Technical Cooperation for Capacity Development

This topic addresses the relevance, quality and choice of Capacity Development support. In practice Technical Cooperation (TC) has been the principal instrument used by donor agencies to support countries develop their capacity. TC consumes approximately 25% of all ODA. Despite notable successes, TC has been the subject of considerable critique with respect to cost and effectiveness. These have become points of discussion within the broader aid effectiveness agenda. A considerable body of literature on the topic has also emerged in recent years. Discussions and research revolve around issues of demand, supply and delivery/ management of TC services. Particular interest has been expressed in promoting greater use of national expertise and south-south cooperation, in assuring better quality control of CD service providers, and in exploring alternative ways of addressing capacity development that rely less on the deployment of TA personnel.

The Paris Declaration on aid effectiveness includes two specific indicators that address capacity development and technical cooperation. Indicator 4 addresses the issue of fragmented support and calls for a more harmonised and aligned approach to the design and delivery of capacity development. Indicator 7 addresses concerns about the widespread use of parallel project implementation units that risk undermining local capacity and calls for a substantial reduction in their use.

The AAA argues that to enable developing countries to exercise ownership of capacity development through technical cooperation, external partners need to a) facilitate the joint selection and management of technical cooperation service providers so as to support local priorities and b) expand the choice of technical cooperation providers to ensure access to sources of local and South-South expertise.

Related issues that are the subject of policy discussions and which have been explored in recent studies include the following:

  • Capacity development is not the same as technical cooperation - the latter can only serve as an input to a locally owned and managed CD process. More creativity is needed in addressing CD challenges that go beyond the standard provision of technical assistance personnel.
  • Decision making about and management of technical cooperation remains in the hands of donors, and needs to move substantially to country partners consistent with aid effectiveness principles.
  • Insufficient attention is given to/ use is made of locally and regionally available CD resources such as training and research institutions, local consultants and NGOs, and  more effort should be made to encourage south-south cooperation.
  • More needs to be done to raise the quality of service providers in the area of capacity development. Effective support to CD needs to integrate state-of-the-art approaches including change management, process facilitation, coaching, training and expert services that combine technical, contextual and stakeholder engagement competencies. CD practice should not only be tailor-made to context, but practitioners should be held to the highest standards of professional rigour.

This series of Perspective Notes was prepared by a professional drafting team assembled with support from the OECD/DAC and LenCD. The team included James Hradsky, Nils Boesen, Anthony Land, Heather Baser, Silvia Guizzardi and Mia Sorgenfrei. James Hradsky led in drafting this Note on Technical Cooperation for Capacity Development in 2010, 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.

The Key Resources section was compiled by Tony Land in 2009.




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