Capacity Development

Technical Brief on Programming Principles
This technical brief is intended to help practitioners quickly grasp the core
messages of the UN programming principles and offer some useful examples.
The brief will be reviewed and revised on a continuous basis, based on emerging
issues including recent discussions and examples.
Programming Principle: Capacity Development
1. Key Concepts
Capacity development is critical to the achievement of the Millennium
Development Goals and other international and national development targets.
The UN development system has defined capacity development as a core
function and contribution and as integral to the support UN Country Teams
provide to national partners.
Capacity is defined as “the ability of people, organizations and society as a whole
to manage their affairs successfully” and capacity development is understood as
“the process whereby people, organizations and society as a whole unleash,
strengthen, create, adapt and maintain capacity over time.”
Within any given context, capacity development needs may differ at the
national, sub-national and local levels, and may differ depending on the stage of
development in different sectors. Regardless of context, UNDG sees capacity as
interdependent across three levels: individual, organizational and enabling
Capacity development is underpinned by the fundamental characteristic of
national ownership and must be led and grounded in endogenous efforts it is to
be meaningful and sustainable.
Members States have mandated the UN system to enhance its efforts,
particularly at country level, to support national capacity development. In
December 2007, the Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review reiterated the
importance of capacity development, calling upon UN organizations to “provide
further support to the efforts of developing countries to establish and/or
maintain effective national institutions and to support the formulation and, as
necessary, the devising of national strategies for capacity building.”
To strengthen its contribution further, the UN development system has invested
in analytical work – ranging from the formulation of capacity development
policies and frameworks to the creation of approaches, guidelines and tools – as
well as on country-level support for developing national capacities – at the level
of the individual, the organization and the enabling environment.
The UN approach to supporting capacity development efforts of national partners
draws from a rich body of conceptual papers, case studies, methodologies and
tools that the UN development system has developed over the years, and its
analysis of what works and what doesn’t for capacity development. It has also
benefited from examples and evidence from the UN development system and a
large number of national and international development partners.
In December 2006, the UNDG Position Statement on Capacity Development was
issued which outlined when and how UNCTs can address capacity development
in their support to national development.
The UNDG Position Statement on Capacity Development suggests four key
issues to guide and position the UNCT work and to make it more effective in
terms of country-level capacity development:
 UNCTs articulate capacity development and its underlying principles as the
central thrust of the UNDG’s role in the country, captured in the CCA and
 UNCTs situate their work in capacity development with national policy and
development plans.
 UNCTs assess the level of national and local capacity assets and respond
to the identified capacity needs.
 UNCTs “unpack” capacity development into tangible components.
In April 2008, UNDG launched its Capacity Assessment Methodology to help
assess capacity assets and needs.
2. Integrating Capacity Development in the Common Country
Programming Process
Rationale (Why are we integrating capacity development?)
At the national level, it is expected that the UNCT provides a strategic
contribution to the achievement of the priorities in the national development
framework. This implies that UNCTs should support countries to develop
capacities to lead their development processes to pursue poverty reduction,
sustained economic growth, peace-building, rule of law and human rights.
Capacity development is thus the central thrust and main benefit of UNCT
The UN system responds to national capacity development challenges,
contextualized in national development strategies, through the framework of its
analytical work (CCA or contribution to national analysis) and the UNDAF. Five
steps are to be followed for integrating a capacity development approach into
national development strategies, poverty reduction strategies and sector plans,
through the analytical work, the UNDAF and the country programmes. The
actual sequencing and detailing of steps would necessarily be adapted according
to the local context, but this attempts a mapping based on good practice. The
steps are:
Engagement with partners and building consensus
Assessing capacity assets and needs
Designing capacity development strategies
Implementation of capacity development strategies
Evaluation of capacity development efforts
Through this approach, the UNCT must aim to develop lasting in-country
capacities at individual, institutional and societal levels.
