To help developing countries meet the requirements of the international conventions for which the GEF serves as a financial mechanism, the GEF has funded several Capacity Development activities. These are designed to generate competence and improve the effectiveness of the institutions that work with the conventions and implement GEF projects, as well as to promote in their countries a better-functioning political, economic, and social system (enabling environment).
As indicated in the country reports to conventions, there is limited capacity in the countries to implement the conventions and to benefit from particiating in them. Recognizing this limitation, in 1999 the GEF Council approved (GEF/C.13/9) the Capacity Development Initiative (CDI), which made a broad assessment of capacity needs (particularly in the areas of biodiversity, climate change, land degradation, and cross-cutting issues), the extent and nature of bilateral and multilateral efforts to assist in meeting those needs, and a specific Action Plan for enhancing those efforts.
As a first step in implementing the CDI recommendations, the GEF Council in 2001 approved (GEF/C.17/6) funding initiatives in countries wishing to undertake a National Self-Assessment of Capacity-Building Needs (NCSA). The purpose was to support a country-driven consultative process of analysis and planning that will determine national priorities and needs for capacity development to protect the global environment and implement the CBD, UNCCD, and UNFCCC Conventions.
Evaluation reports of capacity development suggest the importance of integrating capacity development with specific areas of activities along with increasing the scale of support for sound economic development and environmental sustainability. Thus, a central part of GEF’s approach to capacity development is to develop capacity through regular Focal Area projects and programs.
Following a successful, fully country-driven NCSA process, in 2003 the Council a new decision on devised the Strategic Approach to Enhance Capacity Building (GEF/C.22/8), which focused on addressing the needs for capacity development identified in country reports. It also reflected guidance from the conventions to the GEF to provide support for country-driven capacity development activities, particularly for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The strategic approach defined four pathways for capacity development:
- Self-assessment of capacity needs (NCSA)
- Targeted capacity building within a Focal Area
- Targeted capacity building across Focal Areas (cross-cutting)
- Country-specific programs for addressing critical capacity needs in LDC and SIDS.