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Capacity-building: Background
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What is capacity-building?

Addressing climate change in a meaningful way requires efforts from all countries. Some countries have to focus their efforts on cutting greenhouse gas emissions while others have to focus their efforts on adapting to climate change. But not all countries have the capacity – the knowledge, the tools, the public support, the scientific expertise and the political know-how – to do so.

In the UNFCCC process, capacity-building is about enhancing the ability of individuals, organizations and institutions in developing countries and in countries with economies in transition to identify, plan and implement ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Capacity-building under the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol takes place on three levels:

  • Individual level: developing educational, training and awareness raising activities;
  • Institutional level: fostering cooperation between organizations and sectors, as well as the development of organizations and institutions, including their missions, mandates, cultures, structures, competencies, and human and financial resources;
  • Systemic level: creating enabling environments through economic and regulatory policies and the accountability frameworks in which institutions and individuals operate.

Although there is no “one size fits all” formula for capacity-building, it must always be country-driven, addressing the specific needs and conditions of countries and reflecting their sustainable development strategies, priorities and initiatives.

A brief history of capacity-building in the UNFCCC process

Image A country cannot mitigate or adapt to climate change without first having the capacity to do so. That is why capacity-building has been part of the UNFCCC negotiating process since its inception two decades ago. Capacity-building has long been recognized in the Convention’s work on such issues as national communications, greenhouse gas inventories, technology transfer and adaptation. Since 2001, capacity-building activities in developing countries and in countries with economies in transition have been guided by two frameworks, which are described in more detail below.

Capacity-building frameworks

In 2001, the Conference of the Parties (the supreme decision-making body of the Convention) adopted two frameworks that address the needs, conditions and priorities of developing countries and countries with economies in transition. The frameworks are enshrined in decisions pdf-icon 2/CP.7 and pdf-icon 3/CP.7.

The frameworks provide a set of guiding principles and approaches to capacity-building, for example that it should be a country-driven process, involve learning by doing, and build on existing activities. They also contain a list of priority areas for action on capacity-building, including the specific needs of least developed countries and small island developing States. They reaffirm that capacity-building is essential to enable these countries to implement the objective of the Convention.

The frameworks set out a way forward for capacity-building activities, such as developing and strengthening skills and knowledge, as well as providing opportunities for stakeholders and organizations to share their experiences, and increasing their awareness to enable them to participate more fully in the climate change process.

The frameworks also provide guidance on the support of financial and technical resources to be addressed by the Global Environment Facility, bilateral and multilateral agencies, and other intergovernmental organizations and institutions. The frameworks call for developing countries and countries with economies in transition to provide information on their specific needs and priorities through national communication and submissions, while promoting cooperation and stakeholder participation.

In 2005, the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) decided that the capacity-building frameworks were also applicable to the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. The CMP endorsed these frameworks to guide capacity-building activities under the Kyoto Protocol in developing countries and countries with economies in transition.

The Subsidiary Body for Implementation regularly monitors and reviews progress on the implementation of the capacity-building frameworks. More >>

Enhancing capacity-building support

In the years following the adoption of the frameworks in 2001, countries continued to implement or enhance capacity-building activities at the individual, institutional and systemic levels. These efforts were bolstered by annual monitoring and periodic reviews that looked at progress on the implementation of the capacity-building frameworks, as well as by a series of workshops and meetings.

In 2009, capacity-building was introduced in the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) negotiating process. The Chair introduced a pdf-icon draft decision that called for enhanced action on capacity-building. This marked the start of talks that would result in the establishment of the Durban Forum on Capacity-building.

The following year, a decision was adopted at the Cancun Climate Change Conference. In the Cancun pdf-icon decision, Parties agreed to several action items, including strengthening relevant institutions, including focal points and national coordinating bodies and organizations, and strengthening climate change communication, education, training and public awareness at all levels.

At the Panama Climate Change Conference in 2011, Parties engaged in a three-hour in-depth discussion on capacity-building with representatives of relevant bodies established under the Convention, with the Global Environment Facility and with other delegates involved in negotiating mitigation, adaptation, and technology and finance. They discussed various issues, including: support and institutions for adaptation; capacity-building for the preparation of national communications; and the need to design, integrate and coordinate capacity-building in order to deliver it more effectively.

Durban Forum on Capacity-building

The Panama in-depth discussion, hailed as a success by Parties, paved the way for the careful crafting of the decision text on the Durban Forum a few months later during the Durban Climate Change Conference – the city from which the Forum takes its name. Parties decided the Forum would meet once a year during the UNFCCC negotiating sessions and allow for the participation of all stakeholders in the process. The Forum was designed as a place where representatives from Parties, UN organizations, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, research, academia and the private sector would share ideas, experiences, lessons learned and good practices on implementing capacity-building activities in developing countries.

The Forum’s inaugural meeting was held at the Bonn Climate Change Conference in May 2012. More >>

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