What is Coherence?

General Definitions

Definitions of coherence are abundant but share a few similarities. In general, coherence describes a state or quality of something. This quality holds certain characteristics, which can be described as:

  • a systematic and logical connection;
  • a consistency;
  • an integration of different or diverse elements, relationships or values;
  • forming a unified whole
  • the establishment of synergies between different policies with regard to overarching goals (Ashoff, 2010).

Coherence in DRM

For the context of DRM, we are defining it as:

  • An approach to integrate, as appropriate, the objectives of the global frameworks and the pursuit of sustainable development, disaster risk reduction, and climate change adaptation.
  • Occurring not only in policy definition and planning, but also in implementation, monitoring and reporting.
  • Pursued both horizontally across sectors and vertically at different governance levels – at local, sub-nationally, national, regional, and global levels.
  • Operationalised through different actors including through coordination between government institutions, the private sector, civil society organisations, and citizens.
  • Context-specific and dependent on country conditions, structures, and mechanisms.

To sum up

The importance of coherence across sectors, whether in government, in academia, or in the private sector, has always been observed and reiterated. Synergies identified from an improved knowledge base can generate better policies and practices. For example, if climate data is taken into account in DRM, risk analyses become more reliable. Greater coherence allows for a more efficient use of resources.

Other Discussions

Despite the relevance of coherence, there is no agreement regarding the usage of the term. Other discussions or terms are briefly mentioned here:


Frequently, the terms mainstreaming and integration are used interchangeably. They both can refer to the processes of integrating climate change adaptation or disaster risk reduction into sectoral and development plans, policies and strategies to achieve sustainable development. In other words, one can mainstream a particular topic or sector into another one by analyzing the current and future effects of one’s primary sector onto the secondary. One might then identify adaptation options to minimize risks and incorporate beneficial options.

Mainstreaming has been defined as:

the integration of climate change considerations in planning, budgeting, implementation and monitoring processes (United Nations Development Programme & United Nations Environment Programme, 2011).


One way to understand the concept of alignment is by considering that, for example, two sectors, which have undergone an alignment process, should be integrated into each other. That could mean looking at different policies or plans with common objectives and finding their synergies. Coordination efforts towards alignment for two sectors should result in meeting the needs for both sectors equally.

The term has been defined as:

a process of identifying synergies among policy processes with common objectives to increase coherence, efficiency and effectiveness for improved outcomes.” (NAP Global Network, 08/2018)