Main Issue

All developing countries and economies in transition need a strong foundation to achieve sustainable development and overcome global environmental challenges. This can include several overlapping concerns that allow countries to address national environmental issues systematically. For example, countries need to integrate global environmental goals into management information systems, to improve decision-making processes around global conventions, to align national policies with global requirements and to pilot innovative tools. Read more+ Many countries may be building capacity in individual projects or even within an integrated national programme. On a more strategic level, however, they may lack capacity to meet their commitments under the Rio Conventions and other Multilateral Environmental Agreements. This may have consequences on a global level, affecting the impact of conventions. 

What We Do

Since its inception, the GEF has supported capacity development at all levels within regular programs and projects. In 1999, in response to demand from developing countries, we also began helping recipients build capacity to meet their commitments under the Rio Conventions and Multilateral Environmental Agreements. 

Through  National Capacity Self-Assessments (NCSAs),  countries can understand their weaknesses and develop strategic approaches to address any gaps. Some common needs for capacity development include public awareness and education; information management and sharing; policy, legislative and regulatory frameworks; organizational mandates and structures; and economic and financial sustainability.  

In particular, the GEF emphasizes projects that allow countries to take a whole-of-government approach. This enables key departments such as finance, agriculture, industry, energy and planning to integrate global environmental concerns into their work. We also expect these national-level stakeholders to engage coherently with local stakeholders, including women. 

Ultimately, we want projects to mainstream MEAs into the national and subnational policy, legal and planning agenda. But more than that, we want environmental sustainability to be integrated across key development sectors and across various actors, including government, civil society and the private sector. 

Our program targets five objectives: 

  • Integrate global environmental needs into management information systems 
  • Strengthen consultative and management structures and mechanism 
  • Integrate MEAs within national policy, legislative and regulatory frameworks 
  • Pilot innovative and financial tools 
  • Update NCSAs


In 2013, the GEF assessed the impact of its support for cross-cutting capacity development in 23 medium-sized projects (known as the CB2 portfolio). These projects had sought to address recommendations from their NCSAs. Their success or failure, then, would reflect on the value of the NCSAs themselves. Evidence suggests that the CB2 portfolio has been very relevant to address capacity gaps of GEF recipient countries identified in their NCSAs. The projects were also judged to be highly relevant for implementation of MEAs. 

The Belize project sought to create synergies among natural resource and environmental policies to support national implementation of the three Rio Conventions. The GEF’s 2013 evaluation found the project helped the government develop its capacity to coordinate and mainstream Rio Convention activities into national processes. Among other results, it strengthened the Policy Coordination and Policy Unit, allowing it to become a single point of entry for convention-related activities. Results of the project were also used to form an integrated water resource authority.