Multi-level learning in the governance of adaptation (PhD project - Javier Gonzales-Iwanciw)

The project analyses the role of learning occurring across levels of governance in relation to climate change adaptation. This is done looking at the different ways multi-level learning has been conceptualized in the scientific literature, the methods adopted to assess multi-level learning and the study of the empirical evidence obtained in case studies conducted across levels of governance including the multi-lateral process of the UNFCCC, and adaptation planning occurring in national adaptation processes.


Within just the last few years the governance of adaptation to climate change has become a truly multilevel affair from global to local level. On the one hand, international institutions like the UNFCCC are currently building an elaborate institutional framework to support adaptation governance at national levels, on the other hand, “local” and national actors are increasingly taking an active role in international policy processes and seeking to shape these creating an emerging multilevel institutional context. Vulnerability and adaptation to climate change is often perceived as a local problem, but the means, information and knowledge to deal with those problems are often generated or provided at international and national levels. These rapidly emerging multilevel dimensions raise new governance challenges in adaptation governance.

Learning is a central mechanism of governance actors (individual and collective) at different levels to better adjust their responses (such as the institutions they create) to environmental change and uncertainty.


My research objective is to understand how learning occurs in adaptation governance within and across levels and how it could be enhanced. The research project combines multilevel governance and social and organizational learning theories and will analyze the different ways that learning is conceived and put in practice in adaptation governance within the UNFCCC provisions on adaptation and the international climate funding mechanisms (global level) the National Adaptation Plans and related policies at national level with case studies in Bolivia, Ecuador and Honduras and the donor supported efforts towards adaptation in different contexts.


  • Conceptualization of multi-level learning in the governance of adaptation;
  • A set of methodological approaches to assess multi-level learning in the governance of adaptation;
  • Empirical evidence about the role of multi-level learning linked to adaptation processes.