How to integrate capacity development in the country analysis
The purpose of the UNCT’s analytical contribution is to strengthen country
analytical capacities, processes and products, and thereby contribute to the
articulation of high quality development objectives and priorities within the
national development framework, based on international norms and standards,
where relevant. The UNCT’s analytical contribution will support and strengthen
national analytical processes and products. It is guided by the basic elements
and principles of the UN, and it will strengthen the national development
framework by generating consensus about priority problems and their causes,
and the capacity development needs at all levels to generate action. The UNCT
should use the five inter-related principles (human rights-based approach,
gender equality, environmental sustainability, results-based management, and
capacity development) to enhance country analysis and make a contribution to
the national development framework. From a capacity development perspective,
the country analysis should at a minimum include an identification of critical
capacity assets and needs related to the national development strategy and
identification of areas where further more detailed capacity assessments are
Below is additional detail on Step 2 of the Capacity Development Process:
Assessing Capacity Assets and Needs.
Objective: Ensure the systematic application of, and follow up to, country-led
capacity assessments within national development strategies and sector
planning exercises.
As part of the analytical efforts, explore how to integrate capacity
assessment into country-driven efforts and the CCA if undertaken, taking
full account of the political economy realities.
Design the capacity assessment exercise for the outcome areas, by
adapting the UNDG capacity assessment framework to local needs,
determining how the assessment will be conducted (team, location) and
costing the capacity assessment exercise (based on team composition,
duration and depth). This should be done ideally as part of the overall
analytical and diagnostic work underway in the NDS, PRS or other national
exercise and not as a separate exercise.
Conduct the capacity assessment, articulating questions to understand
existing capacity assets and assessing each capacity level, as required.
For UNDAF level, this may primarily be at systemic level, but could also
include the organisational level for priority themes/sectors of UN
Summarize and interpret capacity assessment results to inform the
relevant country frameworks (national development strategies, PRSs,
sector plans), and correspondingly feed analytical work and UNDAF
Following an initial higher level capacity assessment, and during the
country analysis stage itself, the UNCT should also consider ways of
ensuring that detailed assessments of identified capacity needs that have
direct bearing especially on UNCT cooperation are incorporated in the
frameworks, and will be monitored and evaluated. Completion of such
capacity assessments could be identified and included in the UNDAF.
How to integrate capacity development in developing result statements
The UNDAF Outcomes describe how the UNCT will make a contribution to the
achievement of one or more selected priorities from the national development
framework with clear reference to the country analysis, the national priorities,
and the comparative advantages of the UNCT over other development actors,
particularly for country capacity development. The UNDAF Outcomes describe
the intended changes in development conditions resulting from UNCT
cooperation. As such, they normally relate to changes in institutional
performance or behaviour among individuals or groups.
Below is additional detail on Step 3 of the Capacity Development Process:
Designing Capacity Development Strategies.
Objective: Prioritize long-term capacity development investments and impact,
even if some may require short-term capacity enhancing or ‘quick impact’ results
as well, and identify potential risks, and risk management strategies to stay the
Build consensus on the how, the what, and who does what as a basis for
partnerships and accountability – and work this into the UNDAF outcome
areas, keeping the collective development impact in view.
Ensure that each UNDAF outcome clearly reflects capacity development
needs, in discussion with national partners, and gather the required data
and analysis to support an appropriate response.
Reinforce and detail capacity development components more fully in the
respective agency’s country programmes and projects, emphasizing
strategic choices that favour long-term sustainability.
As CD strategies correspond to the evolving logic in national frameworks,
ensure provisions for the systematic reinforcement of these links, and
consultative mechanisms for adjustment and updating.
Ensure that indicators in the UNDAF results matrix (and subsequent
Country Programmes and projects) allow for measuring progress in the
area of capacity development.
Cost capacity development components within programmes and projects.
How to integrate capacity development in developing M&E framework
UNDAF results (at all levels) must be tracked through a manageable set of key
performance indicators. All indicators must be accompanied by baselines and
targets. From a capacity development perspective, the minimum expectation
from UNDAF monitoring are regular assessments of progress towards the
capacity development results in the UNDAF through specific indicators and
continued identification of partners’ capacity development needs. The minimum
expectations from the UNDAF evaluation are considered judgement about the
worth of the capacity development results and strategies in the UNDAF including
how to improve positioning of the UNCT in forming country analysis and planning
for the next cycle with regards to capacity development.
