Fragile situations: Busan and beyond


Key messages

Current approaches to capacity development have not been very effective in most fragile and post-conflict states and have even been detrimental in some cases (EuropeAid 2010 p 6).  Fragile and post-conflict states are rife with dilemmas where no solution will accommodate all concerns and solutions may be far from ideal. Careful analysis of the context is required to identify points of entry and to understand the implications of various choices.   

Linear methods of planning and implementing capacity interventions are often problematic in fragile situations. Adaptation to their complex and changing contexts may require the greater flexibility inherent in emergent or incremental approaches.  These approaches require much more attention to on-going learning from experience so that activities can be adapted accordingly.  Monitoring and evaluation systems for capacity need to take into account both tangible and intangible results, including resilience, sustainability, and legitimacy, and how they interact.

The role of donors may need to expand or change to include new activities, such as insulating or protecting partner organizations from political pressures so as to give them space to develop their capacity, including their legitimacy. One way of doing this is to ensure that the management frameworks for projects and programs provide room for experimentation with and testing of new ideas and approaches and that monitoring criteria focus on processes of learning rather than specific tangible results.

Thinking about increasingly operational approaches post-Busan

Addressing capacity challenges in fragile situations will require concerted effort to develop a common understanding between country partners and donors of what capacity is to be developed and for whom.  This may take considerable time and may require both informal exchanges and formal dialogue among stakeholders with disparate views.  Donors can play a useful role in supporting networks for the leaders in the country (politicians, ministers, NGO leaders) who to exchange ideas on how to proceed. 

Purely technical approaches are usually inadequate to address capacity challenges and efforts to overcome political tensions are necessary. It is these latter that are often the more critical obstacles to developing capacity (Missika 2010 p 2).  In any capacity development activity, it is important to leave room for bargaining and re-strategizing during the implementation of activities to accommodate changes in needs and priorities.

Donor systems need lightening to reduce the pressures on developing partners’ capacity. The requirements for project proposals and for monitoring are discouraging to many country partners. New requirements should reflect the management systems and processes of the country as much as possible so as to avoid partners having to learn and apply two systems (shadow alignment).   

Dilemma analysis provides a means of recognizing and managing trade-offs. Donors can help assess the implications of these tradeoffs to avoid solutions which might undermine the state over time.

Transitions from donor-controlled programs to co-managed ones will require thinking through the incentives for country partners donors to make such a move and how they can contribute to such a process. 

International TA should be used sparingly and diasporas should be tapped where possible.   Regional advisers seem to be more appropriate for coaching and mentoring than other internationals because of better cultural understanding(Osmani slide 6).  All TA, national and international, should receive clear direction on expectations in reference to capacity development.  It is also important to ensure that country partners have a role in the management of TA from the beginning of the program and to increase this in phases as national capacity is built and demonstrated.  This includes using partner country systems where possible, for example, Afghanistan has, a performance appraisal system to measure skills transfer and capacity enhancement of counterparts (Osmani slide 6).

Topping up of the salaries of national public servants is only appropriate when there is broad agreement among the main donors working in the country on how it should be done.  In fragile situations, it is especially important to have a code of conduct specifying how to avoid undermining the limited capacity of the public service.