Top Three Challenges and Opportunities of National Monitoring and Evaluation of Adaptation

by Angelica V. Ospina and Hayley Price-Kelly, IISD

M&E definitions from an exercise at a Targeted Topics Forum in Lilongwe, Malawi

Adaptation takes place in highly dynamic and complex environments. As the design and implementation of National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) advance, adaptation planners are increasingly focusing on monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of adaptation progress and outcomes.  This interest reflects a commitment to strengthening the effectiveness of adaptation efforts and climate-resilient development through improved accountability and reporting, adaptive management and learning.

At a recent NAP Global Network Targeted Topics Forum (TTF) hosted by the Government of Malawi, adaptation planners from developing countries around the world identified an emerging set of challenges and opportunities related to M&E systems for national adaptation.

The top three challenges and opportunities identified for national M&E of adaptation relate to:

  1. Stakeholder Engagement
  2. Methods and Tools
  3. Resources (Human and Financial)

The following table summarizes key aspects related to each of those areas.

1. Stakeholder Engagement in M&E of Adaptation

 Challenges  Opportunities
  • Achieving effective multistakeholder buy-in and coordination in order to gather data across sectors and levels
  • Include a range of key stakeholders in the design of the M&E system to foster ownership, incorporate expert knowledge and advice, and develop new partnerships and collaboration.
  • Identify clear roles and responsibilities across sectors and/or levels of government in the design and implementation of the M&E system. A working group on M&E of adaptation is one option for ensuring sustained involvement of different sectors and levels.
  • Limited political will and high-level support to implement and sustain M&E of the NAP process





  • Clearly communicate the importance of M&E of adaptation for accountability, adaptive management and learning purposes.
  • Establish clear links between M&E of adaptation and progress on national priorities: Show that results of M&E of adaptation are linked to progress in climate-resilient development planning or other political priorities.
  • Identify clear examples to illustrate how M&E of adaptation can benefit each sector.

  • Overload and misalignment of M&E and reporting requirements for different agendas and purposes


  • Identify how M&E of adaptation can draw on or contribute to other/existing M&E or reporting systems.
  • Consult and coordinate with existing cross-sectoral Working Groups to avoid duplication of efforts.

 2. Methods & Tools for M&E of Adaptation

 Challenges  Opportunities
  • Identification of appropriate indicators to track national adaptation progress and outcomes
  • Build on what already exists: take stock of indicators that are already being monitored in your country and consider how you might use or adapt these for M&E of adaptation. Indicators that other countries are using for M&E of adaptation may also provide inspiration.
  • Ensure that the indicators are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound).
  • Use a process of prioritization to select the indicators that you will monitor: Start small, expand and complement the indicators over time.
  • Lack of/inadequate baseline data and information relevant to the purpose of the M&E system
  • Identify baseline data sources (both primary and secondary) from the start of the M&E design process.
  • Draw from existing reports from other sectors/initiatives; use proxy indicators if required.
  • Ensure reliable and comparable data and information
  • Establish mechanisms to validate the results from the M&E system.
  • Build opportunities for feedback to improve the system and to inform adaptation planning processes.
  • Foster reflection about the results involving stakeholders from multiple sectors and consider involving external experts from the scientific community, as appropriate.


3. Resources (Human and Financial) for M&E of Adaptation

 Challenges  Opportunities
  • Inadequate technical capacity to support the design and implementation of the M&E system
  • Assess the capacities that will be required for key actors to participate in the design and implement M&E of adaptation, and offer capacity-building opportunities to address gaps (e.g., courses, webinars, online training).
  • Participate in global networks (e.g., NAP Global Network) that foster knowledge exchange among peers.
  • Limited and/or inconsistent financial resources to establish and sustain the M&E system over time
  • Encourage relevant ministries to consider resources required for M&E in planning and budgeting processes.
  • Explore and mobilize a diverse range of funding sources for M&E. For example, consider international funding opportunities (e.g., GCF readiness program) to establish the M&E system.
  • Staff turnover among those responsible for designing and sustaining the M&E system
  • Ensure redundancy in M&E capacities, roles and responsibilities across various sectors, levels/scales.
  • Consider developing guidance and/or templates to help new staff understand the role they play in the M&E system.

Monitoring and evaluating adaptation is a multifaceted process that evolves over time. The key for national adaptation planners is to be able to assess and address M&E challenges and opportunities as they emerge, throughout the design and implementation of adaptation plans, strategies or interventions.

M&E of adaptation offers an invaluable opportunity to learn from and improve national adaptation efforts, and ultimately to strengthen existing and emerging approaches to climate-resilient development.

Click here for further information about the TTF on M&E for adaptation held in Malawi.

Click here for further guidance on M&E for adaptation.

Any opinions stated in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of the NAP Global Network, its funders, or Network participants.

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