Below is additional detail on Step 5 of the Capacity Development Process:
Evaluation of CD Efforts.
Objective: Embed the tracking and impact analysis of CD progress and results as
part of national evaluative mechanisms that measure impact of NDS, PRS and
sector strategies and enable stakeholders to draw lessons and learning.
Align with mainstream M&E processes as far as possible and pertinent,
such as those integral to national development strategies, PRS and sector
plans, ensuring meaningful participation of stakeholders in the processes.
Validate the agreed CD progress and results indicators on systematic
Ensure results feed into and reinforce the relevant national results based
management systems, as well as for own agency and for UNDAF
monitoring and evaluation processes.
To gauge UN system contribution, conduct impact evaluations of the
UNDAF outcome areas with a focus on the capacity development
strategies embedded therein.
3. Examples of Good Analysis, Results Statements and Indicators
A capacity assessment provides contextual analysis of the national
organizations, groups and actors responsible for development in order to make a
critical appraisal of their capabilities and competencies to address development
challenges. Compared to a needs analysis, this type of assessment goes beyond
identifying gaps in resources such as human resources, physical resources and
financial resources to examine functional and technical capacities and core issues
at the level of the enabling environment, the organization and the individual.
A “good” capacity assessment depends upon active stakeholder involvement and
a clear design. UNDG presents a structure for a comprehensive and inclusive
discussion about the scope and scale of a capacity assessment. The structure
includes three interrelated dimensions: capacities; core issues; and points of
Functional capacities include situation analysis; policy design and strategy
formulation; resources and budget allocation; programme and project
implementation; monitoring, evaluation and learning. Technical capacities
relevant to the specific sector or thematic context are to be included as well.
Core issues include public sector accountability; access to information,
development knowledge and technology; inclusion, participation, equity and
empowerment; and external/international relations. Points of entry include the
enabling environment; the organization; and the individual.
The identification and inclusion of specific capacities and issues in an assessment
depend upon the needs expressed by key stakeholders, with particular attention
paid to the needs of vulnerable and excluded groups.
For the purpose of the UNDAF, a capacity assessment should:
 Identify key organizations and population groups most critical for the
achievement of the specific development objectives under considerations;
Identify environmental and common capacity assets and needs as well as
high level organizational capacity assets and needs;
Determine the need for more detailed capacity assessment of specific
organizations or group for the consequent plans.
The scale and scope of a capacity assessment can be shaped by answering
“capacity for whom?” (whose capacity requires improvement) and “capacity for
what?” (what development goals will be affected by capacity development). It
need not include all components at all levels.
The analysis will determine high-level outcomes describing what success will
look like and high-level outputs required for achievement of the outcome.
Capacity development outcomes can be measured in terms of system
performance, stability and sustainability.
 Performance: effectiveness and efficiency
 Stability: risk mitigation and institutionalization
 Sustainability: investing for change and growth and continuous
In the first three tables below are examples of outcomes and indicators
measuring the following:
 Effectiveness of national systems
 Risk mitigation of national systems’ performance
 Institutionalization of good practices
In the fourth table below are examples of outputs and output indicators.
