The authors analyse the way various actors have sought to promote and challenge the legitimacy of multilateral international and national climate change adaptation funds in the Asia-Pacific region.

The study shows that adaptation funds draw on multiple sources of legitimacy, including: ethical or justice arguments; participation and deliberation; transparency; accountability; coherence; and effectiveness. Efforts to strengthen one source of legitimacy can have an impact on other sources, with evidence of both synergies and trade-offs. International and national adaptation funds are primarily legitimized to state actors, even though funds and projects are justified in terms of assisting vulnerable groups and communities.

International financing has helped legitimise adaptation as an important development and policy objective. An adaptation financing architecture that is more multi-level, if not yet polycentric, has emerged alongside new legitimacy challenges; but at the same time, providing opportunities for improving outcomes on the ground if greater attention is given to access by vulnerable groups and communities.

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