Technical cooperation: Key resources

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Joint Evaluation Study on Promising Approaches to TA. ECDPM 2007  

This study was commissioned to contribute to the current discussions on aid effectiveness and capacity development by learning about what works in relation to the deployment of technical-assistance (TA) personnel, and to see what initiatives/reforms are being taken to improve practice. The report draws on the findings of three country studies conducted in Mozambique, Solomon Islands and Vietnam, a workshop held in Maastricht in May 2007, as well as a review of the wider literature, earlier summarised in the study’s inception report.

Land, T., Hauck, V. and H. Baser. 2007. Aid Effectiveness and the Provision of TA Personnel: Improving Practice (Policy Management Brief No. 20). Maastricht: ECDPM

Drawing on the recent work of ECDPM on technical assistance and capacity development, this PMB argues that improving the effectiveness of TA personnel as an instrument for capacity development requires actions at two complementary levels: (1) progressively shifting management responsibilities to the partner country and harmonising and aligning development agency support behind country-defined strategies and systems; (2) improving the quality of support provided by TA personnel by adopting a ‘capacity development perspective’, within which TA personnel are seen as a potentially important ingredient in developing capacity, and ensuring that this perspective is applied systematically throughout the design, implementation and review of interventions

Joint Study on Effective Technical Cooperation for Capacity Development (2008)

Technical cooperation (TC) is recognized (e.g. in the Paris Declaration) as a key means of ensuring the critical capacity improvements needed for better development results. It is acknowledged that the causal relationship between TC and Capacity Development (CD) outputs and outcomes is complex. Data collection and research methodologies related to TC and CD are challenging. Against this background, the overall objective of the study was to attempt to fill current knowledge gaps related to TC effectiveness. The overall strategy of the study was to facilitate a country-led approach to assembling empirical evidence on country experiences of planning and implementation of TC.

Real Aid  - Making Technical Assistance Work Report ActionAID 2006

This report argues that root-and-branch reform of technical assistance is urgently needed to ensure that the aid increases pledged in 2005 result in genuine benefits for people living in the poorest countries. These reforms need to be anchored in four guiding principles: of putting recipient countries in the lead; giving them freedom to choose their own development path; of mutual accountability between donors and recipients; and of country specificity.

Does Training Work? Re-examining Donor-sponsored Training Programs in Developing Countries,  WBI 2006

This article examines the available evidence about training as an instrument of capacity development and asks whether it works and under which conditions it is most optimally pursued. The first part of the paper considers evidence from the World Bank and other international donors, which spend considerable sums on training in developing countries. The second part of the paper looks at the record of private sector firms to see what can be learned from company training programs, which have tended to be better documented and followed from a cost-effectiveness standpoint. The article then considers what conclusions from the private sector can help us toward a better understanding of the optimal conditions for training in a development context.

Southern Perspectives on Technical Cooperation, Zoe Scott, GSDRC, 2009

This review identifies several areas of concern to Southern nationals and recipient governments. There are a few that stand out as key, either because of the frequency with which they are mentioned, or because of the depth of criticism they have evoked. The following policy recommendations have been based on these key findings:

  • Donors should prioritise using national or regional consultants wherever such local resources are available.
  • TC aid should be unbundled from other types of aid, and be accounted for and presented to country governments in a transparent format.
  • In situations where donors have to use international consultants, they should prioritise cultural awareness, collaborative approaches to working and strong communication and interpersonal skills alongside technical skills and qualifications.
  • TC consultants should be required to undertake regular training in cultural sensitivity and capacity building techniques and approaches.
  • Donors must begin to understand that TC reform is deeply linked with the need for civil service pay reform.
  • There needs to be a development of forums in which Southern perspectives on TC and other aid modalities can be heard.
  • Country governments should follow the example of Cambodia in developing public policy papers detailing how they want TC to be conducted in their country. They should be willing to turn down TC that does not conform to these guidelines.

Changing Approaches to Technical Assistance, Brian Lucas, GSDRC, 2009

Technical assistance and technical cooperation have a long history in development aid and have often been criticised as being supply-driven, expensive, poorly planned and integrated, and failing to promote country ownership. Despite criticisms, these activities continue to play an important role: the OECD estimates that technical assistance makes up about one-quarter of global aid, while ActionAid suggests that the true figure could be much higher, perhaps as high as half of all aid. Expenditure on technical cooperation has not declined in absolute terms, although it has declined as a proportion of overall aid as other forms of aid have grown more quickly. Donors are taking steps to reform technical cooperation policies in response to the main criticisms, including repositioning technical cooperation so that capacity building, rather than technical support per se, will be its main purpose, but skeptics point out that problems with technical cooperation have been known for many years, with few signs of change.

