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U.S. Air Quality Capacity Building Fellowship

The Air Quality Fellowship program seeks to enhance developing country capacity in air quality management through placement of U.S. air quality experts with national and subnational governments.  These air quality experts provide technical assistance in taking tangible steps to improve air quality and reduce associated economic, environmental, and health impacts.


UPDATE: Due to COVID-19 and associated travel restrictions, the Air Quality Fellows Program is now providing remote capacity building support to host countries. While we believe in-person meetings are the best way to quickly develop an understanding of the host country’s needs, current air quality management capacity, and goals, much can be accomplished through remote meetings and support. Therefore, the program is continuing to onboard new Air Quality Fellows with the understanding that travel may not occur for at least 6 months and potentially for the duration of the Fellowship. Air Quality Fellows who wish to participate in the program, but cannot travel regardless of COVID-19, may also apply at this time.



U.S. Air Quality Fellows will be paired up with target national and subnational governments in 12 to 18-month engagements where they will work together to achieve specific air quality goals articulated in approved work plans. RTI and the Department of State have implemented a dual recruiting program for Fellows and host countries, leveraging air quality expert networks and government agency contacts in target countries.  Selected Fellows will develop a work plan to implement activities and tasks that help the host country to meet its air quality goals and commitments.  The host country will provide a point of contact and technical staff to support the selected project.  RTI will provide logistics and technical support for the Fellows in reviewing and implementing their work plans and completion of final reports. Success of the program will be measured based on approved performance indicators that are specific, measurable, reasonable, and achievable in the 12- to 18-month timeframe. A final report will document all work performed, assess outcomes relative to goals, and include a summary of lessons learned.

Place Air Quality Fellows in host countries to support their institutional capacity for:


  • air quality monitoring networks
  • development and improvement of emissions inventories
  • health-based air quality regulations
  • enforceable air quality regulations.


What are the impacts of world-wide air pollution?

According to a 2016 World Bank study,1 air pollution is a major health risk and an economic burden, especially for low- and middle-income countries.  Air pollution is a growing global threat to human health, the environment, and economies.  People who are exposed to air pollutants have an increased risk of suffering from serious health effects such as heart or vascular disease and damage to their immune, neurological, reproductive, and respiratory systems.  An estimated 6.9 million premature deaths, or over 10% of worldwide deaths, were due to air pollution in 2016.  According to a 2016 World Bank study, deaths from air pollution in 2013 were responsible for $225 billion in lost labor income and more than $5 trillion in welfare losses.  Air pollution also harms animals, crops, and vegetation; it can stunt plant growth and reduce agricultural productivity.  Studies suggest global crop production losses from air pollution were worth $11 to 18 billion annually in 2000, and are expected to increase to $17 to 35 billion by 2030.

As understanding and awareness of air pollution’s health and environmental impacts has increased, governments, international organizations, and the private sector have become increasingly interested in taking action to tackle air pollution.  Many developing countries may seek support to increase their technical capacity to address air quality issues.  By building on the existing capacity of interested governments to design, coordinate, and implement comprehensive air quality management plans, Fellows will assist targeted developing countries in achieving long-term improvements in local and transboundary air quality and a reduction in associated health, economic, and environmental impacts.

1 World Bank Group, 2016.  The Cost of Air Pollution:  Strengthening the Economic Case for Action.  The World Bank and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, at University of Washington, Seattle.  2016.


Host countries that may propose a project and request support from an Air Quality Fellows include Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Tajikistan, Thailand, Uganda, and Vietnam.



Interested host countries may propose project ideas to the program to receive expert air quality support, and Air Quality experts may apply to become Fellows and support the program.

Successful host project proposals will include a statement of need that clearly articulates the specific air quality goals to be achieved with support from an Air Quality Capacity Building Fellow.

Depending on the specific host country needs, project results may also include: development, adoption, and/or implementation of air quality management plans; proposed new air quality laws, policies, regulations, models, or standards; and deployment or improvement of air pollution control systems and emissions monitoring systems. Priority pollutants to be addressed and reduced include fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone precursors (NOx, VOCs, CO).

Air quality experts who are U.S. citizens may apply to the program to become Air Quality Fellows. Fellows with technical skills that fit/complement/are compatible with a focused host country project will be matched to support progress and training on project tasks. Each Fellowship period will span approximately 12 to 18 months and will include a combination of in-country and remote technical support for the full Fellowship period. The Fellows program will arrange and pay for all travel, however, Fellows will not be compensated for their time. Each Fellow is expected to spend approximately 4 weeks in the host country (i.e., two separate 2-week trips over 18 months). Fellows are expected to provide ongoing technical support/advice remotely at an estimated level of 12-20 hours per month.


Selection of host countries and Fellows began in February 2019. The program originally was planned to continue through September 2021, but was extended through March 2023.


The project is accepting Host Country proposals and Air Quality Fellows applications on a continuing basis. Please submit your proposal or application by visiting the Host Country tab or the AQ Experts tab and completing the form.