Donor harmonisation and capacity building
Interview : Our organisation is learning
[ Donor harmonisation ]
Location issues and else
Countries joining the donor community should be helped to design their own programmes. Capacity building is often among the first fields they become involved in. InWEnt cooperates with JICA, the Japanese development agency, in order to exchange views and experiences with countries like South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand or the Philippines.
Capacity building by training is a typical area of engagement for countries switching from the role of aid recipient to donor. Malaysia and Thailand are recent examples. South Korea has completed the process earlier, the Philippines government is embarking on it. While Thai colleagues still mostly focus on neighbouring countries, those in charge in Seoul and Kuala Lumpur already share a global outlook, regarding African and Latin American countries as potential partners. What is more, the Koreans are showing a special interest in Central Asia quite rightly and reassuringly so.
Any government that begins to act as a donor must re-think its positions. Many find that difficult to do, at least initially. It is generally accepted that donors need to coordinate their actions. But in countries that have long been aid recipients, the foreign ministries usually run development policy. They tend to shy from subordinating their sovereignty to multilateral agreements and standards, once they have finally assumed the donor role.
That is one reason why international exchange matters among donors. On the one hand, the old hands can help newcomers to avoid mistakes. On the other, all donors learn from one another. In cooperation with JICA, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, InWEnt has engaged in dialogue with partners in the countries listed above. Such cooperation has historical roots. The capacity building programmes in Malaysia and Thailand stem from training facilities originally co-funded by JICA. In South Korea, the germ cell of todays capacity building programme was German training engagement.
From long experience, InWEnt and JICA know that capacity building needs to be embedded in overarching concepts. Donors that have only recently begun to support other countries, however, do not immediately appreciate this fact. After all, basic and advanced training is always geared to developing skills in individuals. However, stand-alone training is hardly effective. All too often, the persons trained cannot employ their new skills after returning home. What matters is change in the partners institutions and their socio-political environment in general.
Requirements for success
Therefore, a multi-level approach that impacts on workplaces is essential. Up-to-date capacity building depends on long-term, intersecting activities. Networking is essential, and so is sustained impact. Isolated training courses are not all that effective. The most important factor, however, is that training programmes must really correspond to the demand for skills and knowledge prevalent in the target countries.
After the Second World War, capacity building became a key area of both Japanese and German development efforts. Both countries governments wanted to restore confidence internationally. They sought to attract guests and demonstrate that yesterdays aggressors had become constructive, peace-loving partners. As early as the 1980s, InWEnts two predecessors (Deutsche Stiftung für Internationale Entwicklung and Carl Duisberg Gesellschaft) began transferring their programmes to partner countries. Today, two thirds of our measures are carried out abroad. Japan, on the other hand, has kept on staging programmes in Japan for longer. JICA accommodated some 8,000 participants in Japan in the financial year 2003, compared with only 6,500 in developing countries.
Today, even the Japanese consider their predominantly domestic venues a problem. JICA experts admit they have not been very good at linking training with other instruments, even though JICAs responsibilities also include technical cooperation. Moreover, the agency will soon be in charge of financial cooperation. As a training location, Japan has often proven of an obstacle, as it is too far removed, literally, from trainees lives.
Some programmes, however, are still best staged in industrial countries. The ways consumer protection or environmental protection work cannot be demonstrated in practical terms anywhere else. Germanys federal order or its system of autonomous municipal government can only be studied in detail here. JICA, on the other hand, has set up a training centre specifically for catastrophe issues in earthquake-struck Kobe. Of course, international exchange always calls for trips abroad; and cross-border or even global cooperation cannot only be studied at home. It therefore makes sense to invite participants from many different cultures to meet in person in Germany or Japan. JICA and InWEnt agree that programme locations should depend on programme content.
JICA and InWEnt also share an interest in cooperating with the private sector. As an institution, the German partner is slightly ahead in this respect, being partly (just under 10%) owned by business associations. On the other hand, Japan is particularly strong on inhouse training, which even extends to company-owned universities. The Kaizen principle, according to which companies assimilate and harness outside skills, has long been considered exemplary.
From InWEnts point of view, a very promising signal was a recent enquiry from the Peoples Republic of China. The government in Beijing asked for pedagogical/didactic advice on how to set up training capacities it wants to use internationally. No doubt about it: the model is catching on.
Dr. Luiz Ramalho
directs the Sustainable Development
Department at InWEnt.