Progress and Challenges in Achieving Vertical Integration in Adaptation Processes

Submitted by NAP Global Network | published 17th Sep 2021 | last updated 8th Nov 2021
Coalition of Women Farmers (COWFA) representatives held meetings with numerous organizations and decision-makers at the UNFCCC COP 21 in Paris in 2015. Photo: CISONECC

Coalition of Women Farmers (COWFA) representatives held meetings with numerous organizations and decision-makers at the UNFCCC COP 21 in Paris in 2015. Photo: CISONECC

Introduction

The quality and effectiveness of a National Adaptation Plan (NAP) process largely depends on the extent to which it represents the realities of climate change at local levels and supports their adaptation efforts. In 2015, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement emphasized the essential role that local actors play in getting adaptation right. More recently, grassroots social movements have further advanced the idea that climate justice needs to be an intrinsic element of climate action. A core part of this is creating spaces and opportunities for local voices, experiences, and priorities to shape policy conversations.

Against this background, vertical integration, or “the process of creating intentional and strategic linkages between national and sub-national adaptation planning, implementation and monitoring & evaluation” is as important as ever in conceptualizing and implementing strategies to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Sub-national authorities, local organizations, and citizens are crucial in undertaking adaptation efforts because they help align national climate strategies with the needs, perspectives, and aspirations of cities, towns, and communities. Vertical integration is about linking these actors with decision-makers who are guiding national-level adaptation efforts, thereby creating opportunities for participation in the NAP process by diverse stakeholders. In this way, vertical integration helps ensure inclusivity and representation in adaptation processes.

Recognizing vertical integration as a top priority for NAP processes, in 2016 the NAP Global Network published a guidance note aimed at supporting national governments in linking national and sub-national adaptation processes. Building on its insights, the objective of this briefing note is to reflect on the experiences of several countries with vertical integration since then.

*Download the full report from the right hand column. The key messages from the report are provided below. See the full text for more detail.

What Is Vertical Integration in NAP Processes?

Vertical integration is relevant throughout the NAP process: that is, in adaptation planning, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. Establishing and nurturing cross-scalar links during these phases supports strong communication, engagement, and representation among all stakeholders. Fostering these links relies on four key enabling factors, as illustrated below:

  1. Securing financing mechanisms that reach sub-national levels
  2. Establishing institutional arrangements that support dialogue across scales
  3. Encouraging the generation and sharing of information among stakeholders
  4. Developing the capacity of actors at all levels.


Vertical integration in the NAP process

Vertical integration in NAP processes is important because it can facilitate an ongoing, constructive exchange between stakeholders across scales. When sub-national actors can navigate the governance landscape mandated to determine adaptation priorities, plans, and actions, they will be more willing and able to contribute to, and feel ownership of, the country’s adaptation efforts.

By the same token, national governments benefit by having better access to local knowledge and the involvement of sub-national actors in the implementation of adaptation priorities—nevertheless, to do so, state actors need to gain citizens’ trust and make them feel represented by political institutions. Incorporating the views of local actors, particularly minorities and disenfranchised groups, in the adaptation debate is both a fundamental role and an aim of vertical integration in adaptation processes. 

Lessons Learnt From Country Experiences With Vertical Integration

While numerous countries have been experimenting for years with the vertical integration of adaptation efforts, collecting case studies on the topic has proven challenging because experiences are ongoing, evolving, and anecdotal. Assessing vertical integration efforts is also complex because what we are looking for is somewhat elusive: a demonstration of how certain adaptation principles, ideas, and, ultimately, actions, flow between sub-national and national levels.

We believe that the following findings will be helpful for moving vertical integration efforts from theory to practice.

  1. Enhancing the representation of marginalized groups, including women, in adaptation processes ensures local voices and agendas are adequately represented in national conversations.
  2. Enhancing the representation of marginalized groups, including women, in adaptation processes also increases the accountability of government officials and leads to more tailored and responsive adaptation solutions.
  3. Decentralization can help make adaptation policies more targeted, but it must be accompanied by resources to enable local governments to succeed.
  4. The existence of local institutional structures to promote adaptation is not enough— they must be run justly and with a long-term perspective.
  5. Limited access to and control over funding at sub-national levels can reduce local governments’ and communities’ sense of ownership of adaptation initiatives.
  6. National leaders can be instrumental in promoting and validating the views of local actors and in creating a constructive flow across levels of governance.
  7. Using simple and inclusive language when talking about adaptation invites all stakeholders to contribute their knowledge, forming a vision that is representative of diverse social groups.
  8. Forming diverse partnerships and collaborating in research processes can increase awareness of national-level policy-makers about local realities and encourage the implementation of innovative, well-targeted adaptation actions.

Recommendations

Having explored the theory and practice of facilitating vertical integration, as well as how vertical integration can support broader sustainability goals, this section presents recommendations for doing so.

  1. Use knowledge brokers to bridge national and local visions of adaptation through constructive dialogue.
  2. Local authorities and CSOs should be empowered to influence adaptation processes through a functioning institutional setup, stronger mandates, and capacity building.
  3. Strengthen communication between local and national adaptation processes to overcome the “projectization” of adaptation.
  4. Set up systems and partnerships that facilitate access to adaptation-related information and knowledge by policy-makers and non-researchers.