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The Earth Summit recognized capacity-building as one of the means of implementation for Agenda 21. In that sense, it is relevant to all chapters of Agenda 21. However, Chapter 37 of Agenda 21 gives particular focus to national mechanisms and international cooperation for capacity-building in developing countries. Importance is given to defining country needs and priorities in sustainable development through an ongoing participatory process and, in so doing, to strengthening human resource and institutional capabilities.

Capacity-building is also a key means of implementation in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI). The JPOI called for enhancing and accelerating human, institutional and infrastructure capacity building initiatives and to assist developing countries in building capacity to access a larger share of multilateral and global research and development programmes.

The CSD, in adopting its multi-year work programme for the period 2004-2017, decided that “the means of implementation, as identified in Agenda 21 and Chapter X of the JPOI, should be addressed in every cycle and for every relevant issue, action and commitment.”

Earlier decisions relating to capacity-building were taken by the CSD at its fourth (1996), fifth (1997) and sixth (1998) sessions, by the United Nations General Assembly at its Special Session to review the implementation of Agenda 21 (1997), as well as at the World Summit on Sustainable Development.