The 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)


"Healthy Wetlands, Healthy People"
10th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties
to the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)
Changwon, Republic of Korea, 28 October - 4 November 2008
Ramsar COP10 DOC. 33
Available in English only

Enhancing wetland wise use: a guide for capacity development

This information paper has been prepared on behalf of the Advisory Board on Capacity Building for the Ramsar Convention.

Drafted by:  
Ingrid Gevers Wageningen International
In collaboration with the following WetCap partnership partners:
Anne van Dam  UNESCO-IHE
Bouke Ottow Deltares
Esther Koopmanschap Wageningen International
Simone van Vugt Wageningen International
Jim Woodhill Wageningen International

 Table of Contents


1.     Introduction
1.1    Why a Capacity Development Guide for Wetland Management?
1.2    What is the link between capacity development and the Ramsar Convention?
1.3    Who is this guide for and how can it be used?

2.    Capacity development: in introduction
2.1    What is capacity development?
2.2    Key factors for successful capacity development
2.2.1   Experiential learning   
2.2.2   Linking across individuals, organizations and institutions
2.2.3   Competencies: focusing on knowledge, skills and attitudes
2.2.4   Capacity development is an integrated, long-term effort
2.3    What is capacity development for wise use of wetlands    
2.3.1   Capacity development and wetlands
2.3.1   Capacities neded for wetland management
2.4    Be guided by the following steps

3.    Stepwise approach to capacity development for the wise use of wetlands
3.1    Capacity assessment and analysis   
3.2    Visioning   
3.3    Capacity development strategy phase   
3.4    Planning and programming   
3.5    Implementation and management   
3.6    Evaluation of activities
3.7    Reflective monitoring, evaluation and adaptation phase   

4.    References


Status and Roadmap

This paper has been prepared on behalf of the Advisory Board on Capacity Building for the Ramsar Convention by Wageningen International in collaboration with a number of WetCap partners.

The paper will be discussed at a side event at Ramsar’s 10th meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties in November 2008.

Based on the outcome of that meeting, the Advisory Board on Capacity Building for the Ramsar Convention will prepare proposals for a possible follow-up.

1.     Introduction

1.1    Why a Capacity Development Guide for Wetland Management?

1.    Wetlands are among the most productive and biodiversity-rich ecosystems in the world. As water attracts people, wetland management often involves difficult trade-offs between alternative land uses. The designation of Wetlands of International Importance (“Ramsar sites”) provides the starting point for securing the wise use of wetlands and the maintenance of wetland services, but successful long-term management can only be achieved through development and implementation of a management planning process (which should, incidentally, be applied to all wetlands irrespective of whether they are Ramsar sites). This planning process is complex because it has to consider both environmental and livelihood perspectives (especially the sustainable production of food).

2.    What does the wetland management planning process involve? The final goal of the planning process is the elaboration and implementation of a site management plan which identifies and describes:

  • the objectives of site management;
  • the factors that affect, or may affect, the various site features;
  • the management actions required to achieve the objectives;
  • the monitoring requirements for detecting changes in site features and for measuring the effectiveness of management.

3.    Other reasons for making the management plan are to:

  • demonstrate that management is effective and efficient;
  • maintain continuity of effective management;
  • resolve any conflicts of interest;
  • obtain resources for management implementation;
  • enable communication within and between sites, organizations and stakeholders;
  • ensure compliance with local, national and international policies.

4.    Making a good wetland management plan involves many people who may have different interests in the wetland, different perceptions about what is important, and different levels of knowledge and understanding of the wetland system. Socio-economic and ecological data are often not available and site managers, government officials and other stakeholder groups often lack the skills, knowledge and ability to respond effectively to new wetland management challenges. In other words: wetland management planning is a complex and time-consuming process. Site managers, Ramsar Administrative Authorities, NGOs and many other individuals or organizations are often given the difficult task of facilitating this planning process.

5.    To ensure the long-term success of wetland management planning, two ingredients for the process are especially important: 1) an integrated approach and 2) stakeholder participation.

6.    An integrated approach means that all resource uses are planned and managed in an integrated manner. Integration considers all environmental, social and economic factors (including, for example, impacts of the various economic and social sectors on the environment and natural resources) and all environmental and resource components together (i.e., air, water, biota, land, geological and natural resources). Integrated consideration facilitates appropriate choices and trade-offs, thus maximizing sustainable productivity and use.

Box 1.1 How this guide was developed (to be completed)

Describe the process: from when with whom and how this guide was developed.

7.    An integrated management approach is a process that promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources, in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.

8.    Such an integrated approach requires new knowledge and skills and, more importantly, often new approaches in planning. New knowledge, knowledge management and interactive planning skills will enhance the ability of stakeholders to make informed choices and contribute to the decision-making process.

9.    Many experiences from the past have shown that it is important to involve all stakeholders in the management planning process as they benefit from the sustainable use of wetland resources for livelihoods, recreation, and sociocultural or spiritual reasons. Wetland management plans that involve the stakeholders are more sustainable than those developed without stakeholders. The involvement of local residents and indigenous communities is especially important. Many management plans have been written with excellent descriptions of how the wetlands ‘should’ be managed, but many of these wetlands are still in jeopardy. Often management measures are not implemented because the management plan does not include a management agreement (oral or written, formal or informal) among the stakeholders.

10.    Stakeholder participation is essential for the success of wetland management. By involving local and indigenous people in:

  • deciding on management objectives and activities;
  • implementing management plans; and
  • monitoring the effectiveness of agreed measures to address the problems and opportunities,

the sustainability of management activities will be enhanced.

