Journal Archive

This archive offers links to all previous issues of Capacity.org. In addition to the pdf versions of the journal, we are currently uploading html versions of all articles published between 2005 and 2009 . Earlier versions of the journal (1999 to 2004) are also available for download,  but only as pdf files. 

Issue 47 : August 2013 : Innovative financing for inclusive agricultural development

Innovative financing for inclusive agricultural development

As traditional official development assistance decreases attention is turning to how best to catalyse private funding for development.  However, private companies need to generate returns on their investments. To what extent does this limit private financing from reaching the poor and marginalised, referred to by Paul Collier as the ‘bottom billion’? In other words, can financing solutions involving private sector actors be inclusive? In preparation for this issue we called for experiences in innovative financing that could contribute to the work of development professionals working with smallholder farmers. Issue 47 of Capacity.org contains a selection of the articles received, as well as brief summaries of other interesting articles published on the Capacity.org website.

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Issue 46 : January 2013 : Dilemmas of inter-organisational learning

Dilemmas of inter-organisational learning

From picking up a good idea from a competitor to engaging in strategic alliances, there is a wide spectrum of ways in which inter-organisational learning occurs. However, unlike the private sector inter-organisational learning in the development sector is hardly studied or evaluated. There seems to be an uncritical assumption that working and learning together is unproblematic and usually beneficial for all parties. Drawing on practical cases from India, South Sudan and South Africa, among  others, this issue of Capacity.org discusses a number of challenges faced by learning partnerships and offers lessons for avoiding some of the commonly experienced pitfalls.

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Issue 45 : June 2012 : Adapting to climate change

Adapting to climate change

Humankind will have to learn to live with climate change. Experts argue that even the most effective mitigation measures will no longer be sufficient to avert climate change resulting from past carbon emissions. This issue of Capacity.org discusses the capacity of communities to adapt to the effects of climate change. It focuses in particular on those communities considered most vulnerable to climate change impacts, including marginalized smallholders and pastoralists whose livelihoods depend on natural resource bases that are already severely stressed and degraded.

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Issue 44 : March 2012 : Markets, smallholders and empowerment

Markets, smallholders and empowerment

With the global population expected to rise to 9 billion by 2050, there has been growing attention at the highest policy circles to the contribution of small-scale agriculture to food security and poverty eradication. In a 2010 report, Olivier de Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, cited research findings that small-scale farmers could potentially double their yields within ten years, subject to prudent application of external inputs and effective management of natural resources. However, the creation of an enabling framework towards this end has been hampered by contradictory approaches and policy ''pendulum swings" over the past few decades that have seen national and international efforts focus alternately on 'rights-based' and 'market-based' support strategies. This issue of Capacity.org aims to refocus attention on the critical but largely neglected issue of producer agency: that is, the capacity of producers to make informed choices, and to act on those choices. Drawing on several detailed case studies - contract farming arrangements that benefit or exploit farmers; guidelines for addressing farm labour interests; and the role of women on small-scale farms - the journal's contributors offer practical guidance on how to strike the right balance between "economic and political empowerment."

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Issue 43 : September 2011 : Voices of capacity development

Voices of capacity development

External aid can provide a significant boost to country-led processes. However, if external partners focus on the performance of their own aid, policies, approaches and knowledge, their support is more likely to hinder than support a country’s efforts. In this special issue published to coincide with the Fourth High Level Conference on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Korea, Capacity.org invited a number of change agents in the South to speak about their experiences in leading change processes. The interviews cover a wide range of sectors and countries: achieving universal access to energy in South Africa, improved sanitation in Nepal, a more favourable business environment in Kenya, enforcing compliance with environmental laws in Zambia, and introducing active approaches to learning in Laotian schools.

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Issue 42 : May 2011 : Strengthening health systems

Strengthening health systems

Many developing countries have health systems that are ailing – and well-intentioned development aid is contributing to the problem. Between 2000 and 2010, annual development assistance for health surged from US$10.5 billion to US$27 billion. Most of this was channelled through donor-driven programmes targeted at specific diseases, most prominently HIV/AIDS. Such ‘vertical’ programming has undermined the development of strong national health systems and drawn resources away from countries’ other health priorities. District governments have a key role in coordinating the activities of all local health players, including those running vertical programmes.

