What We Are Learning about Effective National Adaptation Plan Processes

A new figure reflects our evolving understanding

March 2023 

Introducing the New NAP Figure | Three Key Lessons | Overview of the NAP Process | Looking Ahead

With almost a decade of experience supporting developing countries in advancing their National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), the NAP Global Network’s way of thinking about the NAP process has evolved. To reflect these changes, we revisited our “NAP process figure,” which has been our constant reference point when introducing and discussing the NAP process with different audiences. We decided to update the figure, making changes to both the broader phases of the NAP process and its enabling factors to capture what we are learning.


As of March 2023, the NAP Global Network has provided technical support to 62 countries, working closely with governments and other actors to conduct analyses, develop strategies to address key issues such as gender equality, and take concrete steps to move from climate change adaptation (hereafter “adaptation”) planning to implementation.  

Close to 60 countries have also participated in our peer learning and exchange events on NAP processes. The experiences and lessons shared at these events have helped shape our understanding of the NAP in practice and what is needed to render it effective. 


This updated figure represents these lessons. As with the previous figure, the NAP process is captured by two concentric circles.

The outer circle shows the three overlapping, broad phases of the NAP process: (i) planning, (ii) implementation, and (iii) monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL). 

The inner circle represents the enabling factors that support the different phases of the NAP process. Like a puzzle, these enablers work as a set of interrelated conditions that can affect each phase of the NAP process. For example, leadership often requires access to relevant information and capacities, and actor engagement calls for access to financing.  

This figure is closely aligned with the steps outlined in the Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG) technical guidelines for the NAP process—in fact, you can easily map them against each other.  


1. The NAP phases are overlapping rather than distinct.

The NAP process can be thought of as three broad phases: planning, implementation, and MEL. The revised figure illustrates that, in practice, these phases overlap to varying degrees. The seemingly hard boundaries among the NAP phases in the original figure obscure the reality that countries are often undertaking elements of each phase concurrently throughout the NAP process. 

For example, countries prepare for the implementation of adaptation actions even while planning is still underway through activities such as the targeted capacity building of actors or changes in legislation. Moreover, moving from planning to implementation is a transition consisting of several intermediary steps, such as the development of concept notes to translate priorities into specific actions or the costing of adaptation priorities to determine how much money is needed to implement adaptation measures—which can be undertaken in either or both the planning and implementation phases of the NAP process.  

The overlapping nature of the NAP phases is especially pronounced with monitoring and evaluation (M&E). Indeed, our updated thinking on the M&E phase of the NAP process has been twofold—the need to add an “L” for learning (more on this in the next point) and recognizing MEL as relevant throughout the entire NAP process.  

This does not mean that MEL is not a distinct phase in the NAP process—it is, and it involves a dedicated set of activities associated with the development and implementation of a MEL system. These activities include setting objectives, managing data and information, and reporting on progress, results, and lessons learned. At the same time, MEL activities carry on throughout the planning and implementation phases. For example, countries often start developing their MEL system during the planning phase, while monitoring often happens during the planning and implementation phases to ensure things are on track; the latter may include periodic reviews or evaluations at key decision points. And, critically, learning happens continuously throughout the entire NAP process—fuelling the ongoing, iterative nature of adaptation action.

2. Learning happens both within and from the NAP process.

NAPs must be seen as learning processes; their success depends on their ability to create and share knowledge that supports learning across multiple actors, sectors, and scales of governance to accelerate the implementation of adaptation action. Governments and other actors involved in NAPs must understand why investments in adaptation have—or do not have—impacts in specific contexts and for different social groups.  

To reflect the importance and urgency of learning in and from NAP processes, we renamed the M&E phase “monitoring, evaluation, and learning.” The integration of learning with M&E does not mean that M&E is the only channel to support learning in the NAP process. It is used to highlight that embedding learning in M&E, and in the NAP process more broadly, is crucial to support adaptive management, effectiveness, and accountability. 