11.    The long-term success of wetland programmes depends on the degree to which the people owning, living in and depending on wetland resources are able to make informed decisions that result in sustainable management and lasting economic viability. To achieve long-term goals and objectives, investments in people are as critical as investments in on-the-ground works. Without this investment in people at all levels, including the government, there will be little chance of securing wise use of wetlands. In essence, long-term sustainable wetland management depends largely on building human and social capital.

12.    To build this capital, capacity development is needed to support all stakeholders in the wetland management process. Policy-makers need support to integrate environmental goals into policy and strategy development and to integrate local wetland management into management of the entire catchment. Planners and managers need sufficient technical skills to develop and implement on-the-ground initiatives. Managers and communities need to learn about conflict management and resolution. The people who live in and depend directly on wetlands for their livelihood have a major role to play along with government and other stakeholders.

13.    The Ramsar Convention recognises that stakeholder involvement and participation in management decision-making for Ramsar sites and other wetlands has been essential throughout its history and therefore calls upon the Contracting Parties “to make specific efforts to encourage active and informed participation of local and indigenous people at Ramsar listed sites and other wetlands and their catchments, and their direct involvement, through appropriate mechanisms, in wetland management”. The Ramsar Secretariat states that capacity development is required to be able to deal with the complex requirements of a wetland management planning process. However, little guidance on this topic is available to the Contracting Parties. This is why a document that outlines capacity development for facilitators, coordinators, managers and other stakeholders is essential.

14.    This document presents a guide for establishing capacity development programmes at national and regional level to support wetland management. It provides the Contracting Parties of the Ramsar Convention and in particular the Ramsar Administrative Authorities with a stepwise approach for developing and implementing capacity development activities in support of the Convention. This guide gives suggestions not only for possible capactiy development actions but also for the identification of relevant stakeholders in the wetland management process, and for individuals and organizations it includes tools and other resources that can provide assistance in the capacity development process.

1.2    What is the link between Capacity Development and the Ramsar Convention?

15.    Capacity development is very important for the Ramsar Convention. The Ramsar Strategic Plan 2003-2008 and the Convention Work Plan 2006-2008 have two Operational Objectives/Strategies that are especially relevant:

  • “Develop the capacity within, and promote cooperation among, institutions in Contracting Parties to achieve conservation and wise use”
  • “Identify the training needs of institutions and individuals concerned with the wise use of wetlands, particularly in developing countries and countries in transition, and implement appropriate responses”

16.    The Ramsar Convention supports capacity development through its Communication, Education and Public Awareness (CEPA) Programme. The CEPA Programme’s main vision is: ‘People acting for the wise use of wetlands’. In the newly-developed draft Strategic Plan 2009-2015, the importance of capacity development is stressed again: “To ensure that the Convention (157 Contracting Parties) has the required mechanisms, resources and capacity to achieve its mission, the capacity needs to be developed.”

17.    This Wetlands Capacity Development Guide is primarily focused on supporting the implementation of the Ramsar Convention by assisting Parties and others in developing capacity to act for the wise use of wetlands. At the same time, it can serve as a framework for other programmes involving capacity building in support of biodiversity, wetland or water management. Rather than stand in isolation of similar initiatives in other sectors, it is important to be aware of and learn from the wide range of capacity building frameworks and strategies that already exist. This guide has therefore drawn from background papers and reference materials on topics such as capacity development, wetland management, sustainable development, learning theory, etc. Moreover, the framework builds on the experiences of Wageningen International with the design and implementation of capacity development programmes in wetland management and restoration. It also draws on the experiences of the WetCap partnership with the capacity building component of the Wetlands and Poverty Reduction Programme (Wetlands International, 2006) and other international capacity development programmes in wetland management such as the Training of Trainers in Wetland Management (Wageningen International and WATC-RIZA) and the on-line course on wetland management of UNSECO-IHE.

1.3    Who is this guide for and how can it be used?

18.    This document presents a framework for establishing capacity development programmes at national and regional level to support the wise use of wetlands. It is meant to be used as a learning document. It does not pretend to lay down the final concept of capacity development for wise use of wetlands – instead, it is meant as a guiding document which helps address capacity development issues and needs more efficiently. It builds consistently on lessons learned and best practices in wetland management and includes sources of information, examples of capacity building initiatives, relevant websites, tools and case studies. In this sense, it can be regarded as a “living” document, to be updated and enriched regularly with new information, tools, case studies and best practices.

19.    This guide is primarily oriented towards the Ramsar Administrative Authorities (AA) responsible for the implementation of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. It aims to facilitate the role of the Administrative Authorities as implementers of the Convention, including the development and implementation of capacity building programmes for the wise use of wetlands. To be effective in this role, they need a good balance between theoretical understanding, knowledge of the available methods and tools for capacity development interventions, and personal facilitation, leadership and communication skills.

20.    Besides the Administrative Authorities, the guide can also be used as a resource tool for a wide range of stakeholders involved in wetland management, including governments, training institutes and organizations, regional bodies, NGOs, resource users, etc. It can be applied and adapted to local and regional conditions and needs.

21.    After this introduction, Chapter 2 provides a background of capacity development and its underlying concepts. It defines capacity development for the wise use of wetlands and the competencies that are needed by the various stakeholder groups when addressing wetland management challenges. Chapter 2 also describes the different phases of capacity development. Chapter 3 makes the step from theory and thinking to practice. It describes the different phases of the capacity development cycle and includes relevant questions that can be asked to guide assessments and make informed decisions. It also provides examples of best practices and cases.

22.    The appendices provide a list of references to existing background information, resources, methods and tools available and organizations and people that can provide assistance to capacity development.

2.    Capacity development: an introduction

2.1    What is capacity development?

23.    Capacity development is a core concept in development cooperation. It broadens the development focus from catering to direct needs and provision of technical assistance to addressing more structural causes of poverty, including the political economy. Treating challenges of developing countries as challenges of capacity development also provides more entry points for identifying and implementing interventions. This changing perspective helps one to think more strategically about development cooperation.