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Issue 41 : December 2010 : Facilitating multi-actor change

Facilitating multi-actor change

In the practice of capacity development, we have seen a gradual shift away from training individuals to strengthening organizations. Currently, the emphasis seems to be shifting again; from working with single organisations to facilitating multi-stakeholder processes (MSPs). But it would be a mistake to assume that MSPs are just the latest fad in the discourse on capacity development (CD). In fact, they have always been an integral part of human interaction. MSPs spring up whenever people or organisations see that collaboration can help to seize development opportunities.

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Issue 40 : September 2010 : Local government for gender equality

Local government for gender equality

Despite signs of progress in some regions and countries, the overall pattern of gender inequality remains unchanged. In most countries women work more hours than men but earn less. This is because they often perform unpaid work and are over-represented in lower income groups. To make matters worse, they often earn less than men for identical work. In rural areas few women own land, which reduces their access to income from agricultural produce. And cultural factors contribute to girls being discriminated against when they want to go to school, which diminishes their career opportunities.

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Issue 39 : April 2010 : Behaviour and facilitating change

Behaviour and facilitating change

The discourse on the practice of facilitating capacity development (CD) is mainly about knowledge, skills, methods and tools. Yet, the outcomes of interventions depend to a large extent on the way the people involved relate to each other. Especially for CD practitioners as facilitators of change, the ability to relate to clients in an appropriate way is crucial for successful outcomes.

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Issue 38 : November 2009 : Local capacity developers

Local capacity developers

Local expertise to support people and organisations in developing their capacities is arguably one of the most valuable resources a society can have to boost development. In this issue of Capacity.org we focus on local capacity developers (LCDs) who ‘own’ this expertise. LCDs facilitate change, explore new ways of working and help enhance capacity, knowing what long-term development requires. This expertise is usually found among local consultants and NGOs, and in higher education and research institutes.

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Issue 37 : August 2009 : Understanding context

Understanding context

In capacity development, it is good to be humble and recognise the contextual dynamics that are often more forceful and influential in the long term than support intervention itself. This issue of Capacity.org focuses on methods that can help to understand the societal context in which capacity development takes place. One of these methods is systems thinking, in which organisations, sectors and societies are seen as systems composed of elements that interact with each other.

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Issue 36 : April 2009 : Capacity development for water and sanitation

Capacity development for water and sanitation

This issue of Capacity.org looks at the capacities that need to be developed in order for the water and sanitation targets for 2015 to be achievable. The main focus is on capacity needs at the intermediate and local levels, but links between macro-level policy making and local-level implementation are also addressed.

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Issue 35 : November 2008 : Research, policy and practice

Research, policy and practice

This issue of Capacity.Org focuses on the link between research-based evidence, policy and practice. Researchers, policymakers, civil society organisations (CSOs) and practitioners in capacity development often live in very separate worlds. Their dynamics, values and ways of handling evidence are very different. As a result, research-based evidence often is only a minor factor when policies for development are formulated and practices shaped. Those involved in gathering evidence – researchers and increasingly non-government organisations (NGOs) and community-based organisations (CBOs) – are convinced that the ability of policies and practices to combat poverty can be substantially enhanced if research is given more attention. In the guest column, Patrick Chabal presents the example of decentralisation policies. Despite mounting evidence that decentralisation does not always contribute to poverty reduction, it is still often zealously and uncritically embraced by policymakers and practitioners in capacity development.

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Issue 34 : July 2008 : Producer organisations and value chains

Producer organisations and value chains

Farmers must be given the opportunity to strengthen their position in global food value chains. Value chains represent the sequence of activities through which value is added to a product from its raw form until it reaches the consumer. The more farmers participate in value chains, and the more they benefit from higher prices, the better they can help tackle the food crisis. However the individual small farmer is often a marginal participant in value chains. Producer organisations can help farmers to strengthen their position in value chains. Therefore building the capacity of farmer organisations should be considered an important element in a wider strategy to address the global food crisis.

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Issue 33 : April 2008 : Organizational learning

Organizational learning

Many organisations dedicated to poverty reduction have realised that this is not good enough. experimented with ways to improve their performance through learning since Peter Senge published his trailblazing book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization in 1990. Although Senge drew mainly on experiences and insights gained in the private sector, his work inspired many working in the not-for-profit sector. Despite the many new approaches to learning that have emerged in recent years, too many development agencies still underestimate the importance of learning. They fear negative evaluations because they may be seen as evidence of failure, rather than as opportunities for learning. As a result, practices that do not work can be replicated many times because the target groups – the poor – are usually not in a position to give their feedback. The real failure occurs when development agencies avoid rigorous evaluations and in the process miss out on these valuable learning opportunities.

