In response to country-requests to systematically strengthen capacity for democratic environmental governance, UNITAR has developed a project approach which helps countries in strengthening their capacities for participatory environmental governance through collaboration of government with non-governmental stakeholders. The approach recognizes that a one-size-fits-all approach to democratic environmental governance is not suitable, given diverse political and cultural circumstances. Consistent with this principle, partner countries document and self-assess existing capacities and set priorities for capacity development through the preparation of a National Profile, taking into account their national situation and needs. Leadership of governments, in collaboration with non-governmental actors, is an important aspect of the projects. Ministries of Environment play a central role in fostering an intersectoral approach, by engaging other Ministries concerned with environmental matters. Participation of non-governmental actors is crucial and includes NGOs, the private sector, as well as research and academia.

Country activities typically include the following:
National Profile Development
A National Profile provides a baseline assessment of the country’s political and administrative system and related practices concerning access to information, public participation and access to justice. As part of the Profile preparation, countries also review a number of specific environmental decision-making processes to identify lessons learned concerning their public participation aspects. In support of country based activities, UNITAR has prepared guidance documents to prepare a National Profile on the implementation of Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration and the Aarhus Convention (please see our publications page).
In support of country-led capacity development, UNITAR developed a Guidance Document (available in English and Russian) to assist countries in assessing and strengthening national capacities for implementation of the Aarhus Convention. The guidance document provides suggestions to prepare a National Profile which seeks to document and assess strengths and weaknesses of national access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice schemes related to environmental matters.
The National Profile development process facilitates a dialogue among government and stakeholders to take stock, set priorities and enhance capacity development concerning implementation of the Aarhus Convention. While coordinated by Government, representatives of environmental and health-protection organizations, consumer groups, industry, labour unions and academia are expected to make an important contribution to the process. Developing the National Profile thus creates an opportunity for governments and members of the public to work together and build the foundations for enhanced public participation. Once completed, the National Profile also provides practical information to interested citizens and groups to learn about democratic environmental governance.
National Priority Setting
Building upon the National Profile, a National Priority Setting Workshop provides an opportunity for government and stakeholders to discuss and agree on capacity gaps and identify priorities for capacity development. The workshop also sets the stage for translating identified gaps and priorities into actions.
National Action Plan Development
Building upon the outcome of the national workshop, partner countries complete a National Action Plan featuring goals, objectives, activities, expected outcomes and time lines for implementation. It is envisaged that the plan is endorsed both by government and non-governmental groups and informs decision-making and activities of all parties towards strengthening democratic environmental governance.
Targeted Capacity Development
Based on priority needs determined through the above steps, UNITAR assists countries in strengthening priority areas. Activities depend on each country’s needs, ranging from building specific skills targeting individuals in the countries, to activities that catalyze action through collaboration of stakeholders.