Capacity Development for Environmental Sustainability


Photo: UNDP

Capacity development for environmental sustainability emerged as a central theme in the Earth Summit’s Agenda 21 in 1992, reiterated at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, and an integral part of the Millennium Development Goals. In 1999, the GEF and its implementing agencies recognized that achieving environmental sustainability required a more targeted focus on capacity development. Notwithstanding the successes and achievements, achieving environmental sustainability remains an elusive goal. And yet, with the support of the numerous development partners, UNDP has been helping countries follow a clear path towards this end.

Our Approach

Capacity development for environmental sustainability is a process that involves: a) shifting societal attitudes, norms, and behaviours to pursue development that is environmentally sound with enduring outcomes; b) modifying and improving the mandates, roles, and functions of organizations; and c) strengthening individuals’ capabilities.

The outcomes of this process focus on developing the foundational capacities needed to achieve environmentally sound and sustainable development. For example, functional management information systems that allow for the production of key information that will be used to make the best possible decisions. Other outcomes include effective and strategic policy coordination, sustainable resource mobilization, and on-going adaptive management for cost-effective programme and project delivery.

Related Publications and Resources

  • Monitoring Guidelines of Capacity Development in GEF ProjectsMonitoring Guidelines of Capacity Development in GEF ProjectsSep 14, 2010This publication outlines guidelines and a set of indicators to assess capacities built to achieve environmental sustainability.

  • National Capacity Self-Assessment Synthesis ReportSep 16, 2010The report summarizes the challenges and opportunities experienced by countries in meeting their commitments under the Rio Conventions, as well as areas where more effort could yield better progress. It reveals the countries' top five capacity development needs to implement the international treaties related to biodiversity, climate change, desertification and drought.

  • Practitioner's Guide: Capacity Development for Environmental SustainabilityMar 23, 2011Capacity development and environmental sustainability are both central to UNDP’s mandate and programming.The purpose of this Practitioner’s Guide is to provide practical guidance to UNDP staff, partner countriesand other development partners on the nature of environmental capacity and how to support capacitydevelopment for environmental sustainability (CDES).

  • Resource Kit on Indigenous Peoples’ IssuesJun 15, 2008This Kit focuses on development and indigenous peoples, with emphasis on their full and effective participation in all development processes and the need for a genuine partnership in—and ownership with them—of these processes. It is designed to provide United Nations Country Teams with guidance as to how to engage indigenous peoples and include their perspectives in development processes.

  • UNDP’s Local Capacity StrategySep 20, 2010The Strategy presents a vision for how UNDP can approach, prioritize, and integrate its work to create the enabling conditions for effective local action and to greatly speed the scale-up of local-level best practices. It is designed to elucidate and strengthen how UNDP works with and supports community-based initiatives and national governments to scale up local-level successes.