IIED matrix (source: iied.org)

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) produced a policy brief earlier this month concerning the integration adaptation into development planning.

This is an issue which has formed much of the adaptation discourse of late. Should we make adaptation a separate box to be ticked in every initiative? The pro argument is “Yes, because it will ensure that adaptation is not forgotten or ignored”. The anti argument however follows these lines: “No, because it will do precisely the opposite – adaptation will become everything and nothing. We need initiatives that focus specifically on adaptation.”

This is not a new argument. The issue of “mainstreaming” in development discourse has been focused on issues like gender and HIV/AIDS in recent years. The evidence is not conclusive, but it can generally be seen to have had a positive effect. These issues have become more than buzzwords. The “mainstreaming agenda” does at least force the project designer to take such issues into account.

The IIED report falls on the pro side of the argument, and I am inclined to agree with it. The World Bank has estimated nearly half of all donor-funded development projects are sensitive to climate risk. It therefore seems ludicrous not to force planners to take adaptation into account at every step. Furthermore, this is of course about more than just donor-funded projects – this is about all development efforts.

The IIED tries to get behind the rhetoric on mainstreaming, and proposes a 4-step agenda for making it a reality – awareness raising, targeted information, pilot activities, and only then, full mainstreaming. This ensures that adequate information and understanding are present at all levels, so “adaptation” becomes more than just another box to tick.

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