Strengthening capacity to adapt to climate change in Turkey

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A shorter version of this lesson has been featured on the booklet produced by the MDG-F Environment and Climate Change window "Seeds of Knowledge - Contributing to Climate Change Solutions". - Read more about the booklet or download it in English / Spanish / French / Arabic.



The Joint Programme on Enhancing the Capacity of Turkey to Adapt to Climate Change contained several components; UNEP’s intervention was in the areas of development of a national adaptation strategy, capacity building, and review of the legal framework to support adaptation. This lesson learned refers to the review of the legal framework as part of a wider policy related intervention.

The Joint Programme included an outcome that focused on policy and capacity development aspects of adaptation, which in turn included several components (outputs) specifically addressing the development of a national adaptation strategy, capacity building, and review of national legislation. During the initial phase of implementation, however, it was recognized that these various components had to be integrated to create a more effective and sustainable outcome and that the initially planned schedule which saw a prioritization of the delivery of the various outputs, had to be more flexible.

In addition, it was also recognized that a revision of the legal framework required a higher level of participation and ownership from all relevant national authorities throughout implementation of the project, which should have been integrated into the project from the outset. It also was recognized that such revision could not be delivered within the life of the project but rather could result only as recommendations to that end. As a result, the legislation was not revised but recommendations were made on areas for improving legislation that could be used in further steps taken to increase the ability of the country to adapt to climate change.

The core lesson learned is that in order to facilitate sustainable and successful outcomes, particularly from projects with a strong policy component, there is a need to create mechanisms for the integration of various interconnected activities, to rely on strong ownership by the national stakeholders starting from the stage of project design, and to fully integrate project implementation and its staff within the regular work of the main beneficiary institution(s).

Purpose of the activity

This lesson learned refers to the policy component of a project on enhancing climate change adaptation capacities. The policy component, contributing to one outcome, focused on the development of a national adaptation strategy and also included capacity building and the review and possible revision of legislation relevant to adaptation as part of the country’s strategy to adapt to climate change.

Original issue addressed by the activity

Adaptation is a relatively new issue which requires countries among other things to adopt a strategy and to review their existing policies, legislation and the governance framework as part of their readiness to adapt to climate change impacts. Such review was built into the joint programme as an aspect of enhancing the capacity of Turkey to adapt to climate change, and the implementation of this component led by UNEP.

At the outset, the three project components (i.e., of capacity building, national adaptation strategy, legal review) were designed as separate outputs, and the initial workplan was based on a certain prioritization about timing of the delivery of these outputs. In particular, the review of existing legislation was originally planned as a deliverable in itself.

During the implementation of the project, it became clear that the various aspects of UNEP’s component (i.e., reviewing policies and legislation, developing the national strategy, capacity building component) had to be carried out in an integrated way. In particular, it became very soon clear that both review of legislation and capacity building were crucial components of the very process of developing the national adaptation strategy. Integrating these streams of activities was therefore needed, to allow for a well-founded and holistic strategy to be developed, and to allow the diverse expertise employed for the implementation of the project to collaborate and positively influence the work of others and the full participation of all stakeholders involved in all related aspects of the project.

Another aspect that became clear during the implementation of the project was that, while the “review” of legislation was essential as a contribution to the devising of a national strategy and could be undertaken through the work of consultants in consultation with the government experts, its “revision” was a more ambitious undertaking that was not possible within the time limits of the project. Further, given the high degree of political support required for interventions on the existing legislation and institutional framework, this component required a deeper level of involvement of all relevant stakeholders from the initial phase of project development, and possibly a stronger presence of UNEP staff or expertise within the country, to work in close contact (including possibly through physical proximity) with the institutions in charge.

Strategy / approach chosen to address the issue

During implementation of the project, the various policy-related components were increasingly integrated into one workplan, with development of the strategy becoming the fulcrum of the other two components (i.e., capacity building and legislation review). Regarding legislative provisions, the project contribution consisted of recommendations for possible changes to existing legislation, based on a thorough review of the status quo and on an analysis of amendment options, as an input for possible subsequent action at country level, with or without support from another JP or similar projects.

Results and Impacts

The integrated approach led to development of a National Adaptation Strategy that takes fully into account not only the findings of the participatory vulnerability assessment but also the findings of thorough studies to review existing legislation. While the project interventions did not cover the implementation phase of the Strategy, the Strategy will hopefully be a useful tool (i.e., a well thought, well-grounded document as a basis for actual efforts to adapt to climate change).

Next Steps

Because the project has already been completed, there will be no next steps to further address the issue described above and take further corrective action. However, the approaches suggested in the following section could be promoted in the development of future projects of a similar nature.

Potential replication / application

While each project is different, the lessons learned and described here could be taken into account when developing projects with a strong policy component. Full political support and ownership, presence, and integration are fundamental to successful and sustainable outcomes and therefore they need to be carefully built into projects from the needs-assessment phase. The following suggestions are general in nature and are based narrowly on the specificities of the Joint Programme under review, which was rather the occasion to further consider what is needed to make a project on policy issues successful.

  • Create mechanisms for integration of various components, especially of a “soft”, or policy nature, during project preparation and make such integration clear in a logical framework; at the same time, ensure that a certain degree of flexibility is kept to be able to adjust the methodology of implementation.
  • Create very strong ownership by all crucial national actors for any interventions in the fields of policy, law and governance at the outset, through full integration of a wide range of national stakeholders in the needs assessment during the project preparation phase;
  • Ensure that all outcomes of the project are realistic, especially when it comes to legal review, such that the project does not include actual amendments but only recommendations for amendments (adoption of amendments cannot be managed or controlled under the project)
  • Secure full integration of project objectives into the regular work of the institutions involved and of the project implementation team with the institutions involved, for instance by ensuring the physical proximity and continued presence of core project staff within the national institution in charge of the project (e.g., Ministry of Environment). This would not only result in the full integration of the project objectives into national priorities, but also in enhanced capacity of national actors and long-term sustainability beyond the project time boundaries.
  • The physical presence of UNEP and/or another implementing agency on the ground through dedicated staff is an important aspect of ensuring full integration within national priorities, flexibility in the implementation of the project and sustainability.

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