Last blog for the module – UNIT 5

•November 11, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Last and final blog for the module – UNIT 5

Who knows, maybe I will become a consummate blogger but for some reason I think not.  I enjoyed this unit more than some of the others as I felt that I could relate a lot easier to what people were saying; though what this unit has done is continue to force me to make links between the provision of aid and the different development theories and how they have evolved through time.

What I have learnt?

A lot of what was covered in this unit, I already had some knowledge on; for example the MDGs, the G7, absorptive capacity of aid by recipient Governments and much more though there were some points which I either hadn’t thought about at all or were submerged in my consciousness somewhere.

The promises that donor governments, G7, the EU and others give at meetings and conferences about the level and quantity of their aid and what actually happens in reality was no surprise to me.  What was surprising though was that the EU has such a poor track record with what it promised and what it gave; only 35% of its commitment to aid between 2004 and 2010 was realised (www.one.org/data/en/data/) which is actually shocking.  What was even more so and on the same website was the information about the total amount of grants which were given but the enormous costs that are involved in administering the grants.  These costs far outweigh the total costs of all grants which kind of makes you think, hasn’t someone worked this out and tried to think of a different way to administer grants.  It’s kind of ironic that donors are talking about aid effectiveness but maybe they sometimes need to look at how effective and efficient they are actually being.

My work is mostly concerned  with how it contributes to one or more of the MDGs  and when I think of MDGs I think of poverty alleviation, improved living conditions etc but I hadn’t really considered the obvious link to economic growth other than on the very grassroots level of how to improve livelihoods at the community level.  It was interesting to consider by reading Greig et al (2007) about the MDGs and how these are primarily concerned with human development but how these are intrinsically linked with various parts of the different development theories.  To think that for economic growth to occur and to take off, human development in the areas of health, education, infrastructure and governance needs to have reached a certain threshold is obvious but maybe not automatically considered by donors, NGOs and others (including myself – we always seem to want to run before we can walk).   I know of various NGOs (usually smaller ones these days) who do their projects without thinking of how this may fit into the bigger picture.  For example; an NGO may provide reading books and training to teachers on how to manage these resources in the hope that more children will enrol at school and stay at school.  What they may fail to consider is the longer term view of what an educated population may actually do for the community, the district or the country that they live in further down the line.  Obviously the final outcome or impact is a long term goal and is usually far beyond the reach of a small 2-3 year project but surely it should always be at the back of the NGO’s mind – or is it and it is just isn’t articulated?

How do I feel?

I’ve actually just come back from almost 2 weeks in Laos up on the Burma/Thai/Laos border reviewing a basic education project.  This is what it’s about, getting the Government officials away from their desks and into communities to discuss what is working well and what isn’t.  Seeing the various light bulbs go on and the enthusiasm for their work as a result of being out is great. 

This links to the Laos Ministry of Education’s long term strategy that was developed to respond to MDG 2 and 3 and Education for All.  The Ministry developed this with support from donors and as a precursor to donors committing to various parts of the plan.  What is more interesting is how the Ministry of Education recognised that it would not achieve the MDG of universal primary completion by 2015 due to intense regional variations and various marginalised groups of children.  The MoE developed an additional document – the Education Development Framework (EDF) which has a focus on marginalised children particularly girls and those from ethnic minority groups in remote areas.  The EDF is now being implemented in various parts of the country with various innovative ideas being carried out , the grils scholarship program run by the Government (but funded externally), radio programmes broadcast in minority languages by Plan in association with the Department for Information on the importance of education.  This is just a small example where the recipient Government has taken the responsibility, recognised the inequalities which exist within it’s borders and are trying to do something about it albeit with the necessary support from donors and NGOs.   

I have mixed feelings about absorptive capacities for donor funds of Governments, in one way I feel, give them the money they need it but on the other hand which is probably a wee bit stronger, I do feel that it can actually be irresponsible of donors to give so much money to a country.  Many recipient countries may not have robust enough financial or accountability systems in place and the result is no obvious impact from the money.  The common knowledge that AusAID will be putting in huge amounts of money to the Timor Leste Ministry of Education which could account for almost 30% of the Ministry’s budget is a classic example though to give AusAID their dues, they are trying to work out the best way which the funds could be used to offset particular problems.  The potential in instances like this for the donor Government to have considerable leverage over the recipient government on how the funds may be used, the possibilities that the recipient Government is going to have to deal with a parallel financing and reporting system is huge.  Additionally the chance that the recipient government may then look at the education budget and say, well a donor is providing so much money so we can cut our allocation to education is also prevalent.  A proper analysis of a recipient government’s capacity to absorb any amount of funds needs to be made before the donor decides what it will do.

How relevant is this?

How countries allocate their money, how the money is used, how the accountability to the tax payers occurs are all big questions with no one answer, every situation or country/region needs to be looked at on a case by case situation.  Encouraging NGOs to be innovative and to try out new ideas is so important in these situations but donors are usually hesitant in allowing this to happen as they are worried about the accountability and usually require  specific activities to be  written at the proposal stage.  This goes into Owen’s blog (www.owen.org/blog/3633) where he talks about how it would be better to look at the overall results rather than how you get there.    This needs to be sold to the donors as activities which can then maybe be replicated with some adjustments in other localities, if not donors just see it as being a very high unit cost activity.  An example is where the consulting company I work for provide 5% of our overall fees to a NGO or CSO plus technical expertise to conduct a pilot activity – this year the money went to a Laos NGO to do some work on supporting non-lao speaking students in school.  The beauty of this project is that it fits into the Ministry of Education’s EDF for supporting the most marginalised, it has Government support and participation and the Ministry is already talking about how this may be replicated in other districts and is beginning to seek funding .