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Issue 32 : December 2007 : Fragile states

Fragile states

The concept of the ‘fragile state’ entered the development discourse when, in the early 1990s, governance in Somalia disintegrated. Thousands of people fell victim to violence and millions faced starvation. Fragile states, however, were not given much attention in development policies. Donor countries concentrated their aid on fewer countries, particularly on those with good governance.

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Issue 31 : August 2007 : Accountability

Accountability

Welcome to issue 31 of Capacity.org on accountability. In this issue we focus on the question: what initiatives citizens can take to hold decision makers, service providers and development practitioners accountable to their commitment to reduce poverty? The articles in this issue deal primarily with two specific relationships: that between governments and their citizens; and that between national governments and the international donor community.

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Issue 30 : March 2007 : Partnerships for service delivery

Partnerships for service delivery

In many countries non-state providers play a vital role in the delivery of basic services. Based on research in six countries, Richard Batley assesses how governments could work in partnership with non-state providers and promote better services for poor communities.

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Issue 29 : September 2006 : Monitoring and evaluation

Monitoring and evaluation

Many years of experience in the field had led David Watson to question the value of monitoring and evaluation. Recently, a range of innovative to M&E approaches has given him new hope. Here he explains why.

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Issue 28 : July 2006 : Leadership

Leadership

This issue of Capacity.org includes contributions on various aspects of leadership. Leadership is about action and about change at the individual, organisational and societal levels. Ultimately, leadership is indispensable for the development and growth of capacity.

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Issue 27 : February 2006 : Networks and partnerships

Networks and partnerships

Throughout Africa civil society networks are successfully engaging with the state and attempting to influence public policy in order to accelerate poverty reduction and national development. Drawing on the experiences of civil society networks in the PRSP process in Ghana, this article discusses whether engagement has actually led to their empowerment.

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Issue 26 : September 2005 : From local empowerment to aid harmonisation

From local empowerment to aid harmonisation

Issue 26 traces the evolution of the debate on capacity development, and outlines our ambitions for Capacity.org as a forum for discussion and a gateway to relevant information. This is not the first issue of Capacity.org - it was launched some six years ago by the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) - but this issue marks a new phase in the life of this publication.

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Issue 25 : April 2005 : Harmonising aid efforts in Asia: the story so far

Harmonising the efforts of donor agencies and bringing processes and procedures closer to partner governments is a major policy issue for the development community and aid-receiving countries. The facts are alarming. In Cambodia, for example, 90% of aid bypasses national systems.

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Issue 24 : January 2005 : Exploring the soft side of capacity development

The international debate on capacity development has long recognised the importance of soft skills, such as the ability to engage in negotiation or dialogue, to create a feeling of trust, to network and partner, and to facilitate process or change management. A myriad of manuals have been produced containing tools for collaborative work that are designed to develop such skills. What these publications often fail to discuss, though, is what is needed to put these tools to work and in particular, what skills facilitators need to possess to ‘lubricate’ collaborative change processes in order to make the wheels turn.

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Issue 23 : October 2004 : Embedding ICT in development

How can Information and Communication Technology (ICT) support development efforts? ICT cuts across sectors and affects all layers of society; it is used by both micro-projects and large institutions. And it runs through non-profit, private and government organisations, which in an ideal situation communicate through a set of commonly agreed principles, standards and procedures. A virtual mission impossible for low-capacity countries, one would think, looking at the breadth of issues and the number of actors involved.

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Issue 22 : July 2004 : Meso-level capacity development

It is generally recognised that we need to bridge the gap between macro policy levels and local communities. Practical exchanges among different levels of action need to be facilitated to achieve a better mutual understanding between policy-makers and implementers.

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Issue 21 : April 2004 : Promoting local governance through Municipal Cooperation

As the spread of decentralisation and democratisation gathers speed, local governments in developing countries are taking more and more responsibility for improving their performance and managing the interface between the state and citizens, despite having access to limited resources.

