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Research article2016Peer reviewedOpen access

Policy without politics: technocratic control of climate change adaptation policy making in Nepal

Ojha, Hemant R.; Ghimire, Sharad; Pain, Adam; Nightingale, Andrea; Khatri, Dil B.; Dhungana, Hari


As developing countries around the world formulate policies to address climate change, concerns remain as to whether the voices of those most exposed to climate risk are represented in those policies. Developing countries face significant challenges for contextualizing global-scale scientific research into national political dynamics and downscaling global frameworks to sub-national levels, where the most affected are presumed to live. This article critiques the ways in which the politics of representation and climate science are framed and pursued in the process of climate policy development, and contributes to an understanding of the relative effectiveness of globally framed, generic policy mechanisms in vulnerable and politically volatile contexts. Based on this analysis, it also outlines opportunities for the possibility of improving climate policy processes to contest technocratic framing and generic international adaptation solutions.Policy relevanceNepal's position as one of the countries most at risk from climate change in the Himalayas has spurred significant international support to craft climate policy responses over the past few years. Focusing on the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) and the Climate Change Policy, this article examines the extent to which internationally and scientifically framed climate policy in Nepal recognizes the unfolding political mobilizations around the demand for a representative state and equitable adaptation to climate risks. This is particularly important in Nepal, where political unrest in the post-conflict transition after the end of the civil war in 2006 has focused around struggles over representation for those historically on the political margins. Arguing that vulnerability to climate risk is produced in conjunction with social and political conditions, and that not everyone in the same locality is equally vulnerable, we demonstrate the multi-faceted nature of the politics of representation for climate policy making in Nepal. However, so far, this policy making has primarily been shaped through a technocratic framing that avoids political contestations and downplays the demand for inclusive and deliberative processes. Based on this analysis, we identify the need for a flexible, contextually grounded, and multi-scalar approach to political representation while also emphasizing the need for downscaling climate science that can inform policy development and implementation to achieve fair and effective adaptation to climate change.


adaptation; public policy; National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA); representation; Nepal

Published in

Climate Policy
2016, Volume: 16, number: 4, pages: 415-433

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        Sustainable Development Goals

        SDG10 Reduced inequalities
        SDG13 Climate action
        SDG16 Peace, justice and strong institutions

        UKÄ Subject classification

        Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

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