Donor agency and national guidance and evaluations

ADB (2007) Special Evaluation on Performance of Technical Assistance

Several reviews and evaluations carried out over the last decade found that technical assistance (TA) had not reached its full potential in achieving development results, and identified concerns over the approach to TA management and the effectiveness of many TAs. This evaluation study undertook an assessment of past reviews and evaluations, an analysis of the evaluation database on TA performance, and country case studies of purposefully selected sample TAs in selected sectors. About two-thirds of ADB's TA activities were successful and many generated strategic impacts that transferred best international practice to developing member countries. On the other hand, still about a third of TAs activities were not successful.

DFID (2006) How to provide Technical Cooperation personnel. How to Note

The purpose of this paper is to improve the impact of DFIDs Technical Cooperation (TC). It is aimed at country offices but may also be useful for other parts of DFID that are involved in TC. It takes the reader through the different stages of TC, from identification and design to procurement and monitoring, and provides a set of good practice principles that should be applied across these. The common thread is for partners to have a central role at all stages and to lead TC policy and implementation where there is capacity.

European Commission (2000) Guidelines on Making Technical Cooperation more Effective

These guidelines are a key element in of the EC strategy to reform how it will work with Technical Cooperation (TC) in the future. They will be updated based on lessons learned and reactions from partners, EC staff and donors. The guidelines cover TC funded by the EC. They apply to all EC modalities of support, including centralised and decentralised management as well as country system procedures (see annex 6 on procedures). They cover TC support to government, civil society and the private sector. The guidelines are also intended to help guide staff in situations where the EC is actively engaged in dialogue about and overseeing TC functions. This may be TC delivered by others or TC procured by a partner receiving budget support for a programme from the EC.

European Commission (2008) Reforming Technical Cooperation and Project implementation units for external Aid provided by the European Commission – a 2008 Backbone Strategy

This document presents the European Commission Strategy for external aid to guide the reform of Technical Cooperation (TC) and Project Implementation Units (PIUs). This Strategy, which is part of wider EC actions to implement the Paris Declaration, aims to improve the effectiveness of EC aid with respect to capacity development. The Strategy also responds to the European Court of Auditors’ Report on Technical Assistance (No. 6/2007). The Strategy explains why reform is necessary, presents a vision of future Technical Cooperation practice and Project Implementation Units (PIUs), and sets out the actions to be undertaken to achieve the vision.

IMF. 2005 Evaluation of the technical assistance provided by the International Monetary Fund. Washington: International Monetary Fund. 

This evaluation examines the technical assistance (TA) provided by the IMF to its member countries. The evaluation is based on desk reviews of a broad sample of countries, analyses of cross-country data on TA, six in-depth country case studies, reviews of past evaluations, and interviews with IMF staff and other stakeholders. In trying to assess the effectiveness of technical assistance, we distinguish between the impact at different stages of the results chain—the immediate improvements in the technical capabilities of agencies receiving TA, the ability of agencies to then apply and enforce that increased capability; and whenever possible, ultimate outcomes on the ground. Attribution of results to the effects of TA clearly becomes more difficult the further out the results chain we go. While such assessments inevitably rely heavily upon qualitative judgments, we have drawn upon various performance indicators and benchmarks wherever possible.

OECD, Bridging State Capacity Gaps in Situations of Fragility

This first volume of the PDG Experts’ Series investigates whether using technical assistance in core government functions and services has been conducive to capacity development. Each case study (Afghanistan, Haiti, South Sudan and Timor-Leste) identifies specific bottlenecks and successes and aims to find new ways of thinking about the use of interim personnel for service delivery in core government functions. 

Government of Cambodia (2008) The Provision and Management of Technical Cooperation in Cambodia, Government Position Paper for Consultation

The general objective of this position paper is to support the translation of the RGC's capacity development priorities into effective technical cooperation policies and programmes. The specific objectives are as follows: (1) To clarify and reinforce the link between technical cooperation and capacity development by focusing first on process issues related to management of technical cooperation and second on the required collective actions to improve support to capacity development; (2) To build consensus on the role of technical cooperation and modalities for its effective management based on principles of RGC ownership and leadership of the development agenda; and (3) To inform a Guideline that establishes technical cooperation management and monitoring arrangements.

Government of Cambodia (2008) A Guideline on the Provision and Management of Technical Cooperation

The objective of this Guideline is to support the translation of the Government's capacity development priorities into effective technical cooperation programmes by: (1) Reinforcing the technical cooperation-capacity development linkage through improved management and collective actions to support capacity development. (2) Establishing technical cooperation management standards that are based on: (i) Government approaches to human resource development; (ii) public administration reform; and (iii) aid effectiveness principles based on ownership and leadership of the development agenda.