3. Leadership, engagement, and communications are key enabling factors in NAP processes.

We have observed that one of the biggest barriers to advancing the NAP process remains the lack of coordination on adaptation across multiple actors and scales of governance (national and subnational). Overcoming this barrier calls for strong leadership and inclusive engagement processes, as well as a focus on the generation and use of knowledge and strategic communications. These additions work in synergy with the original enabling factors identified for effective NAP processes: appropriate institutional arrangements, data and information sharing across all actors involved, capacity development, and financing.  

We have learned that individual and collective leadership that demonstrates a sustained commitment to advancing the NAP process is essential to gathering different groups around a common vision and approach to addressing adaptation. Signs of leadership on the NAP process may include assigning climate change (adaptation) to a part of the government with high convening power, establishing a legal mandate to implement the NAP, and high-level political leaders delivering regular public speeches on the NAP.  

In addition, the inclusive engagement of interested and affected actors in decision making for adaptation throughout the different phases of the NAP process is crucial to ensuring that the needs and priorities of diverse groups are captured and that opportunities and benefits resulting from adaptation actions are equitable. Beyond governments, other actors include civil society organizations, the private sector, communities, the media, and academia. This level of engagement requires specific efforts to ensure that government and non-government actors at the national and subnational levels not only participate in but also influence the NAP process.  

Further, we expanded our definition of data and information sharing to include the generation and use of knowledge to capture the importance of integrating local and Traditional Knowledge in adaptation and the (co)-production of new knowledge through research. We also learned that strategic communications deserve to be called out explicitly. Within the broader set of activities focused on understanding and addressing the information needs of different actors, we have seen the importance of developing tailored messages for specific audiences to advance the NAP process. For example, a communications strategy for socializing adaptation and the NAP process across different ministries within government can be critical to securing the necessary support needed for the implementation of adaptation priorities.


The NAP process can be thought of as three overlapping phases:

Planning: Climate risks and vulnerabilities are assessed, options for managing these risks are identified and prioritized, strategies for their implementation are developed, and adaptation is integrated into budgeting processes. 
Implementation: Implementation strategies are fleshed out in greater detail, financing is secured, and the necessary technical and human resources are procured and deployed. Adaptation priorities are implemented throughout projects and programs.  
Monitoring, evaluation, and learning: A MEL system—which includes different elements, such as setting objectives, managing data and information, and reporting on progress, results, and lessons learned—is put in place and operationalized. Some elements of a MEL system can happen throughout the planning and implementation phases of the NAP process. 

Six enabling factors are essential to the NAP process:

Leadership: The active involvement of high-level political leaders and recognized “champions” who are committed to addressing adaptation. 
Institutional arrangements: The rules, regulations, and associated organizational structures that enable coordination on adaptation across actors at all levels, as well as the systematic integration of adaptation into development processes.  
Engagement: Efforts that enable a range of diverse actors at all levels, including civil society organizations, the private sector, communities, the media, and academia, to participate in and influence decision making in the NAP process.   
Data, knowledge, and communications: The generation and use of (i) data and information—especially climate data; (ii) knowledge, including local knowledge and research; and (iii) key messages tailored to specific audiences to advance the NAP process.  
Skills and capacities: Investments in individuals and organizations at all levels to ensure they have the skills and capacities to enable effective and efficient NAP processes. 
Financing: The availability and accessibility of public and private financing for climate adaptation from domestic and international sources.  

These updates to the NAP figure are important because they point to three priorities that require more attention going forward from governments and other actors involved in advancing effective NAP processes.  

In 2023, the NAP Global Network will work with partners to address these priorities and associated questions:  

  • The transition from planning to implementation: How can countries be more deliberate and efficient in moving from adaptation planning to implementation? What specific activities characterize this transition, and what resources are needed to make it swift? 
  • Elevating the role of learning in NAP processes: How can we ensure that NAPs provide a space for learning and that this learning is documented and applied to improve adaptation outcomes?  
  • Supporting the meaningful engagement of actors: How can NAPs engage more efficiently and effectively with a diverse range of actors, both within and outside of government, to ensure that approaches are as inclusive as possible? And how can we better leverage strategic communications in this effort?  

What is the National Adaptation Plan Process? View our Frequently Asked Questions.