Examples of Outcomes and (Lead and Lag) Indicators Measuring
Effectiveness of National Systems
Proportion of fish stocks within safe biological limits
% of of MoH staff know sector outcomes and yearly
% of MoH staff and stakeholders believe the day-today activities directly contributes to development
% of villages with clinics for primary care
Hospital beds per 1000 people
Measles immunization rate
Improve Ministry
of Health’s quality
of, and equal
access to, basic
health services
Parliament’s endorsement of the national
environmental sustainability strategic plan
% of the budget allocation to environmental
sustainability strategy in relation to the national
% of directors in all ministries aware of
environmental sustainability objectives
Implementation rate environmental sustainability
programmes (measured by percent of the outputs
CO2 emissions per capita
Improved public
sector financial
transparency and
Gender ratio of usage of hospital services
% of rural area clinics that don’t have any of the
medications listed in essential supply list for three or
more days per year
Number of cases per (year/month) investigated by
the Anticorruption Bureau leading to prosecution
under anti-corruption legislation
Number of public servants of rank director and
above investigated for involvement in corrupt
practices per year
Satisfaction rate of members of Parliament to audit
Change in the total cost of doing business for
providing the same services (for identified set of
business processes - population and inflation
% of people perceive public corruption is decreasing
(through Public Perception Survey on Corruption)
Examples of Outcomes and Indicators Addressing Risks to the National
System’s Performance
Improve local
Changes in the staff satisfaction survey
Turnover rate due to volunteer termination of contract
public service
Number of days lost due to accident, emergency situations,
delivery by
sick time, etc. relative to total working hours
improving human
Change in programme implementation rate
resource retention
at the local
government offices
Examples of Outcomes and Indicators Addressing Institutionalization of
Good Practices
framework to
standards for
% of public procurement activities that is
covered by the new framework
Stakeholders’ rating on the compatibility of
procurement methods, advertising rules,
participation rules, tender documentation, tender
evaluation, submission and procedures with the
internationally recognizes standards
Adoption and mainstreaming of the framework
into Public Financial Management
Establishment of a functional Normative Body
quality of new
policy / norm
/ procedure
Lead and Lag
(the Body) at the Centre
Percent of public procurement officer that fully
understand the new framework and comply with
Rate of change in cost of common goods and
services purchased (inflation adjusted)
The change in the average procurement time
from time of requisition to the time delivery time
changes in
impact of the
on the
Example of Outputs and Output Indicators
Establishment of
monitoring and
evaluation system
 Percent of public programmes/projects that have
outcomes that are specific, time-bound, and measurable
 Percent of public programmes/projects that have M&E
plans with indicators that are clearly linked to the
outcome of the programme/project
 Percent of programme/project outcomes and outputs with
proper indicators, baselines and targets for measuring
 Percent of programme/project with sufficient resources
allocated for planned M&E activities – including availability
of skilled staff, financial resources and technical
 Percent of programme staff believe their roles and
responsibilities in monitoring and evaluation are clearly
defined and documented
 Percent of relevant employees who believe they have
sufficient skills to manage M&E system
 Percent of outputs with up-to-date data captured and
recorded in the M&E system
 Percent of stakeholders and data consumers believe data
is disaggregated by appropriate factors (e.g. gender, age,
geography, etc.)
 Existence of a documented data management process (for
example establishing responsibilities and timelines for
data capture)
 Existence of a systematic process of ensuring data quality
 Percent of data users who are satisfied with data quality
and data management
 Existence of plan to conduct an evaluation during the life
of the sector’s strategic plan or framework
 Percent of programme/project managers who receive
information from monitoring systems to assist in decisionmaking and planning
 Percent of relevant staff/stakeholders who believe the
sector strategies incorporate lessons learned and ‘good
practice’ from M&E records of the last cycle in a
systematic way
 Percent of data users who believe the M&E system
produces reports according to data user requirements,
with quality information that demonstrates
programme/project progress
 Percent of data users who believe they have sufficient
knowledge or support to access data
4. Resources
UN Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review 2007 (December 2007)
UNDG Position Statement on Capacity Development (December 2006)
UNDG Capacity Assessment Methodology User Guide: for National Capacity
Development (April 2008)
The UN Development System: A Collective Response to Supporting Capacity
Development, Workshop Report (May 2008)
UNDG CCA/UNDAF Guidelines (February 2009)
UNDG Website, Programming Principles, Capacity Development,
Supporting Capacity Development: The UNDP Approach
UNDP Practice Note on Capacity Development
UNDP Practice Note on Capacity Assessment
OECD The Challenge of Capacity Development: Working Towards Good Practice