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MEA Bulletin - Guest Article No. 66a - Thursday, 26 March 2009
UN initiatives on climate change capacity building and development
By Mamadou Moussa Diakhité, Manager, Climate Change Programme, United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR)*
Under the leadership of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s “Delivering as One” initiative, various UN agencies and institutions are joining efforts to address the numerous challenges posed by the threat and impacts of climate change.

The Chief Executives Board (CEB) initiative on climate change was launched in 2007, with the aim of improving coordination in support of national efforts to tackle climate change and facilitate the UNFCCC negotiating process. The CEB’s High-Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP) was given the responsibility to ensure that the UN system would “Deliver as One” in implementing this initiative. In subsequent steps, focus and cross-cutting areas were identified in response to the UNFCCC negotiation process and for the coordination of the broader mandates and capacities in the UN system.

With countries expressing the need to strengthen national institutions and human capacity to better address the impacts of climate change, develop courses of action for greater resilience, and implement relevant adaptation and mitigation activities, capacity building was recognized as a key part of the CEB initiative. The CEB publication “Acting on Climate Change: The UN System: Delivering as One” (available at provides a general overview of relevant initiatives and related collaboration within the UN system1. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) were designated to act as co-conveners in this focus area.

In this context and in collaboration with UNEP and UNDP, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) organized an event in Poznan, Poland, on the margins of the 14th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Several UN agencies showcased their capacity development activities, and outlined opportunities for cooperation. More information is available at: <> and <>.

I – Climate change capacity building and development in the UN

Both UNEP and UNDP, either individually or jointly, are providing technical support on various aspects of the climate change process on a continual basis, be it at the global, regional or national level. In addition, a number of other UN bodies are supporting climate change capacity development within the context of their respective mandates and areas of specialised expertise.

These UN capacity-building and development efforts collectively seek to support country-led initiatives in areas such as, but not limited to, national communications, national capacity self assessments, national adaptation programmes of action, and technology needs assessments. Interagency collaboration aims also at supporting decision makers at different levels to not only improve their knowledge and skills on climate change adaptation and mitigation policies, but also to contribute towards the integration of those policies into national economic and social development planning activities.

UNITAR, through its Climate Change Programme as well as other programmes (e.g. the Local Development Programme, the Environmental Governance Programme, the International Law Programme, as well as UNOSAT, which provides geographic information derived from satellite imagery that can assist in identifying climate change related transformations in land cover and the Public Finance and Trade Programme that offers e-learning on the subject of Climate Change: Risk and Opportunities for the Finance Sector) contributes towards enhancing the capacity of developing country governments and civil society representatives to improve participation in the UNFCCC process and to assist countries to implement decisions and policies at the national and local levels.

The Climate Change Programme has three main activities: the Climate Change Capacity Development project (C3D), the Advancing Capacity for Climate Change Adaptation project (ACCCA), and providing technical assistance and support to LDCs to prepare and implement their national adaptation programmes of action. Activities cut across both adaptation and mitigation issues. For more information, visit: <>.

In addition to the above ongoing support, and in response to a specific request from the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) group, at Poznan, UNDP, UNEP, UNITAR and the UNFCCC Secretariat have developed a proposal entitled: Joint Support to Least Developed Countries. This initiative seeks to provide LDC Parties with immediate support on the way to the landmark UNFCCC conference in Copenhagen (COP 15). It includes joint activities that aim to improve the negotiating skills of LDC delegates, to ensure they can more effectively participate in the negotiating sessions that will design the successor agreements of the Kyoto Protocol and shape the future intergovernmental climate change regime.

In practical terms, this support to LDC parties will consist of two preparatory sessions to be organized prior to UNFCCC meetings, to help the LDC group prepare by building a common understanding around the Bali Roadmap’s five pillars of a shared vision, adaptation, mitigation, technology transfer and deployment, and financing.

In this context, the added value of the One-UN approach to capacity building and development is that the involved UN agencies join efforts, with an obvious multiplier effect that will lead to more synergy in actions undertaken and effective use of available resources. A tangible example of this cooperation in 2009 is that two LDC preparatory meetings are to be held (before SB 30 and COP 15) in conjunction with UNEP.  Such pre-sessional workshops are traditionally provided only to regional groupings of Parties to the UNFCCC. 

II – Climate Change Training and technical support in the UN

UNITAR, along with few other entities, contributes towards enhancing the capacity of developing country government and civil society representatives to improve their participation in the UNFCCC process and to assist these countries to implement decisions and policies at the national level.

UNDP and UNEP have also supported UNITAR to put forward a proposal for the design, development and implementation of a professional platform that will aim to contribute towards meeting the “unprecedented needs and opportunities for awareness-raising, training, and skills development at the national, sub-national, and local levels of climate change governance,” especially for the implementation of the upcoming Copenhagen agreements on climate change. The ambitious objective of this initiative will be to bring together the UN’s climate change training materials mainly through cooperative efforts to design and develop a training service platform for climate change.

This One UN Training Service Platform for Climate Change, which is currently under review, will host the outcomes of the cooperation among UN agencies as it will be, in the course of time, populated by various products including training materials and other climate change-related information that has been developed, preferably by two or more UN agencies. While this platform initiative has a long-term vision linked to the implementation of the post-2012 climate range regime, it is envisaged that initial activities will start in 2009 in order to present concrete progress at the Copenhagen conference.

UNITAR, along with other UN agencies and institutions such as UNDP, UNEP, and the UNFCCC Secretariat, as well as the United Nations System Staff College, will service this training platform by contributing to the implementation and execution of its agreed core activities. Taking into consideration mandates and areas of specialization within the UN system, all other UN bodies will have the opportunity to take the lead and share their own experiences in dealing with climate change capacity building and development in their respective fields of work. Partners agreed to make sure that this framework will not aim at coordinating climate training in the UN system, but rather provide a light and efficient service and networking mechanism in support of initiatives and projects of UN system entities and Member States. 

In addressing climate change issues, both the public and private sectors play a very important role in policy development and implementation and in adaptation planning and implementation, all of which require the appropriate capacities and information. The development of climate change training and other capacity building and development materials is perceived as a unique opportunity for cooperation. In this spirit, UNITAR has started to assess existing climate change training courses/modules and to identify further needs in this area. Initial results of these activities will be available in mid-2009.
1TUN bodies mentioned in the CEB publication include FAO, GEF, IAEA, IFAD, ILO, ITU, UN Regional Commissions, UN-DESA, UNCTAD, UNDP, UNEP, UNFCCC Secretariat, UNFPA, UN-HABITAT, UNICEF, UNISDR, UNITAR, UN-OCHA, UNWTO, UPU, World Bank Group, WFP, WHO and WMO.
*The author would like to acknowledge the valuable input received from his CEB, UNEP, UNDP and UNITAR colleagues.
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