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Issue 20 : January 2004 : Renewing approaches to institutional development

In an effort to reverse the way of doing international development cooperation, the importance of formal and informal institutions for development has attracted the renewed attention by policy makers and practitioners over the recent past. Against this background, a wealth of new methodologies, guidelines and tools have been designed to promote institutional development. Even though it is broadly recognised that development organisations face big challenges when translating what are often abstract concepts into operational realities, there are nevertheless relatively few opportunities for people to systematically exchange information and learn from each other’s experiences with institutional development.

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Issue 19 : October 2003 : Capacity development: the why’s and how’s

What does capacity look like? How can you develop capacity bottom-up? What is the driving force behind successful capacity development? Does better capacity necessarily lead to better performance?

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Issue 18 : July 2003 : Developing Capacities for ICT enabled development

The notion of Information and Communication Technology Enabled Development is gaining more prominence in development cooperation. The notion examines how the potential of ICT can be used to attain national development goals. Capacity development must now be seen as an integral part of this thinking. The impact of ICT has already been felt in sectors such as health, education, and rural development.

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Issue 17 : April 2003 : Evaluating Capacity Development

In recent years, self-evaluation has been recommended for capacity development efforts in response to a growing awareness that externally led evaluations are often inappropriate or counterproductive. Self-evaluation has been seen as a means of assessing the needs for capacity development, of developing effective strategies and of improving existing or future programmes. The implication is that capacity development efforts require an internal evaluation capacity in order to ensure their own relevance, effectiveness and efficiency.

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Issue 16 : January 2003 : Capturing Southern Feedback on Aid

As poverty spreads and civil strife grows increasingly prevalent in many developing countries, many commentators have begun to call not only for a closer monitoring of the achievements of development cooperation, but also for Southern partners play an active part in assessing the performance of their Northern partners. Such calls are reflected, for example, in the findings of the OECD/DAC study on 'Evaluation Feedback for Effective Learning and Accountability' (2001), which reviews some of the current practices in aid evaluation. Whilst the majority of the critics are agreed that Southern partners and stakeholders should be more intensively involved, the number of cases in which this principle of partnership has been transformed into concrete action remain few and far between.

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Issue 15 : October 2002 : Capacity for 'Voice'

Increasingly, international development agencies are teaming up and adopting new aid modalities. Sector-wide programming and the integration of social assistance programmes into wider recipient-led poverty reduction strategies have been the main innovations thus far. The willingness of donors to work in closer harmony and to integrate support into country strategies implies a willingness to 'let go' and reduce their control over their aid budgets. This means, in turn, that there is a need for alternative verification and accountability mechanisms which can guarantee a results-based approach to poverty reduction.

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Issue 14 : July 2002 : Capacity for Development: Insights and Innovation

The past decade has seen a growing awareness of the role played by capacity development in the development process. It is now recognised as being central to the fight against poverty. Against this background, donors and recipient countries alike have undertaken a number of promising aid reforms, that are aimed at enhancing the development process from a capacity development perspective. Whilst certain approaches have worked well in particular countries and sectors, elsewhere they have produced mixed results. Nevertheless, all provide a wealth of lessons that offer cornerstones for further learning and innovation

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Issue 13 : April 2002 : Capacity Development for Trade

With the renewed interest for international trade agreements, developing countries are faced with an increasing number of initiatives in this connection. Among the recent development have been a series of regional trade agreements among the developing countries themselves, as well as initiatives coupling developing with developed nations. The Free Trade Area of the Americas has brought together Mexico, Canada and the US. The countries of the Pacific region are negotiating an agreement with Australia and New Zealand. And the 77 countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group have entered into the Cotonou Partnership Agreement with the European Union. In parallel with these developments, a new round of multilateral negotiations was launched in Doha, the capital of Qatar, in November 2001. In order to take advantage of the opportunities and challenges presented by these international trade initiatives, each developing country has to be able to clearly identify its key development objectives and to translate them into appropriate trade strategies, which it then needs to pursue in the appropriate forum. Capacity development for trade plays a crucial role in ensuring the relevance and effectiveness of this process.

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Issue 12 : January 2002 : Pooling of Technical Assistance

The search for new aid delivery mechanisms to enhance capacity development is high on the agendas of international development cooperation agencies. The pooling of funds for technical assistance (TA) in the context of sector-wide approaches and other new aid mechanisms is one response to the increasing criticisms of development cooperation.

