Lessons learned in capacity development

Lessons learned in capacity development by SPREP from 20 years of working with the Pacific Island member countries are summarised as follows:

  • On‐the‐job training is most effective, with regional workshops being the least effective
  • Workshops should be seen as part of the capacity process – i.e. as training events - and not as the entire process
  • Exchanges and attachments are valuable, recognized as such, but not used as much as they should be. Its too easy to take the "workshop" option
  • Internships generally take the person away from their job for too long. Gap filling can be done with professional volunteers.
  • Follow-up to capacity building events is essential.
  • A lot of professionals actually have the technical knowledge but lack the confidence and/or institutional support to deliver. This is where follow-up and support can be most powerful.
  • Achieving conservation benefits is about showing people what success looks like and then supporting them on their own path to achieve it
  • Recognise champions and support them
  • Getting the right people to attend can be difficult – for all sorts of reasons
    1.  These can be for the "right" reasons
      • The country doesn't have enough people to cover all the meetings going on at the same time but wants to be involved and sends whoever they can
    1. More usually they are for the "wrong" reasons
      • Participation is taken by senior staff who are not interested in the subject
      • Participation is delegated down to junior staff not in a position to implement the training, or unlikely to stay in the post long
  • Strategic planning can be very useful, and often the process is more important than the resulting plan
  1. Multi-sector strategic planning helps breakdown organisational barriers
  2. Select the battles you can win
  • Clear institutional strategies are needed, owned by stakeholders, management and staff
  • Effective performance management systems are needed within institutions
  • Weak coordination of projects, activities and training events affects capacity development at all levels (individual, organisational and enabling environment) in the region.

MEA negotiation skills

Lessons learned in building capacity for MEA negotiations

The Pacific ACP countries are parties to and strong supporters of many Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) but experience and knowledge in negotiation skills have been identified as major constraints in effective participation at negotiations. In addition to the lack of negotiating skills, a further constraint is the lack of relevant available information prior to meetings on issues to be negotiated.

National capacity building
National negotiation skills training has two main components: a general overview of MEAs with a particular emphasis on MEA meetings, followed by a practical exercise in participating and making interventions in MEA meetings. Training is undertaken by trainers with extensive experience in participating at MEA meetings. As the overwhelming majority of MEAs are created and evolve within the UN process this makes the portability of the skills learned of tremendous utility as most national level officers will be responsible for more than one MEA.

To address the challenges of ad hoc training (due to serendipitous funding) and high staff turnover in national offices, SPREP has spent considerable time in improving and developing tools for participants which allows them to revise, enlarge their learning at their own rate and to update their knowledge through website links. The tools consist of two manuals:

  • Taking the Floor. A Pacific Island Country Guide to Negotiating International Environmental Agreements
  • Multilateral Environmental Agreements Negotiators Handbook

Regional support and capacity building
A regional preparatory meeting is typically held 2 – 3 months before the MEA Conference on the Parties (COP), and ideally runs for 5 days: 3 days for substantive matters plus 2 days of negotiation and media skills training. The substantive matters includes sessions covering the regional and global context of the relevant convention, lessons learned from past COP meetings, review of the COP agenda, identification of regional priorities, and formulation of regional positions, outcome statements and draft messages. Coordination of regional support for the Pacific delegation at the COP is also agreed. A Pacific Islands Brief is subsequently prepared for delegates attending the COP meeting itself.

At the COP meeting SPREP also provides a resource team to support and assist Pacific regional delegates.

Taken from: Key, J. and Peteru, C. 2011. Building capacity for Multilateral Environmental Agreements in the Pacific, Environmental Policy and Law, 41(6), pp288-291.