Logo of the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
To the main menuTo the main content
Sustainable Development

A reflexive monitoring and evaluation framework for the Delta Programme

Newsitem | 05-06-2017

Throughout the world, adaptation to climate change is one of the major challenges. In the Netherlands, under the Delta Programme, adaptation strategies have been developed for flood protection, freshwater supply and spatial adaptation. Early in the  implementation phase, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency was asked to develop a framework for the monitoring and evaluation of the Delta Programme. PBL designed this framework, taking into account i) the participatory approach of the Delta Programme, ii) the need for it to be adaptive, and iii) the need for accountability.

About the Delta Programme

In the Netherlands, the Delta Programme protects against flooding and ensures a sufficient supply of fresh water. The Delta Programme is being led by the Delta Commissioner, appointed by the national government.

The main themes of the Delta Programme are: flood-risk management, freshwater supply and spatial adaptation. In the implementation stage, the Delta Programme focuses on adaptive management — given the uncertainties that lie ahead — seeking the participation of a wide range of stakeholders and the adoption of a broad and integral approach that can coalesce their ambitions and efforts. The Delta Programme is a nation-wide initiative with a complex network structure involving many parties, such as provincial authorities, municipalities, district water boards, social organisations and private stakeholders. Together, they form the delta community.

Reflexive approach

In line with the characteristics of the Delta Programme and at the request of the Delta Programme Commissioner, PBL’s design for a monitoring and evaluation framework is based on a reflexive approach, in combination with the challenges related to adaptation.

The report presents concrete recommendations for the set-up of a monitoring and evaluation system, with respect to:

  • Increasing the Delta Programme's capacity for systemic learning
  • Integrating adaptive management
  • Creating a basis for shared accountability
  • Creating a basis for trust and transparency

The principles of the reflexive approach include joint efforts by all stakeholders to achieve adequate monitoring and evaluation during the implementation process, and focus on shared learning and shared accountability. The PBL framework and reflexive approach provides an environment for ongoing policy improvement during the implementation of the adaptation programme, while tapping into the energy and innovation drive of all stakeholders. In dealing with uncertainties, it is important that monitoring and evaluation procedures consider the implementation practice within the Delta Programme (internal dynamics) as well as the scientific and societal environment outside the programme (external dynamics). This form of monitoring and evaluation furthers adaptive delta management, allowing the Delta Programme to revise its strategies and actions in a timely fashion.

Worldwide challenges concerning water

Throughout the world, issues concerning flood risk, water scarcity, and spatial adaptation in the context of adaptation to climate change are high on the agenda. The Delta Programme operates on the front line of developments around participatory, adaptive and integrated planning and policy implementation in delta areas. To date, no experience has been gained in monitoring and evaluation approaches to these issues, according to recent surveys by several organisations, such as the European Environment Agency (EEA), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

The approach of the Delta Programme and the findings of the PBL study may fuel the discussion and further study on effective approaches in other regions and deltas.


PBL developed the reflexive framework for the Delta Programme in close collaboration with the University of Amsterdam (UvA), providing expertise on reflexive approaches and policy learning, and the Delft University of Technology (TUD), who provided expertise on adaptive delta management.



For further information: Mieke Berkers (spokesman) via persvoorlichting@pbl.nl