Box 2.1  Capacity development – UNDP

UNDP defines capacity development as the process by which individuals, organizations and institutions develop abilities (individually and collectively) to perform functions to solve problems and achieve objectives (UNDP).

24.    Capacity building is more than transferring cognitive knowledge to a single target group. Wetland management is a multidisciplinary field with a variety of interacting stakeholders. Every wetland project involves a range of stakeholders, from local communities and their organizations through local government and non-government agencies to higher-level decision- and policy-makers. Capacity building for wetlands should be a dynamic process that stimulates these different stakeholder groups to communicate, work and learn together towards the common goal of wise use of wetlands.

25.    In this guide, the definition of the OECD is adopted in which ‘capacity’ is seen as the ability of people, organizations and society as a whole to manage their affairs successfully. Capacity development is then understood as the process whereby people, organizations and society as a whole unleash, strengthen, create and maintain capacity over time (OECD, 2006). Capacity includes potential, ability to activate the potential, and willingness to use the potential. It is a process and not a passive state and must build on existing core capacities.

Box 2.2  Examples of the types of capacity development activities that Wageningen International integrates into different programs:

  • Facilitation of analysis and planning with key stakeholders
  • Designing and supporting multi-stakeholder learning and change processes
  • Training and train the trainer programmes
  • Organizational development support
  • Facilitating policy dialogue
  • Action research/learning with key stakeholder groups
  • Mentoring processes and e-coaching
  • Advisory support
  • Study tours
  • Production of written resource materials that make research findings accessible to key audiences
  • Establishment of web-based resource portals and e-learning activities.
  • Etc.

26.    The multi-faceted nature of capacity and capacity development and the multitude of approaches result in many different forms that capacity development efforts can take. For example, capacity development efforts focusing on development of resources or technical skills and knowledge are less complex and need less time than efforts involving organizational development and related change processes (see Figure 2.1). Institutional change processes are most complex and require a lot of perseverance. However, the potential structural impact of such complex and long-term interventions is also higher. Deliberate, strategic choices therefore need to be made when engaging in capacity development.

27.    Each situation with a specific past, present and future requires its own unique capacity development approach. In reality comparable approaches of capacity development are often used in very distinct situations and therefore often less effective.

Box 2.3  The Netherlands Development Organization’s (SNV) paper “Capacity development; from theory to SNV’s practice” provides a background on the concept of capacity development

1.    Capacity development takes place at different levels;
2.    Capacity is equal to the ability to perform. This ability is not only determined by factors internal to the individual (skills, knowledge) or the organization (human resources), but also by a number of external dimensions, such as the availability of appropriate technologies, societal norms and values, economic opportunities, political will, and legal and administrative realities. Both the limitations and opportunities presented by these internal and external factors deserve due attention and are key determinants of the sustainability and success of capacity development.
3.    In this light, it should also be noted that capacity development has a strong “political dimension’’ and is not power neutral. One way of dealing with these political dimensions is in offering capacity development support to those organizations that have the potential and the will to effectively address the structural causes of poor wetland management.
4.    Capacity development is a dynamic process that is often part of a broader developmental or change process. As a consequence, it is difficult to plan in advance which steps will need to be taken, or which dynamics will evolve. An appropriate support in this can be process facilitation. This concept is used in relation to the facilitation of the effective interaction between different players during key phases of the change process (for example, important meetings or decision-making moments) but also in relation to the long-term guidance of an extended, multi-phased development process.
5.    The importance of the less tangible or ‘soft’ elements of capacity is increasingly recognised. Examples of such elements are leadership, culture, values, legitimacy etc. These factors are equally determining the success and performance of an individual or an organization, but often more difficult to grasp.
6.    It should be recognised that capacity development can only be voluntary, and should be grounded in ownership.

2.2    Key Factors for Successful Capacity Development

28.    For effective capacity development not only technical skills, knowledge and attitude but also process-related skills are needed. Four concepts are important to understand capacity development:

  • Experiential learning, i.e., enabling adults to learn in ways that build on existing experience
  • Different levels (individual, organizational and institutional) at which capacity development is achieved
  • Competencies (skills, knowledge and attitude) as the basis for capacity development
  • Capacity development as an integrated set of activities over a longer period in time

These concepts will be explained further in the following paragraphs.

2.2.1  Experiential learning

29.    Experiences from fisheries and forestry have shown that co-management approaches (i.e., resource management for which the responsibility and authority is shared between governments and local resource users) can lead to improved resource management. Establishment of co-management is often achieved only after a long process of change from more traditional forms of management. The foundation of such change processes has been found to be collaborative experiential learning. People who are able to learn together are also much more effective when working together.

30.    Bringing learning into wetland management requires that stakeholder groups who are frequently not involved in hands-on management (such as communities and researchers) also become part of the partnership. Such learning partnerships between government, managers, resource users and researchers can build on the particular strengths, skills and knowledge of every one of them, thereby improving the quality and scope of learning as well as the number of people benefiting from it. Close collaboration between stakeholder groups brings the greatest benefits, but it is also a great challenge given the different perspectives, thinking and practices of each group. Addressing this challenge is a fundamental component of experiential learning.

Box 2.4  Definition of learning

Learning is the mental process through which people acquire or improve the ability to change their thinking and/or behaviour.
Wageningen International

31.    The common fundamental idea of experiential learning approaches is that management action is necessary despite the fact that not everything about the resource (in this case, the wetland) is known. Experiential learning accepts the fact that uncertainties exist and that we do not have all the answers. Management should therefore be part of a structured learning process in which management and learning occur at the same time. This contrasts with more traditional natural resources management approaches, where learning is usually detached from the decision-making process.

