Sector strategies: Messages for Busan


  • The “sector” can provide a relevant entry point for partner countries and donors to jointly address challenges of capacity development, development performance and aid effectiveness. However, a narrow interpretation of the sector should be avoided, and joined up approaches that take account of cross-cutting public sector management issues, as well as cross-sector challenges is imperative.  
  • A sector CD strategy should be an integral part of any sector development plan or strategy, and not regarded primarily as an instrument to manage donor technical co-operation inputs. Furthermore, it needs to be developed as part and parcel of the sector planning/ strategy process and not as a “bolt on” added after the plan has been completed and approved. This will help ensure that any CD support provided contributes to enhancing overall sector capacity and performance, rather than addressing the more limited implementation requirements of donor projects/ funding modalities.
  • A multi-actor/stakeholder approach should ideally inform the way sector capacity challenges are addressed. This is important because sector ownership needs to take account of the full range of actors and stakeholders that engage around a sector. It is also important because sector capacity is more than central government capacity. Effective sector performance depends on effective mobilization and coordination of sector actors and stakeholders and recognition of their potential contributions. Discussing the role and contribution of different actors and stakeholders should be a focus of dialogue between partner countries and donors.
  • Addressing sector CD needs also to take account of related public sector reforms and processes including pay reform and decentralization. A “joined up” approach will help promote coherence both among country stakeholders (sectors, central agencies, sub-national government) and among donors (sector, governance and civil society specialists). It will also promote synergies and avoid initiatives running at cross-purposes. 
  • While considerable research and analysis has been conducted on programme-based approaches, such as SWAPs, and on budget support, comparatively little work has been done on capacity development at the sector level.  The guidance produced is a step in the right direction but more needs to be done to learn from field experiences of what works and what doesn’t in terms of the incentives to drive good CD at the sector level. (see Box 10).

Box 10: Future work in capacity development at the sector level

Capacity development in a sector context is a work in progress, with only modest analytical and empirical insight on the subject despite its significance. Greater learning through practical research and discussion can complement field level action and promote the sharing of lessons across sectors and contexts. Possible directions of interest to the aid effectiveness agenda include:

A casebook of sector CD strategies– Collection of case illustrations and examples of sector CD strategies: their scope, their design, their implementation, their impact, including examples of innovative donor support.

Further evaluation and study:

  • Lessons and experiences of aligning external TC behind sector CD strategies. Does it make a difference? 
  • Experience of using sector capacity assessments and governance analysis to prepare sector CD strategies.
  • Promoting sector capacity development through “joined up” approaches – operational challenges and experiences of aligning sector reforms with core public service reforms?
  • Challenges of sector capacity development in a decentralizing context?
  • Measuring capacity change in a sector contexts – Defining results and selecting suitable methodologies
  • Retaining sector level expertise  - Taking stock of labour market trends and patterns