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Adaptation or development? Exploring the distinctions (or lack thereof) through case studies in Bangladesh and Vietnam

Using Bangladesh and Vietnam as ‘adaptation project-dense’ contexts, this study explores how adaptation is understood, mainly by practitioners in development projects, but also by government staff, donors, researchers and others who are involved in implementing projects. The study outlines the following three key messages. 1) Differentiating between adaptation and development may be an artificial exercise, because in project implementation this difference is mostly considered insignificant; 2) Development is considered a ‘safer’ objective than adaptation, due to the lack of tools to assess success in achieving adaptation through projects; 3) The lack of a widely accepted framework for adaptation encourages its conscious use in varied and broad ways in project descriptions. Project managers report that it is easy to re-label or refocus development projects to qualify for adaptation finance, though the two country studies found no evidence of mislabelling.