The notion of capacity development is very much in vogue as an integral element of environmental management in developing countries. We contend that current capacity development for the environment (CDE) efforts are limited in focus, emphasizing mainly implementation while paying insufficient attention to problem recognition and analysis as well as designing and assessing potential management strategies. At the same time, CDE programs and practitioners tend to assume that improving the environment in developing countries (or globally) requires building capacity in these countries, and not in their industrialized counterparts. This view overlooks the role of Northern consumption patterns with significant global footprints and Northern policies (such as agricultural subsidies) that drive unsustainable practices around the world. We suggest that “turning the lens around” and building capacity to examine and re-shape relevant Northern policies and institutions might correct this lacuna. Such a broadened scope can be expected to increase the effectiveness of CDE efforts and programs.
For a more detailed version of this essay, see VanDeveer and Sagar forthcoming.