32.    The experiential learning cycle developed by Kolb (1984) refers to the process by which individuals, teams and organizations attend to and understand their experiences and consequently modify their behaviours. An individual or group engages in each stage of the cycle in order to effectively learn from their experiences. The four stages of the learning cycle are:

  • learning from concrete experiences;
  • learning from reflective observation;
  • learning from abstract conceptualization;
  • learning from active experimentation.

33.    Anyone who thinks about the skills or insights learned when addressing wetland management challenges can probably identify these four learning stages.

34.    Although the learning cycle can begin at any one of the four stages, it is suggested that the cycle starts with an individual, team or group carrying out a particular action and seeing the effect of this action in the situation (“concrete experiences”). This means exploring what happened, noting observations, paying attention to the feelings of the individual or the group to build up a multidimensional picture of the experience. The second stage of the cycle (“reflective observation”) involves reviewing and analysing what has been done and experienced to arrive at theories, models or concepts that explain the experience and to understand why things happened the way they did. This theorising or conceptualising about experience is very important to learning. It is where solutions to problems and innovative ideas come from. Drawing on existing theories is a crucial part of this stage. Armed with this understanding of past experience, the third stage (“abstract conceptualization”) involves deciding what is most important and generating ideas about how to improve future actions and how to put what has been learned into practice. Finally, in the fourth stage (“active experimentation”) these new ideas or solutions are put into practice by taking action which results in a new experience. And so the cycle continues.

35.    Different persons tend to have different styles of learning. Most individuals place more emphasis on, or feel more comfortable with, only one or a few stages of the learning cycle. For example, some people just like exploring lots of new ideas and situations without ever moving on to taking action. Other people tend to jump to conclusions without fully exploring or analysing the whole situation. Then there are those who are happy as long as they are busy and don’t think too much about producing results. By being aware of these learning styles, in individuals or in groups, problem solving and decision making can be improved dramatically.

Box: 2.5  David Kolb’s experiential learning cycle (1984)

Experiencing: immersing oneself in "doing"
Reflection: reviewing what has been done
Conceptualization: interpreting the events and understanding the relationships
Practical application: deciding what actions should be taken

2.2.2 Linking across individuals, organizations and institutions

36.    Capacity development should consider different levels that each represent a possible entry point for involvement. These levels are: individual, organizational and institutional.

37.    The institutional level represents the societal context in which development processes take place. Capacity may be reflected in the form of good economic policies, high levels of professional commitment, a lack of conflicts or availability of methods to resolve them. Overall, well-developed institutional capacity creates an enabling environment for development. Factors such as low accountability, high levels of corruption, etc., weaken the institutional capacity. Initiatives to develop capacity at this level tend to focus on issues of good governance. With respect to capacity for wetland management, institutional capacity includes coherent wetland policies and strategies, as well as coordination across sectors. Interventions for increasing capacity may focus on issues such as wetland policy reform or service delivery.

38.    The organizational level of capacity development focuses on organizational structures, processes, resources and wetland management issues. Well-developed organizational capacity means that people are working in organizational structures (e.g., ministries, departments, institutes, etc.) that are equipped with the necessary infrastructure (buildings, computers, vehicles etc.) and operational budgets (to buy office supplies, fuel, etc.) to work efficiently and effectively. Building organizational capacity has been a key concern of much donor assistance in the form of technical assistance, budgetary or infrastructure support or support for organizational linkages.

39.    The individual level in capacity development refers to individuals operating within or being affected by the institutional and organizational levels.

40.    Overall capacity is not just the sum of individual, institutional and organizational capacities, but includes the opportunities and incentives for people to use and extend their skills within an enabling environment. Capacity development takes place not only within individuals, but also between them and within the institutions and networks they create.

2.2.3 Competencies: focusing on knowledge, skills and attitudes

41.    Capacity development programmes often focus on training people in knowledge and skills. To achieve wise use of wetlands, however, it is essential that stakeholders become convinced of the need to support the protection and sustainable management of wetlands. What is needed is an increased engagement leading to changes in the practice of wetland management. Capacity development efforts should therefore not only include knowledge and skill development but also address the will, attitude and behaviour of individuals involved in wetland management. Not every individual involved needs to possess all the skills or have all of the knowledge, but a common positive attitude really helps move the process along.

42.    Sustainable wetland management requires a broad knowledge base on many subjects. Knowledge of a subject consists of the data and information and the models and theories related to that subject. Although no one individual needs to master this complete knowledge base, a wetland management team or partnership should aim at collectively having this knowledge available and filling as much as possible any knowledge gaps. Management processes, being dynamic and evolutionary, should always be open to new information, understanding and concepts.

Box 2.6  Skills needed to achieve wetland wise use

  • Technical skills
  • Communication, facilitation and team-building skills;
  • Research, planning and evaluation skills;
  • Problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills and;
  • Management skills.

43.    Knowledge by itself, however, is not enough to successfully initiate and sustain wetland wise use efforts. Applying knowledge is equally important. For this, skills are needed. Skills help to transform theory and knowledge into action. Skills involve the performance of mental or physical tasks. Skill is the ability to undertake a task competently –  it is not about luck or a one-time effort. Skills can be learned and are repeatable. Capacity development for the wise use of wetlands calls for more than technical wetland skills. It also requires development or strengthening of more general, non-wetland related skills such as facilitation, conflict management, general management and good governance, community participation and mobilisation, information and communication skills.

44.    Attitude is the preference of an individual or organization towards or away from issues, challenges, events or people. It is the spirit and perspective from which an individual, group or organization approaches sustainable wetland management. Attitude shapes all decisions and actions. Attitude is very difficult to define with precision as it includes qualities and beliefs that are intangible. Although attitude often refers to individuals, it is important to recognize that organizations also have attitude. An organization’s attitude is often described by the term “organizational culture”.

