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Publications archive - International Activities and Commitments


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Australia's report to the UNCSD - 1994

Implementation of Agenda 21
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1994
ISBN 0 6422 0152 8

2.4 - Technology transfer and capacity building

Transfer of environmentally sound technology, cooperation and capacity building and national mechanisms and international cooperation for capacity building - Chapters 34 & 37 of Agenda 21

2.4.1 Progress achieved

2.4.2 Main activities

a. Information networks
b. Transfer of technology
c. Capacity to develop and manage environmentally sound technologies
d. Collaborative arrangements - partnerships/research centres

International cooperation

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)
The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)
The Cooperative Research Centre for Waste Management and Pollution Control Limited
Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS)

Domestic activities

e. Support for international programs

2.4.3 Experience gained

2.4.4 Problems and constraints

2.4.5 Capacity building

2.4.6 Scientific and technological resources

2.4.7 Expectations of international organisations

2.4.1 Progress achieved to date in the implementation of the objectives of Chapters 34 and 37

Since the adoption of Agenda 21, Australia has focused on putting in place institutional arrangements to promote the development and adoption of environment management technologies and to foster the capacity of its human resources to assess and address environmental issues. This has included providing support, where appropriate, for research and development and for programs to assist industry develop and implement environment management strategies. In addition, the Government is working with the environment management industry to identify constraints to its development and then to formulate strategies to tackle those constraints.

Incentives for sustainable resource management at the farm, regional and national levels are provided through programs such as the National Landcare Program and the National Drought Policy. The spread of the idea of landcare in Australia has seen the establishment of some 1800 community-based self-help groups throughout Australia. These groups are critical to the development, transfer and adoption of sustainable agricultural and resource management practices. Governments facilitate these processes by making information available, supporting associated agricultural and resource management research and development, and providing training courses for landholders and extension workers to improve their skills in land use planning and sustainable practices. More detail is provided in Section 3.3.2 on the mix of policies and programs in this area.

Internationally, Australia has incorporated environmental considerations into its aid programs. These include support for the transfer of environment management technologies and for the expansion of the ability of developing countries to assess, adopt, manage and apply environmentally sound technologies. At the same time, research organisations like the CSIRO, AIMS and ANSTO have developed linkages with other countries which will facilitate technology transfer and increase the capacity of other countries to manage their environment.

Within Australia's bilateral development assistance program there are other activities, including projects in water supply, rural development and industry, which have significant capacity building and technology transfer components:

In 1993-94, expenditure on population-related activities will increase to more than $A25 million. An important focus will be building the capacities of developing country governments and NGOs to identify family planning needs and deliver services with attention to quality of care.

Australian NGOs undertake training and capacity building activities as part of their programs in developing countries, including in the area of ecologically sustainable agriculture. For example, the Development Advice and Training Unit of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid was contracted through the development cooperation program to undertake training courses for staff of the African National Congress in financial management and project planning, monitoring and evaluation.

Australia considers that establishing institutional structures to promote technology development, adoption and transfer, is an essential first step towards fostering capacity building. There is now underway a range of initiatives to develop, commercialise and transfer environmentally sound technologies and to build the capacity of human resources, domestically and through its aid programs, to assess, adopt, manage and apply those technologies.

Australia is a member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Working Group on Regional Energy Cooperation (one of a number of Working Groups established within APEC). The Working Group addresses issues associated with the efficient use of energy and the environmental consequences of its use, with particular emphasis on technology transfer and policy exchanges on energy efficiency, clean coal technology and renewable energy.

2.4.2 Main activities that countries are undertaking or planning in order to achieve those objectives

a. Development of information networks which link national, sub-regional, regional and international systems

Australia has begun a four year project to set up a database on Australia's environment management capabilities, which will include soft and hard technologies and be of use both domestically and internationally for the dissemination of information on environmental expertise. This exercise will include an assessment of possible linkages of this database with relevant international databases.

Australia has initiated CouncilNet, an electronic environmental information network for local government. This provides links between information systems at local, regional, national and international systems and promotes local ESD information. (CouncilNet's World Wide Web service is located at

Australia accesses and has submitted case studies to the UNEP International Cleaner Production Information Clearing House.

b. Support of and promotion of access to transfer of technology

CEPA is involved in activities which encourage and assist environmental technology transfer, particularly to countries in South East and East Asia. These activities include trade missions and the setting up of multilateral and bilateral relationships with Asian countries on environmental matters. The measures have resulted in workshops in Singapore and Indonesia, missions to a number of other countries, demonstrations of technology and information flow to countries on environmental policy matters. Education and training are a major part of these activities. The CSIRO is the host for the international conference in cooperation with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) on the subject of 'Economic Growth with Clean Production' in February 1994. The Department of Industry, Technology and Regional Development (DITARD) through its International Science and Technology funding mechanisms, is also involved in facilitating environmental technology development and transfer.

