The Human Development Institute in Panama


The expansion and modernization of the Panama Canal and the so-called mega-projects in early 2000 were seen by Panama as great opportunities. At the same time, the government was aware that, consistent with the national human development framework, any of the economic gains from these initiatives need to be translated into tangible social benefits for its citizenship.

To achieve that, the human capital in the country has to be enhanced with new technical and functional skills, including on sustainable development. The Government felt that the then-existing labour policy and labour supplies did not correspond to the dynamic needs of the public and private sectors, and so decided to modernize the old National Institute of Professional Training (INAFORP). Accordingly, the government called up on UNDP to support such institutional transformation process.

The Human Development Institute (INADEH) was created in 2004 to facilitate the generation of employment opportunities through the human capital, economic development and poverty reduction joint initiatives. For this purpose, an innovative professional education program was created. The institution would: promote, facilitate and regulate the financing aspects of training services; advocate for demand-driven training services; and explore new areas and fields of work.

INADEH is directed by a Board of Directors consisting of members of the unions, the private sector and representatives of the government. It follows a management model where execution is completed by a network of private donors and where the public training centres are managed by bipartite organizations of employers and workers. The Government commitment to the project is clear by its political leadership and its growing financial investment in the institution. In 2007, 81 million dollars were assigned to this initiative. That amount increased to 91 million dollars for 2009.


As stated by INADEH, the partnership with UNDP was decisive in many ways:

  • At the beginning, it provided technical assistance by sharing regional knowledge (especially through experts from Brazil and Colombia), which facilitated access to a modern and strategic vision and best practices in training;
  • Lately, institutional development of the institute including a tripartite vision was supported. Efficient resource allocation allowed for transparency and accountability and the fulfillment of the self-declared goals in less time than originally planned;
  • During the last stage, the support strategy focused on strengthening the INADEH’s capacity and making it resilient in the face of unforeseen uncertainties or change of government;
  • Throughout the project, the capacity to build and nurture partnership remained a pillar of the initiative. This included partnership with unions and public and private companies, as well as with similar institutions and international cooperating organizations. Such alliances, in turn, guaranteed the exchange of experiences and best practices, as well as international recognition for INADEH.

Among the active partners of INADEH, there are a plethora of public and private, national and international organizations, including: the Authority of the Panama Canal, several unions, Toyota, Hewlett Packard, LG, Volvo, the governments of India, the National Learning Services Institute in Brazil (SENAI), Colombia (SENA) and Peru (SENATI), and many other universities and national and international academic institutions.


One major outcome of this initiative is the establishment and transformation of INADEH as capable institute playing active role in improving the country’s human capital asset. The partnership developed over the years between INADEH and UNDP had a clear and holistic focus on capacity development, and has contributed substantively to the improvement of public sector management in Panama. It has also contributed to the rehabilitation of centers for training located both in Panama and in the countryside, with the support of the Ministry of Education. All centers offer courses programmed according to the demand and the needs of an openly competitive labor market. This experience has been selected by the Regional Center of the UNDP to be part of the series “Sharing Knowledge” which will assure its potential contribution for South-South Cooperation.


Sources for this summary include the report “Fortalecimiento del INADEH: Programa de Capacitación y Formación de Capital Humano. PNUD Panamá e INADEH, 2009. (“Strengthening of INADEH: Training and Human Capital Formation Program of the PNUD Panama and INADEH,
2009); and interview with Olga Robles, Manager Knowledge Unit, PNUD Panama.

Year of publication: 
UNDP Capacity is Development: Stories of Institutions
Themes and sectors: 
Economic development

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