Useful web sites and partners

Joint Study on Effective TC for CD

This web-page holds all the documents prepared as part of the joint study on technical cooperation and capacity development. It includes 11 country case studies as well as the main synthesis report.

Capacity4Dev is a powerful knowledge management tool aimed at improving technical cooperation. This project is managed by DG Europeaid  - Directorate on Quality of Operations" - unit E5 on "Quality Monitoring systems and methodologies"

Other knowledge resources: tools, reports, books...

Brain Drain is Not Irreversible (Human Development Viewpoint)

Brain drain can virtually rob the future of the poorest countries. By developing creative strategies for collaborating with their diasporas, by promoting knowledge networks, market access, facilitating direct investment and supporting return migration, this process may be reversed.

Developing Capacity Through Technical Cooperation (Executive Summary)

Developing Capacity Through Technical Cooperation: Country Experiences is the second in a series of studies exploring the fundamentals of capacity development and the role of external cooperation. It provides concrete inputs to rethinking technical cooperation for today's challenges based on six country studies - Bangladesh, Bolivia, Egypt, Kyrgyz Republic, Philippines and Uganda.

Developing Capacity? An evaluation of DFID funded Technical Cooperation for economic management in Sub Saharan Africa. Technical Cooperation for economic Development DFID (2006)

This evaluation of DFID technical cooperation (TC) for strengthening economic management in Africa is based on four country case studies (of Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Zambia) and focuses mainly on the period 1999-2004. The evaluation sought to understand the contribution of technical cooperation to the development of organisational capacity for economic management – that is the ability of the key organisations (Ministries, Departments) involved in the economic management process to discharge their functions

The International Mobility of Talent and its Impact on Global Development: An Overview

Human talent is a key economic resource and a source of creative power in science, technology, business, arts and culture and other activities. Talent has a large economic value and its mobility has increased with globalization, the spread of new information technologies and lower transportation costs. Well educated and/or talented people are often more internationally mobile than unskilled workers and face more favourable immigration policies in receiving countries, typically high per capita inc

Morgan, P., 2002 Technical assistance: correcting the precedents, UNDP Development Policy Journal, 2, 1-22

Unlike many of the recent proposed action plans for improving technical assistance, complete with careful recommendations and operational steps, this paper takes a step back half a century to concentrate on why technical assistance became a problem rather than a solution. Looking at the features that made development cooperation revolutionary in the history of international relations, it examines TA from the perspective of the organisational pressures and dynamics it involved. It also asks how the current cycle of reappraisal and reform began – and looks ahead to the latest proposals for change.

Baser, H. and P. Morgan. 2002. Harmonising the Provision of Technical Assistance: Finding the Right Balance and Avoiding the New Religion (ECDPM Discussion Paper 36). Maastricht: ECDPM 

This study is part of the ongoing reflection within international development organisations on ways to harmonise their management procedures. The overall aims of such initiatives are to encourage country ownership, to reduce the fragmentation of externally funded development activities, and to reduce the administrative burden on all development partners. The present paper is a short version of the full report of a study, entitled The Pooling of Technical Assistance: An Overview based on Field Experience in Six African Countries, published in 2001, reworked for a field-level audience with the specific purpose of providing background material for consultations with African policy makers and practitioners.

Morgan, P & Land, A, 2008 Technical Cooperation for Capacity Development in Cambodia: Making the system work better

The Royal Government of Cambodia and its development partners continue to collaborate on improving aid effectiveness.Part of this effort has focused on the specific implications of the Paris Declaration for aid design and management in the Cambodian context.Part has been about more general improvements to the design, management and monitoring of technical cooperation (TC) that could be implemented by the RGC, by individual DPs or by actors from both sides coordinating their activities. These perennial topics of TC in general and technical assistance personnel (TA) in particular present particular challenges. Cambodia as an aid-dependent country with continuing gaps in capacity has received a high proportion of its development assistance in the form of TC. No serious effort at improving overall aid effectiveness can make much headway without addressing this issue. To do this, the Partnership and Harmonization Technical Working Group agreed to sponsor a review of TC in the Cambodian context. This report sets out our findings, conclusions and recommendations.

Project Implementation Units (Human Development Viewpoint)

PIUs, though holding promise for efficient project management and operations, may over time exacerbate the very problems that made them necessary to begin with. If still employed, it must be ensured that they are compatible and integrated with the broader reform processes and have an explicit exit strategy with effective safeguards.