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Capacity Development - Practice Note

UNDP (2008)

Published in: 2008
Pages: 31

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), New York, USA.


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Capacity development helps to strengthen and sustain this foundation. UNDP defines it as the process through which individuals, organizations and societies obtain, strengthen and maintain the capabilities to set and achieve their own development objectives over time. It is the ‘how’ of making development work better and is at the heart of UNDP’s mandate and functions. The UNDP Strategic Plan 2008–2011 (UNDP, 2008c) positions capacity development as the organization’s overarching service to programme countries. The 2007 UN Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review (United Nations, 2007) demands an effective and common approach to capacity development from the United Nations development system. An increasing number of national development strategies also emphasize that capacity development is essential for a country’s successful development.

This practice note introduces UNDP staff and other development practitioners to the UNDP approach to supporting capacity development. This approach is rigorous yet flexible, and can be adapted to suit different contexts and needs. It builds on a rich body of papers, case studies, methods and tools that UNDP has developed over the years. It is also underpinned by an analysis of what works and what doesn’t for capacity development, based on examples and evidence from UNDP and a large number of national and international development partners.

Content - Summary

The note provides a common point of reference for UNDP staff and national and international partners supporting national capacity development. Related documents include the UNDP Practice Note on Capacity Assessment (UNDP, 2008a), the capacity development services brochure Supporting Capacity Development: the UNDP Approach (UNDP, 2008b), the UN Development Group (UNDG) Position Statement on Capacity Development (UNDG, 2006), and the OECD/DAC ‘good practice’ paper on capacity development (OECD/DAC, 2006), to which UNDP contributed.

Section I of the note introduces the key concepts underlying the UNDP approach to supporting capacity development. It discusses the three levels of capacity and distinguishes between technical and functional capacities. Section II presents the basic principles underlying the UNDP approach to supporting capacity development and introduces the five steps of the capacity development process. Section III discusses each of the five steps in more detail. Section IV looks at the four core capacity development issues that UNDP prioritizes, which are key to the development and retention of capacity across sectors and themes. Section V explores some policy and programme implications for UNDP, including what it takes to programme for capacity development and to incorporate it in sector and thematic initiatives. Section VI answers some frequently asked questions on capacity development.

References to additional resources on capacity development, both from UNDP and others, are included throughout the note and in Section VII.

Bibliographic information

UNDP (2008). Capacity Development - Practice Note. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), New York, USA.

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Capacity Development

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