Another initiative in this area was the compilation of an inventory of environmental expertise available in Australia and relevant to the development cooperation program.

Australia is working, both domestically and internationally, to support the development of technologies capable of cost-effectively promoting sustainable development. This includes the development of an environment conducive to the transfer of environmental technologies and building of capacities to address environmental concerns.

c. Improvement of the capacity to develop and manage environmentally sound technologies

General technical assistance to developing countries is provided through a number of channels in Australia's development cooperation program. The most important of these is the transfer of skills and knowledge from Australian consultants to developing country counterparts in the context of aid projects. Another channel is the Australian Staffing Assistance Scheme which contributes to a more skilled public sector workforce in a number of developing countries in the South Pacific, the Indian Ocean and Southern Africa. The emphasis is on training of local counterpart staff by 'in-line' Australian professionals with a strategy for localisation of expatriate positions.

The development cooperation program also provides direct support for a number of environment activities aimed at capacity building. Examples include a $A24 million project to extend the capabilities of the Indonesian Environment Planning Agency and $A7 million to strengthen provincial capacity in watershed planning in eastern Indonesia.

The Australian Government provides financial incentives to encourage domestic R&D into environmentally sound technologies and the development of cleaner production products and processes. Such incentives include:

In addition to the financial incentives for continued R&D, the Federal and State Governments have introduced regulations and other policy measures aimed at promoting consideration of the environment in the governmental decision-making process, with a consequent flow on to the private sector in developing improved technologies and related management techniques in order to meet revised standards.

d. Collaborative arrangements - partnerships/research centres

International cooperation

In pursuing industry, science and technology (S&T) collaboration through bilateral and multilateral agreements, the Australian Government provides opportunities for its own agencies and non-government agencies (universities, industry) to establish links through which national benefits accrue in the form of investment, trade growth and access to leading-edge technologies. Support has also been provided to facilitate the exchange of information and the development of joint research projects between Australia's scientific community and scientists from other countries.

The National Local Government Environment Resources Program at the Australian National University is a three year $A1 million program designed to assist a better cooperation between levels of government and in integrating policies and programs.

In some cases, S&T collaboration activities have focused on environmental technology transfer and associated capacity building needs of particular developing countries with which Australia engages in development cooperation assistance. An example has been the identification of environmentally sound technology as a major focus of the development cooperation activities in Thailand.

The Australian Government supports the greater role of NGOs in the S&T area. NGOs such as APACE (Appropriate Technology for Community and Environment Inc) are involved in promoting renewable energy technologies in the region and developing indigenous capacity to ensure that the technology transferred is appropriate to the community.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

The CSIRO has formal arrangements with its counterparts in Asia Pacific countries aimed at specific technical or environmental concerns. These include projects in global climate change, ocean current measurement, marine ecosystems and coastal zone management.

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)

ANSTO provides technical advice for and participates in regular bilateral consultations with countries with which Australia has nuclear safeguard agreements. Australia also holds the designated seat for South East Asia and Pacific on the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) Board of Governors.

ANSTO conducts training courses under the Regional Cooperative Agreement of the IAEA in the application of nuclear science-based techniques to environmental issues. Other courses include the application of radioanalytical and radiotracer techniques to understanding pollutant and sediment transport and environmental processes in the coastal zone, as well as to the use of biological indicators of water quality, ecotoxicology and age dating of sediments and marine organisms.

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)

ACIAR promotes research into improving sustainable agricultural production in developing countries. It commissions research groups within Australian institutions, such as the universities, CSIRO and State agricultural ministries, to carry out joint projects with counterparts in developing countries. The research focuses on high priority agricultural problems in developing countries in fields where Australia has particular scientific and technical competence.

ACIAR, funded from the aid budget, supports collaborative research partnerships between Australian and developing country researchers aimed at the development of ecologically sustainable agricultural systems and the design of appropriate natural resource management strategies.

The Cooperative Research Centre for Waste Management and Pollution Control Limited

The CRC for Waste Management and Pollution Control Limited, was established and supported in 1991 under the Australian Government's CRC Program. The Program is designed to bring researchers and users together for mutual and other benefits. Currently there are 15 substantial members who represent a significant Australian activity in the waste management field. Twenty-three projects are currently in hand under 11 programs. International collaboration and linkages are actively pursued.

Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS)

AIMS is Australia's major tropical marine research and development institute. The institute undertakes its research and development activities through four core research programs:

As a consequence of its tropical location, AIMS has developed extensive scientific collaborations internationally with over 90 agencies.

Since 1984 AIMS has provided technical support to the Living Coastal Resources Project funded by AIDAB for the transfer of technology through training in the ASEAN countries, and with its expertise in tropical marine systems, works with countries in the management of coastal eco-systems, mangroves and coral reefs and the development of mariculture.

Domestic activities

On a domestic level, the Federal and State Governments are engaged in a number of collaborative programs with industry, including the Cleaner Production Demonstration Program, the EcoRedesign Program and the Best Practice Environmental Management Program.

