From Blueprint to Reality: Building the foundations for effective national adaptation plan processes with the new MEL Toolkit

Emilie Beauchamp (IISD/NAP GN) and Patrick Pringle (Tonkin + Taylor)

Designed for government teams responsible for leading their country’s NAP processes, the NAP Global Network and Adaptation Committee’s new Toolkit for Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) of National Adaptation Plan (NAP) processes aims to put the principle of adaptive management at the heart of NAP processes, emphasizing how ongoing learning from MEL is integral to effective adaptation.

As the impacts of climate change and climate-related shocks become more severe, countries are increasingly using NAP processes to design and build resilient strategies—and learn from them. NAP processes can house the various plans, actions, and strategies that countries use to withstand climate change impacts but also to adapt to them and improve their designs over time.

Having a robust system for MEL that deepens understanding of what is working, how, and for whom, offers a critical foundation for building effective and equitable NAP processes. The newly published Toolkit for MEL of NAP processes is the essential blueprint. The Toolkit will equip countries with the critical theory, tools, and approaches needed to ensure that robust MEL systems are part of the structure of NAP processes and capable of evolving in response to new challenges.  

Just as builders revise plans and adjust constructions based on feedback from stress tests and environmental changes, policymakers and planners use insights from MEL to continually refine and strengthen their adaptation strategies. This dynamic process ensures that NAP processes are not only built on a foundation of current best practices but are also flexible enough to incorporate new learning and emerging evidence.

Watch the webinar recap here.

This blog explores how the Toolkit for MEL of NAP processes enables this adaptive architecture, ensuring that NAP processes remain robust, responsive, and ready to meet the future in a rapidly changing climate.

What Is MEL and Why Does It Matter?

MEL systems provide a structured approach to monitoring progress, evaluating results, and deepening learning to ensure climate change adaptation strategies are effectively achieving their intended outcomes. Continuously learning from MEL evidence provides the structural integrity for NAP processes to adjust their strategies as changes occur, offering crucial safety and quality checks to assess the effectiveness of adaptation and avoid negative unintended effects. Effective MEL systems play a critical role in:

  • improving understanding of the effectiveness of NAP processes. MEL systems for NAP processes can enhance policies and practices by leveraging insights from continuous tracking, assessment, and learning activities. They enable a deeper understanding of the effectiveness of the implementation of NAP processes from various perspectives, helping to identify what works, why it works, and who benefits or is disadvantaged.
  • supporting reporting and transparency: National governments can use MEL systems to report against reporting requirements across scales, supporting countries in reporting against progress. MEL can also align national adaptation efforts with global climate and sustainability agendas—clearly sharing how blueprints and plans get translated (or not) into reality—and will align with other buildings in the neighbourhood or city.
  • mobilizing domestic, international, public, and private finance: MEL systems support improved financial efficiency and accountability as well as effective lesson learning, providing evidence that NAP processes are robust and effective. This, in turn, supports the mobilization of international finance.
  • improving adaptive management and (mutual) accountability: MEL systems for NAP processes can improve adaptive management and accountability by identifying challenges and documenting how they are addressed. By taking a broader view of accountability, MEL systems can help communicate progress to citizens and communities.  
  • strengthening equity: The benefits from investments in adaptation may or may not be efficiently or effectively distributed equitably across different genders, social groups, or parts of the country. MEL systems can enable the assessment of equity in adaptation processes and outcomes, taking systemic inequalities into consideration. In other words, MEL systems can help ensure that NAP processes provide safe shelter to everyone.
  • enhancing efficiency: MEL systems also improve efficiency in delivery by identifying areas where planning and implementation can be optimized, leading to cost savings, faster project completion, and improved outcomes. This ensures the efficient use of resources and highlights opportunities for reallocating funds to areas with greater impact.

In addition to supporting effective adaptation at the national and sub-national levels, MEL systems also play a key role in generating information for international reporting. Indeed, MEL systems are an important source of information for several processes under the Paris Agreement—including assessing collective progress on the global goal on adaptation through the UAE Framework for Global Climate Resilience, and relatedly the adaptation section of Biennial Transparency Reports due by end of 2024. 

A Toolkit for Adaptation Teams

This Toolkit is designed to help NAP teams—and the adaptation practitioners supporting them—easily identify which MEL activities they should consider at the different phases of their NAP processes, using the iterative adaptation cycle (see figure below, Figure 2 in the Toolkit).

The Toolkit leverages the expertise of the NAP Global Network and the Adaptation Committee in supporting the development and implementation of MEL systems globally over the past decade. The Toolkit brings together over 30 practical examples from countries and key resources from other organizations under one roof, to guide adaptation teams in their ongoing journey.

The reality of the climate crisis means uncertain futures. Under these everchanging circumstances, the Toolkit is itself a learning product that will be reviewed regularly to ensure its ongoing relevance with emerging changes in the sector. We strongly encourage all users to join our community in building robust and flexible MEL systems for NAP processes and to offer feedback on its content and their experiences.

Watch the webinar for the Toolkit for MEL for NAP processes.

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