Vertical Integration in the NAP Process

This section provides an introduction to the concept of vertical integration and why it is important in the NAP process.

Understanding Vertical Integration

In the context of the NAP process, vertical integration is the process of creating intentional and strategic linkages between national and sub-national adaptation planning, implementation and monitoring & evaluation (M&E). Sub-national, by definition, comprises actors and processes that exist below the national level. In a given country context, this may include multiple levels, including the local level. Vertical integration is not a single step in the NAP process—it is an ongoing effort to ensure on the one hand that local realities are reflected in the NAP, and on the other hand that the NAP enables adaptation at sub-national levels. It is driven by recognition of sub-national diversity in vulnerability to climate change, as well as the important role played by sub-national authorities and local organizations in advancing adaptation. Effective vertical integration requires an explicit commitment from national actors to have an inclusive and participatory NAP process, with ongoing dialogue between national and sub-national actors throughout all stages.

There are three main dimensions to vertical integration in the NAP process, as shown in Figure 1. Planning, implementation and M&E are the main elements of the NAP process, and vertical integration is relevant throughout:

  • In the planning process, vertical integration aims to facilitate dialogue among stakeholders at different levels, to ensure that adaptation planning processes at national and sub-national levels are informed and mutually supportive.
  • Vertical integration in implementation focuses on ensuring coordination and collaboration among national and sub-national actors in their adaptation priorities and actions, in particular to enable sub-national authorities and local organizations to access the information, resources (including finance) and capacity they need to implement adaptation.
  • Within M&E systems, vertical integration facilitates capture of sub-national adaptation processes, outcomes and learning, while ensuring that national-level results and lessons are shared to inform sub-national planning and implementation.

As shown in Figure 1, this is an iterative process, with each of the dimensions generating information and experience that feed into the others. At the centre of the process are the enabling factors—institutional arrangements, information sharing and capacity development—that facilitate vertical integration throughout these dimensions. The institutional arrangements provide the mechanisms for coordination, capacity development and communication between the different levels. Information sharing promotes efficiency and effectiveness of the process and ensures that both indigenous and scientific climate information are applied, while capacity development ensures that actors at different levels have the knowledge and skills they need to engage in the process. As with the NAP process itself, the approach to vertical integration is intended to be iterative and flexible, integrating new knowledge and responding to changes in the context over time.

Figure 1. Key Issues for Vertical Integration in the NAP Process.

Why Vertical Integration in the NAP Process?

Recent decisions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) provide Parties with a strong imperative to create linkages between the national and sub-national levels throughout the planning, implementation and M&E dimensions of NAP processes. For example, the Paris Agreement calls on Parties to respect, promote and consider the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities and people in vulnerable situations throughout efforts to implement their commitments. It also calls for stronger and more ambitious climate action by cities and other sub-national authorities, local communities and indigenous peoples, while recognizing the need to enhance capacities at sub-national levels and to strengthen and support the efforts of local communities and indigenous peoples in responding to climate change (UNFCCC, 2015).

The decision from Cancun that established the NAP process highlights key principles that should guide Parties in taking adaptation forward (UNFCCC, 2010). Vertical integration is fundamental to several of these:

  • Participatory: Participation is a key aspect of good governance (UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, 2016). The inclusion of people’s right to participate in decisions that affect them in the Cancun framework is in alignment with other international agreements, including the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UN, 1948). Applying this principle to the NAP process involves more than consultation—it requires active engagement and empowerment of stakeholders throughout planning, implementation and M&E of the NAP. Sub-national authorities and local organizations are typically well placed to facilitate participation, as they are better connected to communities and are familiar with the particularities of the context at the local level.
  • Transparent: Like participation, transparency is considered a fundamental principle of good governance (UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, 2016).Transparency involves open and clear disclosure of information, plans, processes and actions (Transparency International, 2016). The sharing of information must be timely, accurate, relevant and accessible to enable different stakeholders at national and sub-national levels to analyze and use the information and engage with relevant processes and actions (Transparency Accountability Initiative, 2016). It helps to ensure that government actors are responsive and accountable to their constituents. Vertical integration can contribute to transparency by enabling sharing of information between levels, thereby bridging the gap between decision makers in the central government and the people they aim to support.
  • Gender sensitivity: Vertical integration strengthens NAP teams’ ability to take diversity into account. This includes ecological and economic differences within countries that influence vulnerability to climate change. Importantly, it also includes social diversity, including differences based on gender, recognizing that women and men experience the impacts of climate change differently, and they have differing needs and capacities for adaptation. Assessing needs and defining priorities with sub-national actors increases the likelihood that differences based on gender will be captured and that inequalities will be addressed in planning and implementation.
  • Consideration of vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems: This principle relates to the concept of sub-national diversity, recognizing that countries are not homogenous in their vulnerability to climate change or their adaptation priorities. Vertical integration enables systematic recognition of this diversity, providing entry points for vulnerable groups and communities to participate in the process, as well as opportunities to consider adaptation needs and priorities at the ecosystem level.

These commitments compel governments to invest in vertical integration, putting appropriate policies and resources in place to enable local action on adaptation.3

From a practical point of view, there is considerable evidence of the value of locally driven approaches toadaptation (see, for example, Ayers & Forsyth, 2009). While climate change is a global phenomenon, its effects are often experienced on a localized scale, in the form of changing rainfall and weather patterns and more frequent or intense extremes such as heavy rainfall, droughts and floods. This increased risk and uncertainty creates challenges for people’s livelihoods and local development progress. Without understanding of and attention to these challenges, efforts to promote adaptation may be ineffective, or, at worst, maladaptive. The nature of adaptation, as an ongoing process, requires integration of indigenous and scientific knowledge, ensuring that adaptation efforts build on local knowledge and practices, and that local organizations and communities have the information they need for adaptive decision making. The most effective approach to the NAP process will therefore involve a mix of top-down and bottom-up approaches, recognizing that much of the implementation of adaptation will occur at sub-national levels, including the local level (UNFCCC, 2012).


3 There is also increasing attention to vertical integration in climate change mitigation. See for example, experiences from South Africa, Tunisia and Japan, as well as recommendations developed by GIZ’s Vertically Integrated Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (V-NAMAs) project.