Our Perspectives

Capacity development – the only sustainable way to implement the Paris Agreement


Capacity development is no longer limited to human resource development but covers issues of national ownership, policy-level impacts, and sustainability. Photo: UNDP

In this blog series, UNDP experts share their perspectives in the lead-up to the next climate summit, COP22, taking place in November in Marrakech, Morocco.

On September 22, 2016, Uganda became one of the first African countries to ratify the Paris Agreement - a milestone that made me reflect on the two years I spent in the country  as the UNDP Climate Change focal point, but most of all, it made me proud on behalf of my former colleagues and tireless climate champions working in Uganda. 

When I look back at my time with UNDP Uganda, our work on climate change mitigation and low carbon capacity development stands out. The Low Emission Capacity Building (LECB) Project was one of the first projects to focus on low carbon development in the country and more specifically aiming at strengthening technical and institutional capacities at the country level and enable national decision makers, public institutions and private sector to holistically address climate change and decouple economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions. When the Government of Uganda launched the LECB project in 2013 in Kampala, climate change mitigation and low carbon development were very new concepts and created confusion and many questions as climate change mitigation broadly was perceived as the responsibility of developed countries. 

As part of the team responsible for an efficient implementation of the project, I looked deeper into the concept capacity development as the guiding principle for the project activities. I quickly realized that conceptually, the High-Level Forums on Aid Efficiency in Paris, Accra and Busan had moved the notion of capacity development away from being limited to human resource development to cover a broader scope that includes societal and organizational transformation and the issues of national ownership, policy-level impacts, and sustainability.

This paradigm shift together with fruitful discussions about capacity development with UNDP and Government colleagues inspired and influenced the way the project activities were implemented where the focused changed from being on developing capacity of a few individuals by contracting international consultants to including more national consultants and a broader spectrum of stakeholders from different ministries, NGOs and private sector associations.
The approach described above is nationally driven and more sustainable but it is also a long continuous process where it often is challenging to identify clear results because the long-term objective of transformational change is more important that shortsighted results. There is a famous African saying that perfectly illustrates the rationale behind capacity development: ‘If you want to walk fast, walk alone; but if you want to walk far, walk together.' 

I like to think that the approach the LECB team decided on back in 2013 is the backbone of the capacity development and transformational change that led to the Ugandan ratification of the Paris Agreement, the development of Nationally Determined Contributions, the formation of a Climate Change Mitigation team promoting low carbon development (including a Greenhouse Gas Unit) and the work towards greening the National Development Plans through a Green Growth Development Strategy - all measurable results that will shape the future Uganda.   

The bigger context

Based on the Ugandan experience, capacity development is rightly playing an important role in international development frameworks like the Paris Agreement and it is crucial that development partners keep coordinating, evaluating and improving this area of support to countries. In order to support the Paris Agreement’s implementation, countries agreed during COP21 to enhance capacity development activities together by establishing the Paris Committee in Capacity Building (PCCB) and create the Capacity-building Initiative for Transparency (CBIT), both expected to become operational in 2017.  

So the international community sees the need and there is agreement that countries cannot mitigate or adapt to climate change without first having the capacity to do so and UNDP will together with our partners continue to support efficient capacity development based on lessons learned from e.g. Uganda to establish the foundation for the implementation of the Paris Agreement. 

Blog post blog series Capacity development Frederik Tue Staun Climate change and disaster risk reduction Climate change Uganda

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