Principles of Locally Led Adaptation

Eight principles for locally led adaptation have been developed to help ensure that local communities are empowered to lead sustainable and effective adaptation to climate change at the local level. 40 governments, leading global institutions (including Irish Aid) and local and international NGOs have already endorsed these principles and are advocating their endorsement by others.

Less than 10% of finance from global climate funds is dedicated to local action (although adaptation finance to the local level is higher) while less than 2.5% of humanitarian aid goes to local actors, and it is rarer still for local-level stakeholders to lead their own adaptation efforts.

However, locally led adaptation can be more effective than adaptation interventions run in a top-down manner because local actors are aware of the nuanced context in which they operate. Devolving power to local actors increases their awareness of and investment in adaptation, which can lead to longer-term and more effective adaptation outcomes. 

Additionally, given that households and communities are the biggest spenders on adaptation, local actors know how to address problems at lower costs and greater speeds.

The principles provide touchstones to a range of actors who can commit to changing their current practices towards those that that enable more sustainable and effective adaptation at the local level. They aim to give vulnerable and excluded communities greater agency over prioritising and designing adaptation solutions, shifting them from being beneficiaries to empowered agents of change.


The principles are:

1 Devolving decision making to the lowest appropriate level: Giving local institutions and communities more direct access to finance and decision-making power over how adaptation actions are defined, prioritised, designed and implemented; how progress is monitored; and how success is evaluated.

2 Addressing structural inequalities faced by women, youth, children, disabled and displaced people, Indigenous Peoples and marginalised ethnic groups: Integrating gender-based, economic and political inequalities that are root causes of vulnerability into the core of adaptation action and encouraging vulnerable and marginalised individuals to meaningfully participate in and lead adaptation decisions.

3 Providing patient and predictable funding that can be accessed more easily: Supporting long-term development of local governance processes, capacity, and institutions through simpler access modalities and longer term and more predictable funding horizons, to ensure that communities can effectively implement adaptation actions.

4 Investing in local capabilities to leave an institutional legacy: Improving the capabilities of local institutions to ensure they can understand climate risks and uncertainties, generate solutions and facilitate and manage adaptation initiatives over the long term without being dependent on project-based donor funding.

5 Building a robust understanding of climate risk and uncertainty: Informing adaptation decisions through a combination of local, Indigenous and scientific knowledge that can enable resilience under a range of future climate scenarios.

6 Flexible programming and learning: Enabling adaptive management to address the inherent uncertainty in adaptation, especially through robust monitoring and learning systems, flexible finance and flexible programming.

7 Ensuring transparency and accountability: Making processes of financing, designing and delivering programmes more transparent and accountable downward to local stakeholders.

8 Collaborative action and investment: Collaboration across sectors, initiatives and levels to ensure that different initiatives and different sources of funding (humanitarian assistance, development, disaster risk reduction, green recovery funds and so on) support one another, and their activities avoid duplication, to enhance efficiencies and good practice.

Date published: 
February 2021
Simon Anderson
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