Box 2.7  Examples of attitudes needed to successfully lead or actively participate in a wetland management initiative

  • respect for the individual and stakeholder groups involved;
  • strong sense of responsibility and commitment;
  • empathy (understanding where others are coming from);
  • openness to looking at alternate solutions, new opportunities and ways to improve;
  • patience, perseverance and endurance;
  • creativity, innovation and intuition;
  • willingness to participate without always having to lead;
  • trust in others; and
  • self-confidence.

45.    Constantly keeping “attitude” in mind in capacity development processes and actions can be quite difficult. It is important for both individuals and organizations to check from time to time how well their attitude is reflected in their actions.

2.2.4 Capacity development is an integrated, long-term effort

46.    As discussed in Chapter 1 and illustrated in figure 2.1 (Levels of CD Intervention), capacity development requires an integrated set of activities at various levels (institutional, organizational and individual) over a longer period in time. Technical skills and knowledge development of individuals should be addressed simultaneously with organizational development and institutional change. A last point to emphasize about capacity development is that it needs a long-term commitment from all involved. It takes time to change individual attitudes and organizational culture and to create an enabling environment. It takes time to change from traditional top-down management approaches to participatory management and collaborative learning. Donors, implementing agencies and stakeholders should realize that capacity development programmes need a long-term commitment to become successful.

2.3    What is capacity development for wise use of wetlands

2.3.1  Capacity development and wetlands

47.    Capacity building for wetland management should go beyond the traditional, top-down approach of enhancing skills and knowledge through training and provision of technical advice. It should focus on enhancing stakeholder engagement in all aspects of wetland management, from planning to on-ground actions. Therefore, in addition to the transfer of technology and technical capability, capacity building should foster social cohesion within stakeholder groups and communities in particular, and build both human and social capital. Human capital here refers to the capability of individuals, and social capital refers to the support that social networks, relationships and processes within a society give to individuals to apply their capabilities.

48.    Given the complexity of wetlands, positive environmental change will only be evident in the long term. Therefore, it is important to identify intermediate outcomes of capacity building such as increased awareness of wetland issues and on-ground actions that contribute directly to the longer-term goals. Although they are the means to an end rather than an end in themselves, these intermediate outcomes form the foundation upon which sustainable wetland management is built. Important intermediate outcomes of capacity building are changes in attitude, behavior, and practice and the development of the necessary skills and knowledge in stakeholders. These skills and knowledge will enable them to be pro-active and direct change, rather than being overtaken by it.

49.    Capacity and its development for the wise use of wetlands is a multidimensional phenomenon. Figure 2.2 below shows the many different perspectives to develop capacity for the wise use of wetlands

Figure 2.2: Aspects of capacity development for the wise use of wetlands

2.3.2 Capacities needed for wetland management

50.    Most wetland management efforts begin with the identification of a specific set of problems or issues such as floods, pollution or other problems. A second step is identifying and bringing together key actors or stakeholders. Key actors or stakeholders are the individuals, groups or organizations with a major stake in what happens to the wetland ecosystem and also have the ability to influence what happens. They can organize, adopt and implement wetland planning and management strategies. Stakeholders will participate if they feel they have a stake in the planning process and can benefit from its result. In many cases, the two major objectives of wetland management planning are protection of the wetland ecosystem and its biodiversity, and sustainable development (e.g., livelihoods of local resource users, or economic development in general). The identification of win-win strategies for both biodiversity conservation and rural development is a key to involving shareholders. In other words, wetland management should be environmentally, economically and socially sustainable.

51.    For wetland conservation and management, a wide variety of stakeholders may be identified. As an example, we refer to the stakeholder groups identified for the Ramsar CEPA Programme ( This guide is focused on the stakeholder related to the wetland site management process. A range of stakeholders exist at local, regional and national policy levels, including government organizations and NGOs, who play a role in site management and have a direct influence on the way local people interact with their wetlands. As all stakeholders need to engage in the discussions to achieve effective cooperation, communication and participation, it is essential to identify all relevant stakeholders and map their relationships.

52.    In Table 1, the following general stakeholder groups for wetland management and their interest and role in the management process are identified:

  • Policy makers
  • Implementing agencies
  • Communities and community-based organizations (CBOs)
  • Private sector
  • Research and academia

53.    For each group, Table 2 defines the competencies needed in the wetland management planning process in terms of knowledge, skills and attitudes.

Table 1: Stakeholder groups, their interests and role in wetland

Stakeholder groups


Main interest and activity in the wetland

Main activity in the wetland management process

Policy makers

Often (but not always) government institutions, at levels ranging from local to regional to national from different sectors. Examples:

  • ministries and their departments, (water, environment, agriculture, public works, tourism, etc.)
  • districts and town councils
  • environmental management authorities
  • water management authorities, etc.

Policy makers develop policy in line with existing (higher level) policy. They balance the needs of people (socio-economic) and nature. For this they analyze, formulate, evaluate policies, support politicians, achieve policy targets.

They provide background and rationale for management, legal framework/justification and institutional context.


Implementing agencies

Often government, from different departments and sectors. Can also be NGOs. Examples:

  • agricultural extension services
  • water and sanitation departments/ corporations
  • tourism bureau
  • wildlife service, etc.

Wetland managers are often part of this group.

Develop policies into strategies and plans (objectives, activities and budgets) and implement them. E.g.:

  • enforce protected areas,
  • manage irrigation systems,
  • build water supply or sewage systems,
  • enforce fishing regulations, etc.

They are responsible for implementing policies for the common good and the interests of the state.

