Operationalization Of Nepal’s National Adaptation Plan: Institutionalizing A Monitoring, Review, And Reporting System Is Crucial

Operationalizing Nepal’s NAP requires the institutionalization of a monitoring, review, and reporting (MR&R) system by building the capacities of human resources, improving data management, ensuring the regular maintenance and operation of the MR&R online platform, and accessing the climate finance needed to foster a climate-resilient society.

Jan. 9, 2024, 2:30 p.m.

The NAP process and context

Nepal’s National Adaptation Plan (NAP) for the period 2021–2050 was officially unveiled on November 21, 2023. Its primary goal is to foster a climate-resilient society. The NAP initiative, begun in 2015, is a remarkable achievement in the country's response to the escalating climate crisis because it integrates climate change adaptation (CCA) considerations into governmental plans, policies, and programs. Developed under the leadership of the Ministry of Forests and Environment (MoFE) and coordinated and overseen by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the NAP outlines a visionary approach to addressing climate risks and reducing vulnerability to them. The document emphasizes the importance of building adaptive capacity and resilience as well as integrating CCA into both new and existing policies, programs, and plans. The NAP identifies 64 adaptation interventions spread across 10 thematic and cross-cutting areas, with an estimated budget of USD 47.4 billion. Beyond its national significance, the NAP also serves as Nepal's instrument for 'adaptation communication,' a requirement mandated by the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Financial support for the NAP process was provided by the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

Rationale of a MR&R system in operationalizing the NAP

The rationale for MR&R system is evident at both the policy and the programmatic levels. As outlined in the second Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) of 2020, there is a specific directive to develop and operationalize a NAP MR&R system by 2022. The MR&R system for adaptation is guided by the Nepal's Climate Change Policy (2019). It constitutes one of the four essential elements of the NAP process outlined in the NAP Technical Guidelines.

On the programmatic front, a thoughtfully crafted MR&R system serves various purposes, including (i) targeting, justifying, and monitoring adaptation funding and programs, (ii) evaluating the effectiveness of adaptation policies, programs, and project interventions, (iii) implementing flexible adaptation actions to address climate uncertainty, (iv) ensuring accountability to national decision-makers and donors, (v) assuring compliance with national and international reporting requirements, (vi) informing the development of future adaptation policies, (vii) assessing adaptation achievements across sectors, regions, and counties, (viii) contributing to climate change negotiations on the international stage, and (ix) attracting international climate finance. Moreover, this system plays a vital role in enabling the government to monitor how actively women and vulnerable groups participate in the adaptation process and facilitating the identification of opportunities to enhance their equitable access to resources and benefits derived from adaptation interventions by gathering disaggregated data on gender and social inclusion.

The CCDMMRC and the data flow mechanism

The establishment of a Climate Change Data Management Monitoring and Reporting Center (CCDMMRC) at federal level is recommended. It will collect, compile, and analyze adaptation data and make it publicly accessible through an online MR&R platform. To institutionalize the CCDMMRC, the Nepali government needs to devise an organization-and-management (O&M) mechanism which outlines the types of human and financial resources required, an approach to staff capacity-building, and the necessary hardware and software support. The NAP suggests allocating 5% of the total budget for each project or program to operationalize MR&R. It proposes a four-tier mechanism for data flow: data will move from (i) projects to local governments, (ii) local governments to district coordination committees (DCCs), (iii) DCCs to provincial governments, and finally, (iv) provincial governments to the CCDMMRC.

At the local level, the mechanism suggests mobilizing a Forest, Environment, and Disaster Management or similar section to monitor adaptation activities implemented by various entities such as local governments, community-based organizations, the private sector, international and national NGOs, UN agencies, and bilateral and multilateral agencies. A local-level climate change coordination committee chaired by the mayor or chairperson will provide policy guidance to each local government and oversee the collection of information from projects and programs in accordance with the prescribed MR&R online platform and share it with DCCs.

DCC monitoring committees, which is chaired by DCC chiefs, are tasked with offering policy guidance. DCC MR&R officers will facilitate the compilation of data pertaining to local-level adaptation activities from respective local governments and CCA projects/programs operating at the district level. This consolidated information will then be forwarded to the Science, Environment, and Climate Change or similar division of the provincial MoFE through the designated online platform. The provincial MoFE will assume responsibility for monitoring, compiling, and reporting on the implementation of adaptation activities. Sectoral ministries will share CCA-related data with provincial ministries so it can be consolidated. The division within the provincial MoFE will gather and compile data and information concerning adaptation projects from various relevant ministries, international and national non-governmental organizations, the private sector, UN agencies, and bilateral and multilateral agencies. Subsequently, the division will combine provincial-level data with data received from the DCCs and forward the compiled dataset to the CCDMMRC.

On the federal level, all pertinent national ministries and agencies will be accountable for monitoring, reporting, and reviewing their respective adaptation projects. They will submit their data to the CCDMMRC through the MR&R online platform. The CCDMMRC, in turn, will consolidate all available data related to CCA and periodically produce adaptation status and monitoring reports. These reports serve will enhance understanding of the impacts of the implementation of the NAP.

