The popularity of the term capacity development from the 1990s onwards reflected a growing recognition that externally-induced efforts had barely made a dent towards reducing poverty and fostering sustainable development. Attention turned to the abilities required to organize and sustain development efforts and the necessity of 'ownership' by local actors in recipient countries.
Over the last two decades, all major international fora - from the UN Multilateral Environmental Agreements, the Millennium Summits, the biennial High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness and a host of governmental and non-governmental initiatives - have concurred that donor harmonization and alignment is one of the key pillars in achieving sustainable development goals .
Despite such widespread consensus, however, aid partnerships remain inherently unequal, with financial, decision-making and professional power unevenly distributed.
The editors of the recently published resource volume Capacity Development in Practice (Earthscan, 2010) identify four specific challenges associated with the international cooperation sector that must be addressed if capacity development to truly come of age as a professional practice.
- A fixation on short-term projects, quick results, and the latest buzz words, as opposed to a long-term, focused and quality-oriented engagement that is critical for achieving capacity development;
- Linking the 'management for results' logic to outcomes of social change processes, which underplays the importance of understanding different ways in which results have, or could have been achieved;
- A proliferation of actors in the sector - from multi-lateral and bilateral institutions, international NGOs and stakeholders within recipient countries - each pursuing their own agenda and with little consultation or coordination of efforts;
- A tendency for development activities to be overseen by generalist foreign service professionals who may not be conversant with, or able to stimulate, professional rigour and innovation for capacity development.
This section aims to highlight initiatives and best practice that offer a way forward in tackling these issues, and to showcase efforts 'from below' to hold donors and development service-providers accountable.
The Overseas Development Institute (ODI, UK) has announced an initiative to track all proposals emerging out of the UN High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Millenium Development Goals and the UN Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (an outcome of the Rio+20 Conference in June 2012). The project invites input on any missing proposals and is especially interested in any proposals on concrete targets and indicators. For an overview of goals tracked so far, please go to: http://post2015.org/2013/01/08/tracking-proposals-on-future-development-goals/More
09 May 2013
This policy brief from the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre highlights experiences from a regional capacity development initiative in Eastern Africa coordinated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The project brings civil servant support officers (CSSOs) from neighbouring countries and twins them with counterparts in various government ministries in South Sudan, with the aim of rapidly develop core government capacity in a coaching and mentoring scheme.More
18 March 2013
A working group set up to review the reform of USAID's policies in the area of domestic accountability, has released its findings and recommendations. The Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid (ACVFA) focused its review on two overall goals in the reform process that are most relevant for changing the way the Agency engages in implementation and procurement work in support of building sustainability and local partnerships.More
14 February 2013
Time to Listen captures experiences and ideas on how to make international aid more effective and shift the paradigm from the current externally driven aid delivery system to a collaborative one that truly supports local people as drivers of their own development. The publication is based on a research initiative, the Listening Project, which sought the views of more than 6,000 people in 20 aid receiving countries who have received international assistance, observed the effects of aid efforts, or been involved in providing aid.More
20 January 2013
Against all odds
Learning collectively in a fragile environment is both important and hard. The authors of this article engaged in facilitating an inter-organisational learning process in an effort to overcome mistrust and pre-conceived perceptions.More
11 January 2013
The Global Fund has launched a transition phase towards a new funding model that is set to become fully operational in 2014. According to the Fund ".... The new model will increase country focus and provide implementers with more flexible timing, better alignment with national strategies, greater predictability on the process and the level of funding available, early feedback on grant applications, and an ability to elicit full expressions of demand."More
26 December 2012
Many international NGOs are reviewing their work in particular countries or with particular partners. In many places, funding is being withdrawn from local civil society organizations as projects and programmes are phased out. While aid withdrawal might be desirable in situations where its purpose has been served, the process of withdrawing from established relationships is neither straightforward nor trauma-free for any of the parties involved. It is in this context that INTRAC hosted a one-day exploratory workshop for CSOs, development practitioners and researchers to debate issues around partnership, civil society sustainability and aid withdrawal. The report is now available.More