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From Tracking to Action – Promoting Social Accountability in Adaptation Finance

This report looks at emerging evidence of civil society engagement and identifies steps that providers of finance, governments, and CSOs can undertake to close the adaptation accountability gap.
Chris Ngetich


Countries are spending increasing sums of money helping people adapt to the impacts of climate change. Ensuring that these funds build more climate resilient societies is vital if we want people and communities to thrive under a changing climate.

However, at this moment, we cannot answer some of the most basic questions such as: How much funding is available for climate adaptation? How is this funding channeled to local communities? Is this funding reaching the most vulnerable people in a country? This is alarming because it means that we cannot hold providers and implementers accountable for their programming and use of funds for climate adaptation. If we want people to adapt to climate change, we need to enhance the transparency and accountability of climate adaptation funding. Not only will this ensure that funding reaches those who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, but it will also build trust among providers and recipients of climate adaptation finance and strengthen the global climate finance regime.

Civil society organizations (CSOs) in countries receiving adaptation funding need support and advice in order to monitor and advocate for accountable use of adaptation finance.

This report* looks at emerging evidence of civil society engagement and identifies steps that providers of finance, governments, and CSOs themselves can undertake to close the adaptation accountability gap.

*download from right-hand column or read online via links below.

Key Findings

Finance commitments are not the end of the story. The UNFCCC negotiations are likely to lead to more funding for adaptation in developing countries, but that alone is not enough. The flow of these funds must be transparent and accountable to ensure that those who are most vulnerable receive the support that they need.

Adaptation finance is convoluted, but civil society is well placed to disentangle it. Funding for adaptation passes through numerous mechanisms and channels as it moves from the international and national level to the local level. These pathways can be highly complex and very difficult to sort out. Despite these challenges, AFAI has enabled partners in developing countries to track flows of adaptation finance and identify places where information is missing.

Information is only meaningful when governments are held accountable. Simply uncovering and publishing information will not necessarily lead to change and improvement. Change, when initiated by CSOs, needs an enabling environment that allows for a continuous cycle of improvement, built on trust and cooperation among different partners. The report lays out an agenda for creating such an enabling environment and thereby building a more accountable adaptation finance regime.

The AFAI approach works. AFAI has achieved on-the-ground results in its four pilot countries, empowering partner CSOs to track adaptation finance and hold their governments accountable. In the Philippines, for instance, a partner uncovered corrupt use of adaptation finance and successfully lobbied the government to create an oversight committee. Achievements such as this one are not an anomaly. CSOs, government, and finance providers can work together to replicate these successes across the globe.

Figure 7 from page 46 of the report: Relationships among actors in accountability for adaptation finance


Transparency and accountability of funds for adaptation in developing countries are critical to ensure that those who are most vulnerable to climate change receive the support that they need in order to adapt to climate change. Work by the Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative (AFAI) shows that accountability for adaptation finance can be enhanced when key actors take the following steps:

Civil society organizations:

  • Build national-level partnerships with other non-governmental organizations across different sectors and expertise (such as budget tracking, adaptation and development), and with government at national and local level.
  • Be more transparent in their own efforts to help communities to become more resilient
  • Engage in both upstream and downstream monitoring of adaptation finance flows and policies
  • Support local governments and communities in building their capacity to assess, identify, and prioritize adaptation actions

Local governments:

  • Convene organizations working locally to coordinate the implementation of adaptation activities at the local level
  • Involve local communities in assessment of vulnerabilities and impacts, and in design, implementation, and monitoring of adaptation activities
  • Invest in building the knowledge and capacity of local government officials to help them integrate adaptation into development planning
  • Provide inputs to national-level policymakers about the improvements to planning and budgeting systems that are necessary to ensure effective integration of adaptation
  • Communicate the adaptation needs of local communities to other local- and national-level decision-makers

National governments and parliaments:

  • Recognize the beneficial contribution of CSOs to enhancing the effective use of adaptation finance
  • Ensure proactive accountability by actively publishing information related to adaptation finance flows and decisions
  • Enhance reporting of adaptation finance (flows, objectives, and results) at national and local level, through measures including the use of clear definitions
  • Engage with communities to ensure that they are included in programming and monitoring of adaptation finance flows and activities
  • Involve and build capacity of local governments to participate in the entire life-cycle of adaptation actions, from assessment and design to monitoring and learning

International providers of adaptation finance:

  • Work closely with recipient countries to share information about planned and current adaptation activities
  • Publish project level climate/adaptation finance data and produce reports for each partner country that identifies adaptation support provide to the partner
  • Provide more information on the rationale behind labeling finance as adaptation funding
  • Specifically for bilateral donors: Make project documents including contracts, review documents, and monitoring and evaluation reports available online
  • Specifically for multilateral development organizations, multilateral banks, and international climate funds:
    • Provide project-level financial information and details
    • Collaborate with recipients of grants and loans to ensure transparency of the whole funding chain, including publication of financial information by recipients of on-lending or other sub-projects
    • Include transparency as a criterion in the accreditation process by which implementing entities are granted access to funds


  • Mandate the standing committee on finance to update reporting requirements to facilitate third-party monitoring
  • Individual parties should commit to providing country-level information on adaptation finance

Suggested Citation

Terpstra, P., Peterson Carvalho, A., and Wilkinson, E. (2015) From Tracking to Action – Promoting Social Accountability in Adaptation Finance, World Resources Institute

The Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative

The AFAI is a collaborative research and advocacy project that seeks to improve accountability for adaptation finance. For this report (and numerous previous reports) the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Oxfam, and World Resources Institute (WRI) worked together with Clean Energy Nepal, the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (Philippines), Climate Action Network Uganda, and the Zambia Climate Change Network.


  • Pieter Terpstra was, at the time of writing, a senior associate in the Vulnerability and Adaptation Initiative at World Resources Institute. Contact: [email protected]
  • Annaka Peterson Carvalho is a senior program officer at Oxfam America and coordinator for the Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative. Contact: [email protected]
  • Emily Wilkinson is a research fellow in the Climate and Environment Program at ODI. Contact: [email protected]

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