Challenges and bottlenecks for operationalizing the MR&R system

Numerous challenges and impediments may undermine the efficacy of the MR&R system. Prominent among these are the inadequate technical skills of data management staff, a deficient data management system, irregular maintenance and operation of the online platform, and alterations in the reporting systems of the three tiers of government introduced by the new federal mechanism. Challenges also may stem from resource-intensive web-based applications, inadequate SMART indicators, and subpar intranet services.

The MR&R process may also be hindered due to the limited knowledge, skills, and tools of staff, coupled with a shortage of trained professionals. An overly complex MR&R system may demoralize staff. Inadequacies in the data verification system may lead to inaccuracies and inconsistencies. Faulty data processing or analysis could potentially undermine the overall performance of projects or programs. Insufficient or unclear staff induction may result in an excessive error-prone data entry workload and, consequently, the production of low-quality, error-prone data hard to verify, authenticate, and compile.

The high turnover of trained government staff is a persistent issue, one that poses a challenge to the effective operation of the MR&R online platform unless a good O&M plan is in place. Changes in the governance system have made reporting at the ministry level increasingly challenging as there are no dedicated local-level staff as there were at the previous district-level governance system. The difficulties the Government Integrated Data Center (GIDC) faces installing web-based applications consuming substantial resources may cause delays in installing essential applications. In addition, staff may perceive data entry as an extra task and feel demotivated about engaging in database management. The absence of internet connectivity in certain remote areas complicates the use of web-based data-reporting tools.

Initiatives to institutionalize the MR&R system

Assessment of the NAP’s effectiveness hinges on the establishment of a robust MR&R system. Thanks to generous technical support from the Climate Change Management Division (CCMD)/MoFE and the NAP Project Management Unit, coupled with invaluable advisory assistance from UNEP, various MR&R initiatives were concurrently initiated alongside the finalization of the NAP. In this endeavor, a team of UNEP consultants produced four notable documents, namely (i) MR&R Theoretical Framework, (ii) Development of Thematic Indicators, (iii) Step-by-Step User Guideline, and (iv) Training Manual.

After multiple rounds of consultations with federal, provincial, and local-level stakeholders, a MR&R system has been developed. This system highlights (a) the rationale behind the NAP CCA MR&R framework, (b) the existing institutional mechanisms for CCA at the three tiers of government, (c) the roles and responsibilities of different agencies in MR&R, (d) the structure of CCDMMC and its O&M roadmap for institutionalization, and (e) the data flow mechanism.

To strategically assess the targets each has a number of five-year milestones, namely for 2030, 2035, 2040, 2045, and 2050. For ease of review and comprehension, a structured approach placing targets, indicators, and data sources in three-column tables is employed. For instance, within programmatic areas, indicators gauge the impact of various capacity-building initiatives and count beneficiaries. Data is disaggregated by sex and special groups (Dalits, persons with disabilities, and members of the LGBTI community). Quarterly budget expenditures on CCA are also reported within these tables. A diverse set of indicators tailored to the targets has been developed. It encompasses qualitative, quantitative, process, results-output, outcome, and impact metrics, all approached from a gender-sensitive perspective. The indicators were finalized through the coordination and collaboration of the 17 members of a task force of staff from thematic ministries formed by the MoFE.

To impart a theoretical understanding of indicators to MR&R participants, topics such as background to and rationale for adaptation indicators as well as types of and methods for selecting indicators are covered. To streamline data collection and reporting, preventing duplication and unnecessary burdens, the indicators are aligned with the indicators of the NDC, SDGs, particularly SDG 13, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR), and National Development Plans (NDPs). Indicators are not developed in isolation; rather, the process involves (a) reviewing analogous indicators to establish a point of reference, (b) formulating thematic and cross-cutting process, output, and outcome-level indicators by reviewing NAP targets; (c) identifying data sources and means of verification to measure progress against indicators; (d) solicit input on the draft indicators with the CCMD/MoFE, NAP Project Management Unit, UNEP, task-force members, and other relevant stakeholders; (e) incorporating feedback and suggestions; and (f) conducting thematic meetings with task-force members to finalize the indicators.

A Step- by-Step User Guideline has been developed to operationalize the NAP MR&R theoretical framework through the online platform. To provide theoretical guidance to human resources involved in the MR&R system, the manual outlines seven steps: (i) articulating the purpose and scope of the MR&R system, (ii) pinpointing the MR&R audience, (iii) formulating MR&R questions, (iv) identifying indicators and their data sources, (v) designating MR&R officers responsible for data collection and establishing timelines, (vi) designating staff responsible for assessing and reporting on data, and (vii) periodically reviewing the MR&R plan. The MR&R technical framework prescribes five steps: system setup using the back-office administrative portal; onboarding, data entry, and data submission at three different levels—DDC, provincial and federal.

