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SP26 - Capacity Building for Sustainable Development – foundations, significance and prospects of a concept in its thirties

Convened by Oliver Serfling, Alexander Brand and Jakob Lempp (Faculty of Society and Economics, Rhein-Waal University of Applied Sciences, Germany)

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Although the terms of ‘capacity building’ or ‘capacity development’ have been widely and interchangeably in use since the early 1990s[1], its theoretical and practical grounds remain vague[2]. With the Paris Declaration and Accra Agenda for Action this concept became a soft obligation for donor organizations. However, besides remarkable efforts of development agencies to embed capacity strengthening aspects in their frameworks and interventions, they still struggle with formulating a concise strategy, and to report progress in a structured manner. The complexity of the concept, with capacities being dispersed over multiple levels[3], and complementarities between them, makes it hard to program and evaluate such interventions.

However, in recent times of global turbulences, the disparities in the capability to adequately respond to development challenges becomes ever more salient. This might call for a revitalization of more conscious approaches towards Capacity Development, as to enhance resilience and to achieve long-term sustainable development.

So far, most of the discussion revolved around ad-hoc (impact evaluation) reports and thus had either an actor-based, geographic, or sectoral focus. The proposed seed panel would serve as a forum for sharing knowledge, results and practical approaches, aiming at establishing a common understanding and conceptual framework, to depicting cross-country and cross-sectoral methods and to determining a universal toolkit for Capacity Development.

Thus, we invite (draft) contributions (2,000 – 4,000 words) and work in progress that cover conceptual understanding, significance and trends, practical applications, impact evaluations, critique, and alternatives to Capacity Development. This might include both theoretical and empirical studies, as well as practice-based case studies, research reports, and policy frameworks from a multitude of regions, sectors, and actors.