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Building institutional capacity for enhancing resilience to climate change

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Oxford Policy Management, IIED
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An operational framework and insights from practise

This paper focuses on the challenge of strengthening institutions’ capacity to understand and address the impacts of climate change on development. It offers insights from practical experience from the Action on Climate Today (ACT) programme and introduces a framework for building capabilities that can inform initiatives seeking to enhance adaptation across different contexts. 

The scale and uncertainty of the long-term impacts of climate change, its complex and cross-cutting nature, the urgency of action required and the power asymmetries that exist between the different actors mean that managing climate change poses specific institutional challenges. The capacity constraints that exist, particularly in developing countries, are well documented. 

The urgent need for governments to build resilience has frequently led to a reliance on short-term and ad hoc efforts to boost capacity. International organisations are ‘parachuted’ into developing countries to provide one-off training sessions and workshops. Such support has limited impact, sustainability is low and institutional capacity to deal with climate change remains nascent.

The need for more and better modes of support provision has been recognised at the global level. The 2015 Paris Agreement enshrines a commitment to building long-term, in-country capacity to address climate change, particularly for countries with the least capacity and those that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. Article 11 of the Agreement further states that capacity-building must operate through appropriate institutional arrangements and be an effective, iterative process that is participatory, cross-cutting and gender-responsive.

This paper details learning from ACT on methods and approaches in meeting this capacity-building goal. ACT is a £23 million UK governmentfunded regional programme managed by Oxford Policy Management in collaboration with many consortium partners. It works in partnership with national and sub-national governments of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan to assist in integrating climate adaptation into development policies and actions and transforming systems of planning and delivery, including leveraging additional finance. Institutional  capacity-building is therefore one of the main purposes of the programme.

The paper introduces a framework for strengthening institutional climate capabilities to guide those designing, planning and delivering other programmes and initiatives. This framework offers a comprehensive approach to thinking through how to engage individuals, organisations and the wider systems that create incentives – the processes, resources, norms and values of institutions. The framework was derived from  ACT’s most successful experiences in building institutional capacity and informed by wider literature on governance, climate change and organisational development. 

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