A simple, concise, and coherent training manual has been crafted to enhance the capacities of (i) those mid- and high-level officials at the federal, provincial, and local levels responsible for the MR&R of CCA projects and programs, and (ii) researchers, professionals, and academicians interested in MR&R. It covers (i) the concept of MR&R, (ii) result chains and indicators, (iii) tools and techniques for MR&R, and (iv) MR&R at various levels. On the technical front, this manual overviews the online system and its backend infrastructure, online system setup, data entry, and data review at the DDC, provincial and federal levels. In addition, the manual provides insights into potential challenges, constraints, and bottlenecks and measures to mitigate them.

The path ahead

Build the capacities of human resources engaged in the MR&R system

MR&R is the linchpin for evaluating the overall performance of projects and programs. Doing it well relies heavily on having qualified staff. Hold regular technical sessions for relevant staff to elucidate the rationale behind MR&R. Foster a pool of adept human resources proficient in MR&R through a series of capacity-building training sessions and data simulation exercises ensuring that staff at every government level can confidently use MR&R system. Conduct periodic orientations and training sessions to foster a uniform comprehension of these metrics. Elevate workforce skills and knowledge through a combination of training, orientation, and regular review-and-reflection meetings. Adjust indicators and the MR&R online platform based on insights gained from practical experiences in the field.

Improve data management system

Enhancing data quality involves implementing timely corrections to prevent errors, establishing a robust data verification mechanism, devising an MR&R system implementation framework to oversee human resources, and conducting training sessions for staff on data collection and verification. Involve government staff already engaged in MR&R in training and orientation sessions. Incorporate features that automatically notify higher-level data management and the CCDMMRC when local-level challenges to data entry arise. Use and improve the online system's data verification mechanism. Ensure adequate human resources at all three tiers of government. Broaden the number of trainees to mitigate risks associated with high staff turnover. Explore incentives to motivate and engage data-management staff in the processes of data collection, compilation, and entry. Configure the online system so data can be entered throughout an entire quarter and from any location to ensure convenience.

Ensure regular maintenance and operation of the MR&R online platform

Develop a comprehensive O&M plan in advance, encompassing resource projections and effective management strategies. Operationalize a step-wise guideline for the implementation and maintenance of the envisaged MR&R system. Establish a unified platform for MR&R that accommodates changes in reporting association with federalism. Efficiently manage resources for web-based applications. Formulate an integrated strategy consolidating multiple applications in a centralized location to optimize resource use. Allocate additional resources to establish a resilient intranet infrastructure with 24/7 power backup. Have the CCMD/MoFE regularly coordinate with the GIDC to secure ongoing support in data management.

Institutionalize MR&R initiatives for the operationalization of the NAP

As of December 2023, with technical assistance from CCMD/MoFE and UNEP, four documents have been developed and the MR&R online platform has been established. The platform includes all necessary information, including project details, theme-wise targets, indicators, and data sources. The MR&R online platform was tested in the Rapti local government, Dang DCC, and Lumbini provincial MoFE through stakeholder consultations. Feedback and suggestions were thoughtfully incorporated into the revised version. Despite these accomplishments, the full operationalization of the MR&R online platform is pending, with training events yet to be concluded. The online platform must be shared with all stakeholders so this dynamic tool can be continuously improved. Documenting learning derived from its operationalization and the development of policy briefs for widespread dissemination are equally vital. Studies of good practices and lessons learned hold will facilitate learning, too. CCDM/MoFE’s conducting learning-cum-review workshops and review-and-reflection sessions involving relevant multilateral, bilateral, and development partners working in CCA are also crucial.

From a strategic standpoint, the Nepali government needs to advocate for improved access to various global funds, including the Green Climate Fund, Adaptation Fund, and the Global Environment Facility, to effectively operationalize the NAP. It should be mandatory for each agency to use relevant NAP thematic targets and indicators while developing projects and programs. A well-organized MR&R process generates reliable adaptation data, ensuring that there is an authentic reporting system that fosters transparency and accountability and thereby is conducive to accessing climate finance from development partners. It is only through the operationalization of the NAP, coupled with enhanced access to climate finance, that we can build a climate-resilient society that integrates CCA into plans, policies, and programs.

In conjunction with CCMD/MoFE, special recognition is owed to UNEP for its significant contribution to cultivating a climate-resilient society through the facilitation in NAP formulation. Now, it is pivotal for putting NAP into action and embedding MR&R mechanisms into institutional frameworks. It is only through these measures that Nepal can effectively confront climate change vulnerabilities, integrate adaptation strategies into development planning, and fortify its overall resilience against the evolving impacts of a changing climate.

(Dr. Gautam serves as an Independent Evaluator and Researcher specializing in Asia and the Pacific. He holds positions as a Senior Research Fellow at the National Disaster Risk Reduction Centre Nepal and an Adjunct Fellow at HADRI/Western Sydney University. He has contributed Nepal’s NAP process as a MR&R Expert. For inquiries, you can contact him at drrgautam@gmail.com).

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