact of USAID’s development work furthers the integration objective of the Agency’s 2012 Climate Change and Development strategy.
It also responds to the White House Executive Order (EO 13677) “Climate-Resilient International Development” and the “2015 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review” that set out the requirement to integrate climate-resilience considerations into development planning by October 1.
Helping mobilize these efforts, in concert with a broad team across USAID, is this month’s Climatelinks Champion, Becky Chacko, Senior Climate Change Integration Specialist in the USAID Global Climate Change (GCC) Office. On the development, roll out and technical support for climate risk management, Chacko says, “It is important that we recognize the contributions of the whole team… for this work to be successful, it has to be a collaborative process about climate change and development.”
According to Chacko, the team aims to build a holistic and context-specific approach to the process, understanding that climate risk and how it can best be addressed varies from one project or region to another. Over the past year, the team has not only supported climate risk management in country and regional strategies, but also developed guidance for climate risk management in USAID projects and activities as well as support materials, such as a USAID Climate Risk Screening and Management tool and country climate risk profiles.
For Chacko, looking back to experiences during her college years and early career helped her gain a worldview that has translated well to her current role. She joined the Peace Corps in Cameroon from 2000-2002 to “get out in the world” because she felt it was time to contribute after the “egotistical endeavor to educate yourself.” In Cameroon, Chacko taught classrooms of more than 60 youth ranging in age from 10 to 25 years old. Her time in Cameroon helped her to “understand people’s joys, struggles, and experiences, which is so important to have with a career in international development.”
Of her time spent abroad, Chacko said, “the world is such a rich place; we have so much to discover. The experience really helped me understand that we all have so much to learn from each other.”
Her early career included climate policy work at Conservation International and international relations at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). She represented NOAA and the U.S. government in international policy fora and at bilateral meetings on issues including disaster management, climate change and oceans. At Conservation International, she led the organization’s engagement in international climate change policy. Chacko holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School and a BA from the University of Iowa.
As the Agency nears the October deadline—which Chacko calls “where the rubber meets the road to make [climate risk management] a reality and apply it to our work”—she considers how this process has evolved and consistently points to the contributions of the greater team. She describes integration as a complex process that prioritizes smart development decisions, which must be owned and led by all-hands-on-deck—including stakeholders as well as USAID Bureaus, Missions, and Offices—to reflect the complexities.
International development doesn’t follow an equation, Chacko said, “It’s complex and complicated and multi-faceted. And that’s what makes it so interesting.”