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Human Rights in the Process of National Adaptation Planning: Insights from a Review of Submitted NAPs

Learn about the outcomes of mapping conducted on multisectoral NAPs available in 2020-2021. This study discusses entry points to ensure that human rights principles are meaningfully integrated and guide the NAP process.
Multiple Authors
Three women in a field wearing traditional clothing from the Philippines
Women from the Ifugao minority group near rice terraces in Banaue, Philippines - Kobby Dagan/Shutterstock


At the sixteenth Convention of the Parties (COP16) to the United Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), it was agreed that national adaptation plans (NAPs) would be created and established in least developed countries (LDC) and supported by developed countries. Other developing countries were also encouraged and invited to join in creating NAPs. The purpose of the NAPs is to build relevant national adaptation programmes of action in these countries that address their medium- and long- term adaptation needs.

There are four elements that comprise the NAP process; (1) laying the groundwork and addressing the gaps; (2) preparatory elements; (3) implementation strategies and (4) reporting, monitoring, and review. Most countries are still in the beginning stages with only six reaching the implementation stage. Therefore, it is not possible to assess the outcomes of NAPs. However, this enables opportunities to inform the process with insights on how to improve sectoral or thematic adaptation planning and how to learn from implementation.

One area that NAPs tend to overlook are human rights, even though human rights are enshrined in the preamble of the Paris Agreement. Climate change will infringe on the rights of vulnerable groups, including the rights to life, to health and well-being, to physical integrity and human dignity, to an adequate standard of living, to a decent livelihood, and to education. It is crucial to understand and evaluate how NAPs have integrated the principles and approaches of human rights in their planning and implementation stages to identify potential gaps and entry points to create best practices.

This study reviews and reports on the outcomes of mapping conducted on multisectoral NAPs available at the time of the analysis (2020- 2021) and discusses entry points to ensure that human rights principles are meaningfully integrated and guide the NAP process. Countries included in this review are as follows: Brazil, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Fiji, Grenada, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Palestine, Saint Lucia, Sri Lanka, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sudan, Suriname, and Timor-Leste.

This weADAPT article is an abridged version of the original text, which can be downloaded from the right-hand column. Please access the original text for more detail, research purposes, full references, or to quote text.


This study was conducted through the following steps:

  • First Step: Define the rights to be assessed using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as a base line. The UDHR serves as the foundation for 20 major human rights conventions and is universally accepted by all states. Scholars classify human rights as being: civil and political rights; social, economic and cultural rights, and group or collective rights. However, there is no commonly agreed list of group rights, therefore, group rights were identified based on a subjective assessment of their relevance to climate change.
  • Second Step: Search and code for specific terms in the NAPs. The first phase of this step was to search for phrases including the terms “right” or “rights”. Then, the following terms were searched to identify if there were indirect references to human principles:
    • Free/freedom
    • Equal/equality
    • Dignity
    • (Non) discrimination
    • Life
    • Liberty
    • Security
    • Remedy
    • (Access) justice
    • Due process
    • Property
    • Participation
    • Health
    • Wellbeing
    • Food
    • Water
    • Living (adequate standard)
    • Shelter
    • Education
    • Culture
    • Self-discrimination
    • Healthy environment
    • Intergenerational equity
    • Cultural
    • Indigenous
    • (Access of) information
    • Fair trial
    • Movement
    • Expression
    • (Right to) land

Limitations: Only 15 NAPs were reviewed due to language barriers. Only multisectoral NAPs were reviewed. All NAPs were formatted differently and varied greatly in length and style.


For the first stage of study, the direct references to human rights were analyzed. The second stage analyzed the indirect references.

Direct References