Technical cooperation: Selected aid approaches to capacity development

Aid agencies

Australia: Technical cooperation represents almost one-half of all aid. Its’ approach to technical assistance has been reformed over the last five years in support of local ownership and co-ordinated at the sector level. AusAid is one of the few aid agencies to institutionalize its” capacity function, with full time staff to HQ and the field, and with written staff guidance, specialized training and results monitoring and evaluation.

Denmark: DANIDA, especially its Technical Advisory Services group, has had a longstanding interest in technical co-operation and capacity development. It currently is revising its capacity development approach to enhance effectiveness. At the level of technical assistance, it is focusing on ensuring demand for TA and that TA concentrates on advisory as opposed to implementation activities. DANIDA emphasizes the pooling of resources with other partners.

European Union: The implementation of technical co-operation reform forms the centerpiece of capacity development in all EuropeAid activities. Following its Backbone Strategy, it produced Guidelines on Making Technical Co-operation More Effective in 2009. Significant is the 2009 Council political commitment by member states to a more common European approach, including greater local ownership, avoidance of “Project Implementation Units”, special consideration in fragile situations and organized monitoring. The Commission set up in 2009 to facilitate exchange of lessons and good practice.

France: AFD is the lead agency in reforming technical co-operation. Its 2007 Governance Strategy accords a central role to institutional and human capacity building, particularly in terms of targeting agents and structures of change. Technical assistance, training and educational grants long have been an important part of French aid . The new approach aims to build up and support local expertise as a priority and seeks to better encourage local ownership and alignment.

Germany: The Guidelines for Financial and Technical Cooperation define technical co-operation and capacity development as a key function and core service line for GTZ, DED and InWEnt – and were recently revised to include commitments to aid effectiveness. Policies in GTZ, CIM and InWEnt support greater use of local personnel and diaspora, as well as South-South co-operation and experience sharing. GTZ produced major new capacity guidelines in 2010 CapacityWORKS.

Japan: JICA notes that its technical co-operation focuses on individual skills and knowledge transfer with a goal of targeting government institutions and improving their ability to provide public service in key sectors. In 2008 it co-financed a major Joint Study on Effective Technical Cooperation for Capacity Development , with recommendations for flexible and locally led approaches. Japan actively supports South-South co-operation.

Netherlands: In 2002, the Ministry for Development Co-operation sought to discontinue the provision of Dutch technical assistance, which was viewed as too supply driven. That policy continues to evolve and currently supports demand driven aid practices, including TA. It now is rethinking its technical cooperation approach and modalities, especially in the context of its work at the sector level.

United Kingdom: The DFID How to Note On Providing Technical Cooperation Personnel explains its support for TC in the form of personnel, training, knowledge and research. It views TC as one input in the long term process of capacity development. DFID supports technical co-operation that is harmonized with other donors, demand-driven, country led and easy for partner countries to access, preferably through a market for advisory services that offers choice to the partner country.

Asian Development Bank: The Asian Community of Practice for MfDR, managed by partner countries with logistical and financial support from the ADB, is seen as an example of South-South and triangular co-operation. Examples occurred between Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam around a joint approach to mutual accountability. It also supports regional and sub-regional co-operation through the Greater Mekong Sub-region, the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation and in sub-regional grouping in South Asia.

UNDP: UNDP is revising its approach to technical cooperation to enhance its impact on capacity development and has outlined a new paradigm for technical co-operation that supports a nationally-owned and country driven capacity development process. It also supports South-South co-operation, especially through a special administrative unit on this topic.

World Bank: In 2005, the World Bank Task Force on Capacity Development in Africa recognized the need to move towards pooling donor funds and technical assistance, and to rethink the use of technical co-operation overall. The Africa Region Knowledge and Learning Centre promotes S-S learning exchanges. Bank evaluations suggest that technical co-operation needs review and re-direction so as to contribute effectively to capacity development.

Partner countries

Afghanistan: Submerged in a $3 billion supply of gap-filling technical assistance, while recognising in its national plan that capacity development as a cross cutting issue and that the improvement of public sector capacity in particular are the key challenges to national development. It has put in place several activities to manage better its technical assistance more in line with national priorities: The Civilian Technical Assistance Plan seeks to provide targeted, government led provision for TA that is aligned with national priorities for capacity development. The Management Capacity Programme supports the interim buy-in of critical management capacity for line ministries to deal with donor provided technical advisory assistance. The National Institution Building Project supports long term and integrated approaches to the capacity needs of ministries and agencies at the central and sub-national level. As a matter of policy, wherever possible TA is placed tactically in the context of Afghan strategies, such as in civil service reform. Afghanistan has considerable experience in use of its diaspora.

Liberia: Following its 1989- 2003 civil war, Liberia’s National Capacity Development Strategy and Action Plan attempts to address the country’s “severe capacity crisis” at the individual level (low learning outcomes, poor skills profiles, brain-drain), institutional level (erosion of public systems; loss of competence, authority and effectiveness of public institutions, weak non-state institutions) and societal level (depressed economy, low productive capacity, widespread poverty and disempowerment). In support of Plan implementation, a National Capacity Development Unit has been established within the Ministry of Planning and Economic. The Unit focuses on national leadership of all forms of capacity development, including technical assistance. This includes the use of skilled expatriate nationals.

Cambodia: Cambodia’s guidelines in the 2008 Provision and Management of Technical Cooperation lay out national expectations in this area. It includes technical cooperation as an input to capacity development, outlines institutional and operational arrangements, including at the sector level, under national leadership. It also links approaches to latest aid effectiveness commitments and sets up a system for resource allocation and implementation follow up. It underscores the importance of mutual cooperation, collaborative innovation and joint learning.

NEPAD: As the operational agency of the African Union, NEPAD is now attempting to implement the Union’s 2010 Capacity Development Strategic Framework (CDSF). While not specific to technical co-operation, the CDSF provides the elements of an important continent-wide vision of how technical co-operation should be provided: focus on use of local vision, skills, management processes, whether at the local, national, regional or even continental level. NEPAD also supports peer based technical co-operation among African states wherever possible. As a policy level networking agency, NEPAD has the potential to promote efficient use of technical co-operation (and aid generally) across the continent.

Rwanda: The Rwanda Public Sector Capacity Building Secretariat (PSCBS) aims “to enhance capacity of public institutions to ensure efficiency, effectiveness, accountability, and transparency in service delivery”. PSCBS is the broad institutional answer (Secretariat, Fund, Steering Committee, staff) to all aspects of national capacity building, including technical co-operation.

South Africa: Since 2006, the National Treasury has undertaken studies on the promotion of more effective aid,including capacity development issues which relate to technical co-operation. Seven principles were identified (clarity of roles/relationships; link to delivery; comprehensive planning; learning; use systems perspective; accountability; deliberate focus on method). These elements have influenced its’ own aid programme to Africa.

Tanzania: Tanzania and local development partners formulated in 2009 a National Technical Assistance Policy (NTAP) which focuses on the use of technical assistance in support of capacity development, through local jointly managed approaches and emphasis on the use of local personnel. Still in its earliest stages, NTAP is seen as a starting point for joint local learning on good practice in the use of TA. NTAP notes that traditional “gap filling” rather than proactive capacity development in a longer term sense has tended to be the rule in Tanzania to date.