Perspectives notes for the Fourth High Level Forum

In November 2011, the global community will meet in Busan, South Korea, to review progress on implementation of the Paris Declaration and Accra Agenda for Action. Through the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness (WP-EFF), preparations are under way to take stock of progress made by donors and partner countries in implementation of joint commitments. To complement this effort, the OECD/DAC, in cooperation with the Learning Network on Capacity Development (LenCD) and the Southern initiative CD Alliance, has launched a process to reflect on the specific commitments and implications of the Paris Declaration and the AAA for capacity development. 

The preparation of a set of technical “Perspectives Notes” is a key input to that process.  The purpose of drafting these Perspectives Notes is threefold: (i) Provide a review of the current state of play with respect to CD priorities highlighted in the Paris Declaration and the AAA. (ii) Provide an input to the Synthesis Report on CD key messages for Busan, to be led by a CD Alliance coalition. (iii) Set an agenda for further technical work post-Busan. These Notes also will provide background for LenCD resource corners and learning materials. The perspectives notes are result of a team effort.

We invite your comments and inputs on these five Perspectives Notes:

In addition, a summary of the proposed messages from the five perspectives notes has also been produced:

Please comment here on the web site or send comments by email to:,,, and

Your views are much appreciated! Thank you very much in advance.

About the perspective notes

To ensure coherence and consistency across the five papers, the OECD/DAC definition of capacity and capacity development is adopted as a default: Capacity is the ability of people, organisations and society as a whole to manage their affairs successfully. Capacity development is the process whereby people, organisations and society as a whole unleash, strengthen, create, adapt and maintain capacity over time. 

These definitions remain quite general and call for further precision in order to be operationally useful.  Different organisations and institutional networks view capacity development in a variety of ways, for example:

  • UNDP concentrates on four strategic priorities: institutional arrangements and incentives, leadership, knowledge and accountability.
  • NEPAD’s Capacity Development Strategic Framework has six cornerstones: leadership transformation; citizen transformation; knowledge and innovation; using African potential, skills, and resources; capacity of capacity builders; integrated planning and implementation.
  • The ECDPM capacity study distinguishes five core capabilities: to commit and engage; to carry out technical, service delivery and logistical tasks; to relate and attract resources and support; to adapt and self-renew; and to balance coherence and diversity.
  • The Accra Agenda for Action’s strategic priorities are: civil society and private sector engagement, country systems, enabling environments and incentives, capacity development in fragile situations, integrating capacity development in national and sector strategies, relevance, quality, and choice of capacity development support.

It is difficult to discuss “capacity development” without first determining what kind of capacity is needed and what it should look like in operation.  Without this clarity, discussions on capacity development tend to become general exchanges on what makes for good development practice.  Regardless of which of these or other approaches is used, it is critical for practitioners to understand what they are seeking in terms of capacity and to use this as the basis for identifying activities which will help to encourage its development, rather than assuming that certain mechanisms will automatically enhance capacity.

This series of Perspective Notes was prepared by a professional drafting team assembled by the OECD/DAC and LenCD. The team included James Hradsky, Nils Boesen, Anthony Land, Heather Baser, Silvia Guizzardi and Mia Sorgenfrei. Heather Baser led in drafting this Note onCapacity Development in Fragile Situations, which subsequently benefitted from comments from the rest of the team, from peer reviews, and a wider electronic vetting process through the LenCD global network. All comments from those involved that have helped contribute to a sound paper are acknowledged with thanks. These Perspectives Notes do not reflect an official position of either the OECD/DAC or LenCD. The many contributors may not endorse every viewpoint in the note and they bear no responsibility for any remaining errors or omissions.

Key Themes for Busan 2011 

The following seven themes were proposed at the July 2010 WP-Eff ExCom, without any order of priority, and with indicative titles:

  1. Capacity development: the eternal frontier for aid effectiveness?  “There is ever-growing agreement that “capacity” is a priority issue for the aid effectiveness agenda (and the broader objective of developmenteffectiveness). But is aid for capacity development effective? Is the value of the discussion on capacity development in Busan at the level of vision and principle, at the more operational levels identified in the AAA (i.e. technical co-operation; in fragile situations; at the sector level; in support of country systems; at the level of non-state actors; in relation to the enabling environment), or both? There also is consensus that, to be successful, a dialogue on capacity development in the context of aid increasingly needs to be led from the partner country perspective. Could Busan in 2011 set the stage for a more partner-based and field-oriented approach to the “who”, “what”, “when” and “how” of capacity development?”
  2. Transparent and Responsible Aid: Just do it!  Why is aid still fragmented and unpredictable?
  3. Media: friend or foe?  Do the media give development a raw deal?
  4. Does Aid „steal‟ accountability? How can aid manage the tension between domestic accountability based on broad in-country ownership and accountability to donor taxpayers?
  5. Who governs global health?  The complex global governance of aid to health and its impact on health outcomes at the country level.
  6. Enlarging the tent to all aid providers: dream or reality?  
  7. All we have to fear is fear itself.  How can donors move from rhetoric to action and better support country systems and their use?