They know a lot about the wetland and its context and can contribute important knowledge and data to the wetland management plan. They can contribute to the development, monitoring and enforcing of the management effort.

Communities and CBOs

People living in or close to the wetland and often depending on the wetland for part or all of their livelihoods. Sometimes they are organized into community-based organizations (CBOs) Examples:

  • farmers
  • fishermen
  • women groups

They benefit from the wetland services. This can be in the form of products (food, water, other materials) harvested from the wetland or in the form of other services (e.g., flood protection, water purification, recreation, religion, etc.).

They know a lot about the wetland which they can contribute to the planning process. They also need to stand up for their interests in the wetland as a support for their livelihoods, i.e., their role is to negotiate with the other stakeholders so that they can get a reasonable part of their claims honoured and respect the other interests in the wetland.

Private sector

Individuals or companies with a commercial interest in the wetland. Examples:

  • commercial farms,
  • tourism operators and hotels,
  • mining companies, etc.

They want to use the wetland for an economic activity – they may harvest products from the wetlands or make use of unique features of the wetland that can be turned into a service for other people. Their attitude towards the wetland depends on whether they have a short-term (quick profit) or long-term vision (sustainable profit).

Idem with communities and CBOs

Research and academia

Faculty and students of universities or staff of government or private research institutions.

  • universities
  • fisheries institute
  • agricultural research station
  • biological research station
  • national statistics bureau, etc.

They do research in the wetland and use the results for teaching programmes or for publications.

They know a lot about the wetland which they can contribute to the planning process. They can even generate new knowledge based on the requirements of the management process They can communicate knowledge about the wetland to different stakeholder groups in the appropriate form. They can also play a role in facilitating the management process and in monitoring the management process once a plan is being implemented

Table 2: Competencies needed in the wetland management planning process

Stakeholder group

Role in the wetland management process

Competence requirements




Policy makers

  • Define wetland policies
  • Understand and relate to other policies
  • Provide the rationale and background for the planning process


  • Importance and value of wetlands
  • Awareness of multi-sectoral character of wetlands
  • Awareness of pre-requisites for successful planning (e.g., stakeholder involvement, funding, etc.)
  • Communication and negotiation


  • Openness, transparency
  • Sense of common interest
  • Service-oriented
  • Reliable
  • Willing to do their best for wise use of wetlands

Wetland managers

  • Facilitate planning process
  • Collect knowledge about wetland site and share with other stakeholders
  • Develop and implement wetland management plan


  • Wetland ecosystem functioning
  • Sustainable use of wetlands
  • Wetland management planning process (including writing of plan)
  • Stakeholder analysis
  • Facilitation of stakeholder processes
  • Conflict resolution
  • Communication and negotiation
  • Wetland management planning process (including writing of plan)
  • Facilitation of planning process
  • Facilitation/chairing of meetings and workshops
  • Fund raising
  • Facilitation of stakeholder processes
  • Conflict resolution
  • Service-oriented
  • Willing to do their best for wise use of wetlands

Communities and CBOs

  • Make use of wetland services
  • Contribute local knowledge to management plan
  • Participate in formulating management objectives
  • Participate in implementing management plan (actions, monitoring, evaluation)
  • Organize communities and create awareness
  • Importance and value of wetlands
  • Wetland ecosystem functioning
  • Sustainable use of wetlands
  • Wetland management planning process
  • Communication and negotiation
  • Facilitation of stakeholder processes (some CBO’s)
  • Conflict resolution (some CBO’s)


  • Willing to do their best for wise use of wetlands

Private sector

  • Make use of wetland services
  • Create awareness in private sector about importance of wetlands
  • Importance and value of wetlands
  • Wetland ecosystem functioning
  • Sustainable use of wetlands
  • Wetland management planning process
  • Communication and negotiation


  • Willing to do their best for wise use of wetlands

Research and academia

  • Collect and disseminate knowledge about wetlands
  • Provide answers to questions arising from planning process
  • Provide alternative management options


  • Importance and value of wetlands
  • Wetland ecosystem functioning
  • Sustainable use of wetlands
  • Wetland management planning process


  • Communication and negotiation
  • Wetland research techniques
  • Stakeholder analysis
  • Facilitation of stakeholder processes
  • Conflict resolution
  • Communication of knowledge to general public
  • Openness, transparency
  • Sense of common interest
  • Service-oriented
  • Reliable

2.4    Be guided by the following steps

54.    Wetland capacity development follows a cycle of planning, implementation and monitoring and evaluation (see Figure 2.3). The process moves from the analysis of actual capacities (“Where we are now”) to the formulation of capacity development objectives (“Where we want to be”) to the identification of suitable capacity development initiatives (“How to get there”). The framework also takes into consideration sustainability issues (“How to stay there”).

Figure 2.3 Framework for capacity development

55.    The phases of the capacity development framework are described below in more detail. The practical aspects of each phase are further detailed in Chapter 3 and supported by examples, best practices, recommended methods and tools.

1)    Capacity assessment and analysis phase

56.    The first phase of the cycle is the capacity assessment and analysis phase. In this phase, an analysis is made of areas where capacities could be strengthened or where capacities exist on which the wetland management process can build. The insights into available capacity and capacity needs that are generated during the capacity assessment phase serve as key inputs into the formulation of capacity development interventions. The indicators used to measure capacity serve as a baseline for subsequent monitoring and evaluation of capacity development for wetland wise use.

57.    Part of this phase is a capacity needs assessment. This needs assessment identifies the gap between “what is” and “what should be.” A needs assessment determines the purpose and learning objectives of the capacity development programme and forms the basis of the design and evaluation of the programme. It indicates what capacity development should focus on and helps to define capacity building activities based on the learning needs of the target group.

