There has been a decided lack of empirical research examining development aid agencies as ‘agents of change’ in environmental impact assessment (EIA) systems in developing countries, particularly research examining the model of environmental planning practice promoted by aid agencies as part of capacity building. This paper briefly traces a conceptual framework of EIA, then introduces the concept of ‘‘EIA capacity building’’. Using Viet Nam as a case study, the paper then outlines the empirical results of the research, focusing on the extent to which aid agency capacity-building programs promoted a Technical vs. Planning Model of EIA and on the coherence of capacity-building efforts across all aid programs. A discussion follows, where research results are interpreted within the Vietnamese context, and implications of research results are identified for three main groups of actors. The paper concludes by calling for development aid agencies to reconceptualise EIA capacity building as an opportunity to transform developing countries’ development planning processes.