In Australia's private sector, a wide range of industry associations continues to promote the adoption of more environmentally sound management practices to reduce the impact of products and processes upon the environment, further encouraging industry to engage in R&D in appropriate areas.

e. Support for international programs of cooperation and assistance

The needs and priorities of the developing country concerned are the starting point for all bilateral aid programming and activities. Dialogue on capacity building needs and programs takes place through regular consultations between Australia and its bilateral recipients and through program evaluation.

The Australian aid program also supports national capacity building in agricultural research through ACIAR. Australian educational institutions are also developing strong links with their overseas counterparts.

In 1992-93, the Australian Government provided $A200,000 to the Professional Associations International Development Scheme. This scheme helps Australian professional associations to strengthen counterpart professions in developing countries and/or to provide specialised services on a voluntary basis in developing countries, where such services are not otherwise available.

Another example is the NGO Environment Initiative which, through small project grants, provides an important opportunity for regional and international NGO networking, information sharing and cooperative policy and program development.

2.4.3 Experience gained, particularly experience from which others may benefit

All aid programs and projects should have as a key objective the building of developing country skills and capacities as a basic prerequisite for the sustainability of aid inputs. Provision for the development of local capacity, which can become independently viable over the longer term, must be an integral part of aid design and delivery. In relevant cases, this may include strategies for localisation of expatriate positions. Evaluation following program/project completion and at periodic intervals afterwards is an important test for assessing whether the goals of human resource development and sustainability were achieved.

Australia considers that mechanisms to promote technology transfer and capacity building will be most effective if there is a well developed system to ensure the protection of intellectual property rights, if linkages are encouraged between those in the research, development and commercialisation chain. Those involved must have the requisite skills.

Technology transfer should be needs driven and not supplier driven. The developing countries, in particular, must have a clear understanding of what their needs are and have institutional mechanisms in place to support the transfer programs.

Experience has shown that the economic and social policy frameworks adopted by developing country governments have a crucial impact on development and the effectiveness of aid, including whether such aid contributes towards environmental sustainability objectives in recipient countries.

The Australian Government recognises that policy dialogue and capacity building need to be pursued in conjunction with other donors in regional and multilateral forums. There have been significant advances in recent years on aid coordination but more remains to be done to encourage developing countries to take the lead in establishing effective aid coordination mechanisms. Participation in World Bank Consultative Groups, in particular, provides an important avenue for review of technical cooperation and capacity building requirements in developing countries.

Environmental impact, the role of women in development and a participatory approach to program and project design are critical factors in ecological sustainability. These are taken into account across the Australian development cooperation program.

AIDAB undertakes an annual audit to assess the environmental impact of aid projects and to provide feedback on the extent to which environmental assessment procedures have been implemented throughout the project cycle. The 1992 environment audit highlighted the need for:

2.4.4 Specific problems and constraints encountered by governments at all levels, including local Agenda 21 activities and activities related to major groups

The input of donors will only be sustainable in the long-term where the recipient Government and the program or project beneficiaries have a clear stake in the program's success. This highlights the need for a participatory approach to planning and implementation and the need for counterpart contributions, whether financial or human. Where there is an absence of counterpart contributions and commitment, this constitutes a major constraint to sustainability.

2.4.5 Assessments of developments in national capacity building

All of Australia's national strategies address the need for appropriate infrastructure, and to some extent legal and administrative frameworks. In particular, the IGAE (see Section 1.2) lays down specific principles for intergovernmental cooperation in the field of the environment. Chapter 16 of the NSESD (see Section 1.2) on reforms to government institutions and machinery, complements the IGAE in this area. The objectives of Chapter 16 include:

A successful local activity related to capacity building is the partnership of NGOs, governments, trade unions, farmers and the community in the Landcare initiative (see Section 3.3.2).

2.4.6 Assessments of the availability of domestic scientific and technological resources and of needs and priorities for external assistance

Australia has the technological expertise to address many of its most pressing environmental problems, and is committed to encouraging the development of appropriate new technologies. Australia is aware of the need for ongoing scientific and technical collaboration with other countries so that it may keep in touch with best current international practice.

2.4.7 Specific expectations from international organisations, financial institutions and funding mechanisms

Australia's expectations of international organisations, financial institutions and funding mechanisms relate to their performance in meeting the needs of developing countries in the field of capacity building and transfer of environmentally-sound technology. In general, international organisations have demonstrated an awareness of the need to improve the capacity building in Pacific Island countries within their programs.

Australia is also firmly committed to active participation in regional arrangements to assist countries in the Asia Pacific region to implement sustainable development. Capacity building in the Pacific Island countries is a key objective of Australia's collaboration with SPREP which has an important role to play in strengthening national capacities in the region. In the regional context, Australia is encouraging ESCAP to play a greater role in implementing ecologically sustainable development in the region, including through enhanced capacity building activities.