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Capacity Building

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This article provides a list of the most relevant definitions of the term amongst inter-governmental organizations.

Some Capacity Building definitions

"Specifically, capacity building encompasses the country’s human, scientific, technological, organizational, institutional and resource capabilities. A fundamental goal of capacity building is to enhance the ability to evaluate and address the crucial questions related to policy choices and modes of implementation among development options, based on an understanding of environment potentials and limits and of needs perceived by the people of the country concerned".

 Capacity Building - Agenda 21’s definition (Chapter 37, UNCED, 1992.)

In 1991, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Institute for Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering organized the symposium 'A Strategy for Water Sector Capacity Building' in Delft, The Netherlands. Delegates from developing countries, ESAs and supporting institutes defined 'capacity building' as:

  • the creation of an enabling environment with appropriate policy and legal frameworks;
  • institutional development, including community participation (of women in particular);
  • human resources development and strengthening of managerial systems.

The UNDP also recognizes that capacity building is a long-term, continuing process, in which all stakeholders participate (ministries, local authorities, non-governmental organizations and water user groups, professional associations, academics and others).


 UNDP Briefing Paper

Capacity Building is much more than training and includes the following:

  • Human resource development, the process of equipping individuals with the understanding, skills and access to information, knowledge and training that enables them to perform effectively.
  • Organizational development, the elaboration of management structures, processes and procedures, not only within organizations but also the management of relationships between the different organizations and sectors (public, private and community).
  • Institutional and legal framework development, making legal and regulatory changes to enable organizations, institutions and agencies at all levels and in all sectors to enhance their capacities.


Why is Capacity Building Needed?

The issue of capacity is critical and the scale of need is enormous, but appreciation of the problem is low.

The link between needs and supply is weak.

There is a lack of realistic funding.

There is need for support for change.

Training institutions are isolated - communications are poor.

Development of teaching materials is inefficient.

Alternative ways of capacity building are not adequately recognized.


Who are the Clients?

The needs for capacity building are always changing. There are no ready solutions, and any programme must be appropriate for the local situation and organization.

Local government, communities and NGOs are the main clients, but central government and the private commercial sector also need support. Community groups, often with strong NGO support, need to improve their capacity to plan, organize and manage their neighborhoods. Departments of local government play an increasingly important role in enabling community groups to enhance their capacities and effectiveness.


 The Urban Capacity Building Network (UCBN)

The World Customs Organization (WCO) defines 'capacity building' as "activities which strengthen the knowledge, abilities, skills and behaviour of individuals and improve institutional structures and processes such that the organization can efficiently meet its mission and goals in a sustainable way".


 World Customs Organization (WCO)

There are very direct implications for agricultural education in the area of human resource capacity building since by definition the term (and the process) has education, both formal and non-formal, at its core.

In its broadest interpretation, capacity building encompasses Human Resource Development (HRD) as an essential part of development. It is based on the concept that education and training lie at the heart of development efforts and that without HRD most development interventions will be ineffective. It focuses on a series of actions directed at helping participants in the development process to increase their knowledge, skills and understandings and to develop the attitudes needed to bring about the desired developmental change.


 The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)

Another essential mechanism for capacity building is partnership development. Partnerships give a local NGO access to: knowledge and skills; innovative and proven methodologies; networking and funding opportunities; replicable models for addressing community needs and managing resources; options for organizational management and governance; and strategies for advocacy, government relations and public outreach.


 Counterpart International


The main author of this article is Garriga, Maica
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.


Roadmap for Capacity Building for ICZM

List of articles on Capacity Building for ICZM
Capacity Building Network main page