How to put ‘learning’ at the heart of policy implementation

How to put ‘learning’ at the heart of policy implementation

Share this:
Story detail:
Date: 6th August 2012
Author: CDKN Asia
Type: Feature
Countries: Asia, Pakistan

Global Climate Adaptation Partnership (GCAP) and Hagler Bailly Pakistan (HBP) discuss how a CDKN project in Pakistan is using a process of stakeholder engagement and ‘learning’ to turn the National Climate Change Policy into action.

Looking at problems and opportunities from diverse perspectives and learning together about how to address these, is the key to innovation. This is the philosophy behind a new CDKN project in Pakistan which is supporting the Government to implement its national climate policy.

Pakistan is now considered one of the worst victims of climate change. The country’s high dependency on the Indus River System makes it particularly vulnerable to glacial melting and increasingly erratic monsoon patterns. The result is that in recent years there have been annual cycles of flooding and drought creating havoc for the most vulnerable across the country.

The Government, and the whole country, has decided that now is the time for action to tackle the worsening effects of climate change in Pakistan. CDKN is supporting the Government to turn the recently approved National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) into action on the ground.

The project, being implemented by Global Climate Adaptation Partnership (GCAP) and Hagler Bailly Pakistan (HBP), is supporting the Government and stakeholders to look into the country’s recent past, and to learn from and with each other, to scope six nationally appropriate, thematic projects on climate compatible development. For the Government this is crucial for kick-starting, and attracting donor funding for, the implementation of the national policy.

According to Dr John Colvin of GCAP, “We are using a whole system approach which entails a complex stakeholder process. It is open and flexible, and includes learning together to identify points in the institutional landscape where fast learning is possible and those where it is slower”.

The learning that is emerging from the project is also helping CDKN and others to gain a greater understanding about how change happens in the country, and where and how support is needed. As Ali T Sheikh, CDKN Asia Director explained, “Learning, from ourselves and from colleagues, should be at the heart of all our work. The challenge is how to institutionalise this process and we hope this project will help others to also see how this can be done.”

Looking back before looking forward:

The first learning cycle began even before the project started as the project team studied the process that led to the development of Pakistan’s first climate change policy and draft action plan by a climate change task force set up in 2008. Although the Ministry of Environment eventually approved the Climate Change Policy in June 2011, it had to be put on hold when the introduction of the 18th Amendment led to the devolution of the ministry. The ministry was later renamed the Ministry of Disaster Management and then finally the Ministry of Climate Change in April 2012.

CDKN is represented in the Government’s multi-stakeholder ‘core group’ for climate change policy-making and has been closely involved in the evolution of the national policy. The project has allowed CDKN, as well as the Government and the project team to make ‘sense’ of why the process evolved as it did and identify opportunities for improving the system.

Looking beyond the environment:

The process of designing the six projects will involve experts from a broad range of fields. Climate change affects all sectors - not just the environment - so the project is helping to foster a shared understanding of climate compatible development across different government ministries and agencies. It is also promoting in general the involvement of a wider group of stakeholders, including the donor community, in the policy-making process.

In the second learning cycle of the project, climate change experts, donors and leaders in various fields were interviewed by the project team. According to Dr Mehjabeen Abidi Habib, another member of the project team, “The exciting thing is that we have identified leaders and innovators who are enthusiastic to work with us to make the project a reality. Some aren’t climate change experts, but focus on poverty, disasters and social development.”

In June 2012, six such experts who had agreed to become design team leaders met in Islamabad to discuss and decide on the themes for the project: food security, disaster responsiveness, priority ecosystems, water, health and urban development.

According to John Colvin, “The trick of this process was to bring together key experts who have been tirelessly working to tackle climate change and provide new energy for leadership and innovation that can broaden the dialogue and ensure things can be made to happen”.

Looking for action:

In mid-July, the team leaders came together, each with five other people in their teams, for the first expanded dialogue in Islamabad. The purpose was to receive inputs into the design of the projects, but also to sensitise and energise the community for implementation.

Most climate change projects are based on a top-down climate scenario driven approach whereas in contrast, using this process, projects are being designed on the basis of stakeholder dialogue to build consensus, shared understanding and prioritisation.

The involvement of the donor community is particularly crucial to ensure the projects actually have the potential to be funded.

According to John Colvin, “What we and the Government want to do is to tackle disconnects between policy and implementation by incorporating the views and the experiences of different sectors and thus building their joint commitment to action on this complex but vital agenda”.

As this process moves forward, future cycles of stakeholder engagement and learning will take place. We are confident that this will produce projects which are aligned to the Government’s priorities and respond to what is needed on the ground, but which are also ready for implementation immediately. However, crucially, the community of experts in Pakistan will also be ready to deliver and support the projects as they turn from policy to action.


We occasionally invite bloggers from around the world to provide their experiences and views. The views expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of CDKN.

Image courtesy of Oxfam International @ flickr creative commons

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.