The subtleties of language: flexibility of terminology

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The development stage of a proposal is of great importance to the future success and sustainability of a project and its results. All activities of the JP should be discussed thoroughly and agreed upon at this stage. Concerns of the implementing partners should be addressed at this stage. It is imperative to come up with an acceptable format for cooperation and to ensure complete ownership of the JP results by the implementing partners.

Although initially in our design stage we faced resistance to a proposed activity, we found that sometimes all it takes is a minor modification of the terminologies used in the original proposals to achieve the intended results. Implementing partners of the Jordan JP were open to supporting the different activities of the JP once the JP team addressed their concern and needs.

This lesson deals with development of a climate change (CC) adaptation strategy for the Zarqa River Basin (ZRB); a strategy that was later described as a CC adaptation programme and action plan for the ZRB as a response to concerns by the implementing partners related to future commitments of a ‘strategy’ by local and international donors and collaborators. All that was required to get the support of all stakeholders was to alter the term ‘strategy’ to ‘programme’, in order for the proposed activity to be perceived as neutral and acceptable for all.

Responding to the concerns of collaborators was a cornerstone to gain their full cooperation and support to the activity. The lesson learned is therefore related to the importance of flexibility during project development, whereby it can be seen that seemingly minor changes can have more far-reaching impact.

Purpose of the activity

The programme’s focus, as implemented by the Ministry of Environment (MoE) was strengthening the capacities of communities in the Zarqa River Basin (ZRB) to adapt to CC. The project assisted by identifying the direct and indirect impacts of CC on the ZRB water resources, identifying and piloting appropriate intervention measures to adapt to CC, and to develop a policy level intervention for ensuring sustainability of the results of this output.

The latter activity related to developing a strategy for CC adaptation in the ZRB is the focus of this lesson.

Original issue addressed by the activity

The original intent of the MoE work was development of a climate change adaptation strategy for the Zarqa river basin that could later be used as a model for all basins in the country. However, the MoE was not in favor of using the term "strategy" as they believed this would place undue pressure on national level institutions and donors to commit resources, and agree to future activities and results. The development of the strategy was one of the activities of the JP, which made it hard to ignore. Strategy chosen to address the issue

The JP initially tried to maintain the term "strategy" (as was in the original project design); however, after some time it became apparent that insisting on that term would not secure the needed government partner cooperation and could cause further delays. Through re-negotiation, the group agreed upon an "adaptation programme", which would produce the same essence/results as a strategy. The new title it was accepted and considered to be politically appropriate. Implementation of the strategy

The JP invited relevant stakeholders needed for the development of the ZRB Climate change adaptation strategy/programme for three meetings. The purpose of the meetings was to develop the CC adaptation strategy for the ZRB. Stakeholders were told from the beginning about the concerns of the MoE. It was then agreed with all stakeholders and the MoE officials to develop a programme and an action plan for the ZRB that could be used later as a guide to strengthen the capacity of the ZRB to adapt to climate change. The programme was developed by the involved parties and later adopted by the MoE. Just recently, the MoE has moved towards developing a policy for CC adaptation for Jordan. It is hoped that the policy will be ready by April 2013.

Challenges and Innovations

The main challenge faced, as aforementioned, was resistance to the development of a ‘strategy’ – and the main innovation was developing a more flexible approach, and gaining support for the use of another term while maintaining the core purpose of the activity initially envisioned.


This activity was one output from a total of six outputs implemented by one UN Agency (UNDP) with one implementing partner (MoE). As a result of this experience the JP team has updated its coordination with all implementing partners of the JP and also with all other collaborating entities towards insuring ownership of the JP results.

It is also believed that the government agencies and the implementing partners now look at this JP as their own and the UN agencies or present to support their needs and capacities.

The adoption of the modified approach to develop the ZEB CC adaptation programme/Strategy has achieving the following results:

Direct Impacts

  • The ministry officials cooperate fully with the programme activities.
  • Officials consider the JP as a partner rather than a donor with specific agenda.
  • The MoE has an action plan that can be used to secure funding for the needed activities.
  • The adaptation programme can be further developed to a comprehensive strategy in a short time.

Indirect Impacts

  • MoE cooperates with many other sectoral ministries in the area of climate change adaptation in an integrated manner.
  • All partners understand the need for working as a team to bring about efficient results and eliminate possible duplications of effort.

Next Steps

Taking into consideration the above mentioned experience the JP team decided to adopt an interaction strategy with all JP implementing partners (MOH, MOA, MWI, and MoEnv) according the following broad principles:

  • All activities and results should be clearly agreed upon by the government partners at the proposal development stage.
  • All activities and results of the project should be thoroughly discussed and approved at the very early stages of the project implementation to carry out the needed modifications/actions as soon as possible to avoid delay in the implementation
  • Interaction with the government partners should always focus on the importance of the country ownership and the necessity of tailoring the project activities to serve the government partners needs.

Potential replication / application

The lesson learned is broadly applicable to all programmes which require collaboration of and implementation by a variety of stakeholders, which may not be fully harmonized in their approaches.

As the implementation of this activity required the interaction of a number of collaborators, the resistance that was faced to implementation of a ‘strategy’ had to be dealt with in a diplomatic manner. In adopting the new term, ‘programme’, the JP learned that it is not necessary to remain strictly attached to terminology, just because it is in a project plan, if it means that this project may not gain full support in implementation.

By responding to the concerns of the various collaborators, the JP was able to gain not only their full cooperation and support for the activity, but importantly they were also perceived more as ‘partners’ in the process, rather than leaders. The take-away message for others trying to implement similar activities, is to recognize the importance of flexibility during project development, whereby it can be seen that remaining open to concerns and making seemingly minor changes can have more far-reaching impact to successfully achieve project results.


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