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
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.
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 2/CP.7 and 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
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
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 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
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.