58.    The gap between the desired and the actual performance of the target group has to be assessed. This involves questions like: What is the actual behavior of the target group? Are they indifferent and passive? Or are they active in a wrong or ineffective way? It should be emphasized that desired and actual behavior are different from official job descriptions! Desired behavior is determined by the overall purpose of the management process (e.g., wise use of wetlands). Actual behavior is assessed by observing stakeholder groups and and talking to them. For example, fishermen who want to use the wetlands in a sustainable way should only catch a certain amount of fish, or park rangers should patrol regularly, or managers should frequently meet with the local population. Instead, observation may reveal that the fishermen catch too many fish, the park rangers seldom visit the whole park, and the managers don’t meet the local population at all.

Box 2.8  A capacity needs assessment:

  • Identifies the gap between ‘what is’ and ‘what should be’
  • Provides information on how these gaps could be addressed
  • Indicates what capacity development should focus on
  • Helps to define what the organization should do to make optimal use of increased capacities

59.    The question is what needs to be done to change the actual behavior into desired behavior: do the stakeholders need awareness, knowledge or understanding? Do they lack motivation? Why? Or do they need certain skills, like developing a management plan? Or do they lack the equipment, or clear instructions or incentives. Or are the existing incentives luring them into another direction? Which of these can be tackled by capacity building activities or programmes?

60.    The capacity needs assessment will answer these questions by focusing on identifying and solving performance problems related to knowledge, skills and attitude. A needs assessment identifies existing capacity gaps related to institutional, organizational and individual performance and provides information for decision-making on how these gaps could be addressed.

2)    Visioning for capacity development phase

61.    A vision is a statement that describes a future state. The formulation of a vision is closely linked to the capacity assessment phase. In the visioning phase, the capacities that need to be in place in the future to achieve the wise use of the wetland are formulated. When defining the level of desired future capacities, it is important to take into account the time needed to achieve these capacities and the desired scale (local, national, river basin, regional, global). Comparing the desired future capacity with the existing capacity will determine the effort required to bridge the gap.

3)    Capacity development strategy phase

62.    The vision and the capacity assessment provide the basis for the capacity development strategy phase. The capacity development strategy defines the overall goal and long-term impact that the capacity building programme will accomplish. Capacity development is a process of change in which various actors are stimulated to take on new responsibilities, skills, behaviours, values, and policies. This process of change addresses specific development problems or content areas. For each major challenge/issue a change strategy will have to be defined. The strategy includes indicators to measure the impact of the capacity development efforts. The capacity development strategy, accompanied by a budget, should become part of the wetland management and/or strategic development plans and provide the basis for the annual programming and budgeting of capacity building actions.

4)    Planning and programming phase

63.    In the planning and programming phase of the capacity development cycle, an annual wetland capacity building action plan is formulated, including simple project plans. At this stage it is necessary to distinguish between the capacity development activities that need external support and those that can be implemented through existing means. Moreover, external service providers need to be identified and the nature and quality of their services and products need to be assessed.

64.    When searching for services to satisfy capacity development needs, solutions should first of all be sought at local or national level, as this will engage local actors and enhance their capacity to innovate and perform. Tendering of capacity building services is an approach to strengthen competition among service provider organizations from both the public and private sectors, thereby improving the quality of products.

65.    The action plan will include several types of activities geared towards the different levels of capacity. It can range from individual skills and competencies training programmes for government officials to new operational and decision-making procedures for national, regional and local government institutions. It can comprise activities to improve communication and coordination between government institutions, as well as streamlining of wetland policies and regulatory frameworks and integration of wetland issues into strategic development objectives.

Box 2.9  The action plan will:

  • describe the major capacity development activities;
  • formulate learning objectives for the target group;
  • identify learning strategies and delivery mechanisms;
  • indicates the intermediate targets (= milestones) forming the basis for monitoring;
  • determine the timing and duration of each activity;
  • assign responsibilities for the implementation;
  • list resources (materials, equipment, etc.) required;
  • specify the costs for each activity

5)    Implementation and management phase

66.    The implementation and management phase of the capacity development process comprises a variety of capacity building interventions. This phase has to be designed in sufficient detail. As conditions may have changed since the formulation of the strategy and plan, a verification of the strategy and an update of the underlying capacity problems and needs should take place during the implementation itself.

6)    Reflective monitoring, evaluation and adaptation phase

67.    Given that wetland outcomes are only achievable over the long term, monitoring the achievement of intermediate outcomes, such as attitude, practice and behaviour change, is critical in assessing the impact of short-term investments of wetland programs. Capacity building activities are key mechanisms through which these intermediate outcomes can be realised. Monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of these activities in bringing about the desired change should be an integral component of developing and implementing a capacity building plan. Monitoring and evaluation is the key mechanism for:

  • reporting activities against expenditure;
  • assessing the success of various capacity building initiatives and revising the approach towards capacity building accordingly; and
  • revising progress towards targets and based on this information, reviewing the level to which targets are realistic and achievable in the given time-frame.

3.    Stepwise approach to capacity development for the wise use of wetlands

68.    In this chapter the steps to be taken in each phase of the capacity development process when developing and implementing capacity development activities in support of the wise use of wetlands will be explained in detail.

69.    This chapter will be further detailed based on the outcome of the side event on Capacity Development for Wetland Wise Use organized at Ramsar COP 10 in Korea, 2008.