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Issue 11 : October 2001 : Structuring Civil Society

Involving non-state actors in the development process has become a major characteristic of international cooperation over recent years. Non-state actors include the private sector, social and economic partners, such as trade unions, and civil society in all its diversity. The development community has recognised that their contribution can go well beyond merely executing development goals set at the national level.

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Issue 10 : July 2001 : Approaches to ICT Capacity Development

The term ‘capacity development’ has always been a popular catch phrase within the international donor community, and often embraces a wide range of programmes and strategies that are used for strengthening Southern institutions. The vast number of international task forces and initiatives on the use of new information and communication technology (ICT) in development have all identified the need for investment in capacity-building, so that the term is once again being redefined.

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Issue 9 : April 2001 : Capacity for dialogue on S&T

With this edition of Capacity.org, we are celebrating the second anniversary of this web-site with an extra long issue. It looks at an area which has often been disconnected from mainstream development thinking: building capacity for dialogue in science and technology (S&T).

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Issue 8 : January 2001 : Tools of the trade: capacity assessment

This issue of Capacity.org focuses on a practical dimension of capacity-building: the role of capacity assessment instruments in supporting capacity-building processes. With the growing importance that has been attached to institutional and capacity development over the past few years, development practitioners have started to develop and apply a range of conceptual frameworks and practical tools to assist in the formulation and implementation of projects and programmes, and to ensure that adequate account is taken of capacity development issues.

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Issue 7 : October 2000 : Information and Capacity Building

This issue of Capacity.org focuses on a rapidly-emerging issue in development - the challenge posed to individuals and organisations by new information and communication technologies (ICTs). The focus of this issue is not, however, on the technologies themselves, but on the institutional capacities needed to make effective use of them.

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Issue 6 : July 2000 : Partnership - an instrument for capacity building?

Partnership has become one of those concepts that have gained popular currency in international cooperation over the last decade. Underlying the concept is a significant message to re-balance power relationships between developing countries and external funding agencies, and to progressively transfer responsibility and ownership to the former. Partnership also signals a meeting of minds, the identification of common interest, and working over time on commonly identified goals. Partnership as a mode of cooperation is held to promote institutional and capacity development and in turn to assure sustainable development outcomes. Terminology such as donor and recipient has accordingly been replaced by terms like development partners, suggesting a more equitable relationship based on a shared agenda for change. The recently signed Partnership Agreement between the 71 ACP countries and 15 EU Member States on political and economic cooperation illustrates this trend.

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Issue 5 : April 2000 : Local Action through Joint Action

On 1 April 2000, Capacity.org is one year old and we celebrate this event in two ways. First, by simultaneously launching issue 5 of the "web-letter" in English and French. This issue features the challenges of joint action between local government, civil society and the private sector. Second, by hosting an on-line discussion on-line discussion (3 to 21 April) on this same topic. We invite the reader to participate and to make use of the background material presented in this issue.

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Issue 4 : January 2000 : Informing the capacity debate - operational experiences

We welcome the new millennium with this fourth edition of Capacity.org, by returning to the wider debate on capacity building and capacity development [1]. Today, the questions raised in our April 1999 launch issue are revisited from an empirical base, informed by research and the viewpoints of practitioners.

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Issue 3 : September 1999 : Linking Sector-wide approaches with Capacity

The "sector-wide approach" (SWAp) to development programming is the theme of this issue. This approach is held to promote and be supportive of capacity development. It has been gaining appeal among multi-lateral and bi-lateral development agencies and a number of their developing country partners during recent years. It is also seen as providing a framework for building stronger partnerships founded on local ownership, national execution and policy dialogue. In May this year, the DAC Informal Network on Institutional and Capacity Development met in Ottawa to debate the relationship between SWAps, capacity development and partnership.

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Issue 2 : July 1999 : A Spotlight on Capacity and Evaluation

Donors give growing importance to evaluating the outcomes and impact of development assistance. Increasing scarcity of aid resources, evidence of unsuccessful projects and increasing public criticism of the effectiveness of development efforts are main reasons for this growing interest. Parliaments want to know what capacities have been built up and funding agencies call for "proof of performance" reflecting diminishing public and political support in the North for international cooperation.

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