Learning From Gender-Responsive National Adaptation Plan Processes: Insights from countries to inform the review of the UNFCCC Gender Action Plan

By Aurélie Ceinos

Based on the priority actions of 10 African and Caribbean countries for the integration of gender equality in their National Adaptation Plan (NAP) processes, we identified three key recommendations for effectively advancing the Gender Action Plan (GAP) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Despite being at very different stages of gender integration in their NAP processes, all countries agreed on those points.

Women in Kenya collecting water next to solar pannels.
Women collecting water in Kenya: At COP 27, parties will resume discussions on the intermediate review of the Gender Action Plan (GAP) and agree on what actions need to be strengthened in the coming 2 years. (Photo: Gracie Ntesio | Lensational/NAP Global Network)

At the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 27), UNFCCC parties will resume discussions on the intermediate review of the GAP and agree on what actions need to be strengthened, deprioritized, or accelerated in the coming 2 years. This year is an important moment to reflect on what has been achieved by different countries, what they learned, and how it can inform the remaining implementation period of this plan to advance gender integration in climate policies, especially the NAP process.

In July, the NAP Global Network and the Government of Jamaica hosted a Peer Learning Summit that gathered experts and government representatives from 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa (Botswana, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal, and Zambia) and the Caribbean (Belize, Jamaica, and Haiti) to share experiences and lessons learned on integrating gender equality into their climate change adaptation processes and programs. Here is what we heard from them.

A Peer Learning Summit was held in July: Sharing experiences and lessons learned on integrating gender equality into their climate change adaptation processes.
Social norms emerged as one of the main challenges to integrating gender in adaptation processes and actions.

When exploring common challenges, countries at the Peer Learning Summit discussed a lack of awareness and capacities, the absence of data and analysis, and the institutional barriers to a gender-responsive approach to climate change adaptation planning. They also highlighted the key role that social norms play at all levels—from government institutions to households—in either preventing or slowing down efforts to integrate gender effectively in the NAP process and adaptation actions. Social norms influence who is able to participate in adaptation decision making and planning processes, making it more likely that people who are typically underrepresented will continue to be left out.

In Chad, recent research supported by the NAP GN reveals that attitudes appear to be mostly in favour of taking gender into account in climate change adaptation policies, strategies, and programs …. On the other hand, a non-negligible proportion of the participants have favourable attitudes toward practices that run counter to women’s rights, such as the use of violence against women or early marriage.

Government of Chad, 2021
Despite these challenges, countries identified concrete actions their governments can take to speed up gender-responsive climate adaptation—actions that are broadly aligned with the priority areas of the GAP.

A key output of the discussions at the Peer Learning Summit was the concrete next steps laid out by countries to better integrate gender considerations in their NAP processes. Most of the actions prioritized by countries align well with the GAP’s five priority areas, moving two objectives forward at once.

For example, a number of countries proposed training and sensitization activities that can contribute to the work planned under area A on capacity building, knowledge management, and communication. Several countries prioritized activities to ensure funding is available to roll out the different actions, which links to area D on gender-responsive implementation and means of implementation. Finally, some countries identified activities to strengthen their monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) systems for adaptation to make them more gender-responsive, which will help them report on the status of the implementation of their gender-responsive policies and actions under priority area E.

Still, the GAP can be improved by integrating aspects that are not currently well covered.

Based on what we heard from country partners, the following recommendations should be considered in the remaining implementation period of the GAP.



The enhanced UNFCCC Gender Action Plan in brief:

Aim: Advance knowledge and understanding of gender-responsive climate action and its coherent mainstreaming in the implementation of the UNFCCC and the work of parties, the secretariat, United Nations entities, and all stakeholders at all levels, as well as women’s full, equal, and meaningful participation in the UNFCCC process.

The five priority areas:

A. Capacity building, knowledge management, and communication

B. Gender balance, participation, and women’s leadership

C. Coherence

D. Gender-responsive implementation and means of implementation

E. Monitoring and reporting

Time frame: 2019–2024

Recommendation #1: Capacity-building initiatives should address cultural and social norms that negatively influence gender dynamics within governments and other institutions involved in climate policy and action.

The GAP is silent on addressing discriminatory social norms and on strengthening capacities to address this particular point. Recognizing the important role played by social norms in impeding progress on gender equality, it is critical that this is seen as part of a gender-responsive approach to climate action.

In collaboration with gender equality actors, parties must consider how these norms are perpetuated in their own cultures and institutions and how to move toward positive change at all levels. Gathering evidence on how parties and civil society have been working on addressing social norms in climate adaptation planning and actions should help accelerate action. It would also be important to strengthen the decision-makers’ understanding of gender and social norms to ensure that they challenge harmful norms and accelerate gender-responsive actions.

Recommendation #2: Activities on MEL should go beyond the disaggregation of data to promote gender-responsive MEL systems.

The GAP includes a few actions that relate to MEL, both under priority area E, the dedicated area of action on this topic—which focuses only on activities undertaken by the UNFCCC secretariat—and under priority area D, where one activity focuses on enhancing the availability of sex-disaggregated data for gender analysis.

As countries establish their MEL systems for adaptation, it will be important to ensure that gender issues are integrated into an intersectional approach from the outset. This will require attention to the collection of disaggregated data, of course, but it will also ensure participatory approaches to MEL and identify metrics that track gender-differentiated impacts of adaptation investments and equity in adaptation outcomes, as well as progress on gender-responsive processes. Thus, it might be interesting for the GAP to ensure that gender-responsive and learning-focused MEL systems are discussed and that some capacity strengthening on those issues is provided.

Recommendation #3: Strengthen activities to reinforce institutional mechanisms for collaboration between gender and climate teams and ministries.

The GAP’s priority area on coherence focuses on the constituted bodies under the UNFCCC—it does not propose actions to improve coherence at the national level. Parties could benefit from capacity strengthening and peer learning activities to better align the gender and climate agendas at the national level as a means of ensuring gender-responsive adaptation processes and actions. Many countries are moving forward on this, for example, by creating gender teams in all sectoral ministries or establishing Memoranda of Understanding between gender and environment ministries.

The GAP is a critical tool for advancing gender-responsive NAP processes, but it can be improved by integrating aspects that are not currently well covered.
Raising the ambition of the GAP 

The GAP is a critical tool for advancing gender-responsive NAP processes, but to accelerate action, some critical elements are still missing. Harmful social norms, gender-responsive MEL, and institutional mechanisms necessary for proper coordination should be properly addressed and supported in the coming years. The intermediate review of the GAP happening this year is a perfect opportunity for parties to reflect on what’s missing and revise the GAP to raise its ambition. The learning shared by countries at the Peer Learning Summit provides important insights that can inform these discussions.

“We have more in common than we have differences.”

Participant from Jamaica