3.1    Capacity assessment and analysis

Box 3.1  Steps

1.    Identify main stakeholder groups related to challenges in the wise use of wetlands resulting in
    -    the need for capacity development assessment
    -    their contributions and functions in capacity development

2.    Capacity assessment
    2.1    Prepare the capacity assessment
       2.1.1 Ensure stakeholder involvement
       2.1.2 Set objectives for capacity assessment
       2.1.3 Define the scope and scale of the capacity assessment
        2.1.4 Define the desired capacity
    2.2    Assess level of existing capacities (institutional, organizational, individual level)
    2.3    Conduct capacity development needs assessment (institutional level, organizational, individual level)
    2.4    Analyse and interpret the results

3.    Analyse capacity gaps at each level and between levels related to the vision

4.    Conduct stakeholder analysis to identify their contributions and functions in capacity development

3.2    Visioning

Box 3.2


  • Visioning encourages participation for developing a long-range plan.
  • Visioning is an integrated approach to policy-making. With overall goals in view, it helps avoid piecemeal and reactionary approaches to addressing problems.
  • Visioning uses participation as a source of ideas in the establishment of long-range policy. It draws upon deeply-held feelings about overall directions of public agencies to solicit opinions about the future.
  • When completed, visioning presents a democratically-derived consensus.
  • When using tools such as ‘Rich picture’ as a visioning tool, this offers the following advantages:

    -    can involve stakeholders who are often disempowered in traditional consultative processes.
    -    can be used to assess willingness to pay to preserve specific environmental attributes or willingness to accept the loss of these attributes.
    -    can involve a broad range of participants (in demographic terms).


  • Organization of the visioning exercise can be costly.
  • It might be difficult to translate the vision into a strategy and/or policy.

3.3    Capacity development strategy phase

Box 3.3  Steps

1.    Translate the vision in an overall wetland capacity development goal;
2.    Select the direction of the capacity development process;
3.    Define a capacity development strategy supporting the wise use of wetlands, including a long-term objective, outcomes, impacts and results

3.4    Planning and programming

Box 3.4  Steps

1.    Develop an annual wetland capacity building action plan; including budget for individual wetland capacity development interventions:

    1.1    Describe the major capacity development activities
    1.2    Formulate learning objectives for the target group;
    1.3    Identify learning strategies and delivery mechanisms;
    1.4    Determine the timing and duration of each activity;
    1.5    Assign responsibilities for the implementation;
    1.6    List resources (materials, equipment etc.) required;
    1.7    Specify the costs for each activity

2.    Specify important assumptions in order to implement the activities successfully and capacity indicators

3.    Develop a long term wetland capacity building action plan

4.    Raise funds for implementation

3.5    Implementation and management

Box 3.5 Steps

1.   Implement the action plans
2.   Identify service providers and assess their capability and the quality of their capacity building services and products

3.6    Evaluation of activities

Box 3.6  Steps

1.   Continuous monitoring of accomplishments to ensure that the capacity development process stays on track and targets are reached
2.   Feed lessons learned back into new strategies and related activities for wetland capacity development activities

3.7    Reflective Monitoring, Evaluation and Adaptation phase

Box 3.7  Steps

    -    Identify success criteria linked to the learning objectives;
    -    Develop and implement monitoring/reflection mechanisms;
    -    Identify success criteria linked to the learning objectives;
     -    Define the information needs per target group;
     -    Define the methodologies to be used for data gathering & processing related to each performance question (relevance, impact, sustainability, efficiency, effectiveness)
     -    Define communication mechanisms;
    -    Review, evaluate and discuss progress and capture lessons learned;
    -    Analyze regularly the factors (external to the program as well as internal to the program) which enable and challenge the developing capacities

4.    References

Useful for difficult countries/situations:
Brinckerhoff, D.W. 2007. Capacity development in fragile states. ECDPM, Maastricht.

General background and policies on harmonisation and coordination of CD:
DAC. 2006. The challenge of capacity development: working towards good practice. OECD.
“Capacity development: Accra and beyond”Summary conclusions of the Bonn workshop, 15-16 May 2005

Recent comprehensive studies on CD:
Baser, Heather & Peter Morgan, 2008. Capacity, change and performance. ECDPM.
Asian Development Bank. 2008. Capacity assessment and capacity development in a sector context. Toolkit (draft). ADB.

Results-oriented CD:
Boesen, Nils. 2005. A Results-oriented approach to capacity change. Danida.

Donor harmonisation and CD:
OECD, 2004. Harmonising donor practices for effective aid delivery. Vol.2: Budget support, sector wide approaches and capacity development in public financial management. A DAC reference document.
Boesen, Nils. N.d. Working towards supporting capacity development through joint approaches. Emerging lessons and issues.

Worldbank perspectives (2005) on CD in Development Outreach:

A new paradigm for capacity development in Africa:
Worldbank, 2005. Building effective states, forging engaged societies. Report of the World Bank Task Force on Capacity Development in Africa.
Capacity building in Africa. An OED evaluation of Worldbank support:$FILE/africa_capacity_building.pdf

State building as the core of capacity development; a Dfid and World Bank perspective:
Capacity development and state building. Issues, evidence and implications for DfID 2005.

GTZ on CD: Action planning, methods and instruments.
GTZ. 2005. Guidelines on capacity development in the regions. The Capacity Building Cycle - From Capacity Building Needs ssessment (CBNA) Towards the Capacity Building Action Plan (CBAP). Module B: Methods and Instruments for the Capacity Building Cycle („Toolkit”).

Conceptual framework on CD from EU perspective:
EU, 2005 Institutional Assessment and Capacity Development, Why, What and How.
Capacity assessment methodology, UNDP, 2007

Quick checklist to improve dialogue about and assessment of organizational capacity and in design of support to CD:
 EU, 2006. Aid delivery methods programme. Checklist for Capacity Development Support

A very comprehensive resource center on CD:
Resource center ADB:

Multi Stakeholder Processes, a draft guide for facilitating social change
Wageningen International, 2008

For reasons of economy, this document is printed in a limited number, and will not be distributed at the meeting. Delegates are requested to bring their copies to the meeting and not to request additional copies.

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