One thing which struck me was Owen’s blog about measuring results and thus how effective the aid has been (www.owen.org/blog/3633) .  I agree with Owen that it is important to look at the longer term as mentioned above and the actual impact of the aid but I do think that it would be difficult if not impossible to do this without some intermediary steps which shouldn’t be onerous for anyone.  Nearly everyone in Government and the Aid world are familiar with reporting against inputs, outputs and outcomes as they are aware that the impact may not actually become apparent until after the project has finished but they often have this long term goal in mind.  And  yes the problem can be that a log frame which looks great at the proposal stage is no longer relevant 1-2 years down the line but many donors are flexible enough to allow changes to be made to a log frame during the implementation phase.  From my experience recipient Governments or Ministries like these intermediate steps and they may be the ones who  suggest the different steps or milestones.  There may initially be a focus on the inputs which may be the most tangible e.g. construction of a school, training but they quickly leap to the next stage of so how is the school building helping the children and/or teachers, what difference has the training made.  These intermediary monitoring steps also provide the opportunity for things to be tweaked where necessary.

Applying this in my work?

It may be that there aren’t actually any specifics which can be applied in my work other than I could see myself thinking about how all the different parts of the puzzle would fit in for a particular situation.  The quotes from Lant Pratchett in Owen’s blog (www.owen.org/blog/3815) of  “Development is about more than growth to Development isn’t at all about growth,” made me think of the example of West Timor and the resettlement sites.  There are maybe up to 30 different resettlement sites of former refugees from Timor Leste in West Timor and the aid for these communities was huge in that all their basic needs were catered for – education, shelter, water, health.  However, there was no support or thought given to how these communities would sustain themselves beyond the short term; the result is communities with limited economic opportunities to this day and a dependency on aid, aid which is now drying up in the present climate of Indonesia not being as big a  priority for many donors as it was in the past.

I suppose what this module has really made me think about is those huge inequalities which are prevalent in many middle income countries and how these can be highlighted and the relevant action taken; for example the Laos education development framework (EDF) which are wanting to reach the most marginalised.  It’s essential for countries and donors  to learn from others and to think about how these inequalities can be tackled.

Governance – nearly a week late but better late than never

•October 29, 2011 • Leave a Comment

So another week has gone by and time to write another blog though we’re nearly at the end of week 4 and this is a blog for week 3.

It was funny reading unit 3 as I thought crikey I’ve started to touch on some of these issues already in my blog for week 2 even though I hadn’t read any of the materials for unit 3.

The first thing that struck me about unit 3 was oh boy, we’re starting with a heavy document to read on neo-liberalism but I managed to get through that and became truly engaged with the articles on governance; an area of work which I have been involved in and have also been on the sidelines looking in at.

Learning this week

Things started to slot into place; I seemed to have all or most of the pieces but they were all jumbled up and I think that this week has started to rearrange them into some semblance of order but by no means perfect!

The realisation from donors and NGOs in the 1990’s that the structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) that had been put forward in the late 80’s/early 90’s were still not sufficient to ensure development occurred and was equal amongst a country’s people was fascinating.  Along with that there needed to be other conditions imposed by the donors for the delivery of aid to occur and this was the requirement for ‘good’ governance and that the recipient country should work towards  democracy and universal human rights (Leftwich, 2000).  It took some time for me to get SAPs but their failure to work in many cases due to poor governance did immediately trigger a bell.  It made me think of where I live in Indonesia and although things are improving in recent years; mostly as a response to decentralisation and a stronger central government which is cracking down on corruption; there are still many cases coming to court where senior government officials are being accused of corruption of central or district government money.  Now for Indonesia you can not say that the systems and processes are not in place; they are, just like the systems and processes were for SAPs but was there the will, the understanding, the motivation to implement them or to know that you could be held accountable and the answer has to be no or not in its entirety.  This linked very nicely to the article by Moore (ODI, 2006) and how political underdevelopment led to bad governance; something which seems obvious but may not immediately spring to mind.  I went through Moore’s causes of political underdevelopment and thought yep, nearly all the countries that I have worked in, I could put a tick against the boxes for each of those reasons though some countries may have moved on from some of the stages.  I particularly, like Tom, liked the linkage of how taxation is important for development.  Initially it was like, how can that be but then it clicked and I can see it happening in Eastern Indonesia where the tax system is in its infancy for implementation but there is progress in that people are definitely becoming more vocal, more questioning about how the taxpayers money is being used.  In other words the local Government or contractors are being held accountable.

I particularly liked Grindle’s (2004) article on “Good Enough Governance” and how different donors  have expectations that the Government is going to be able to deliver on the whole list of what is required for good governance.  It needs to be thought about, is there any country which can actually say they tick of yes to the never ending criteria which amount to good governance?  Additionally the comment by Grindle about the necessity to consider if all aspects of good governance lead to poverty reduction, that was something I hadn’t thought about before.  What I had thought about a few times in my work was about prioritising the aspects of governance but had always had difficulties in doing this due to the inter-linkages between so many aspects.  For example, governance at the school level to ensure quality and relevant education to children is essential but then what needs to happen at the district education office level for this to occur and then what needs to happen at the Ministry level?  There’s not easy answer to this and there are not that many donors or organisations who work across the whole spectrum from grassroots to the national level; so again the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness needs to be looked at by these donors and decisions made about how such harmonisation and synergies between partners can come about.

An interesting article in the Guardian Weekly (16-22 September 2011) was about the upcoming Rio+20 United Nations Summit and how the present focus  on how the environment should be protected could be shifted to how countries can support a green economy.  This will then take away the emphasis of placing obligations on countries to fulfil the various treaties and conventions which arose as a result of the 1992 Rio summit but will have a new one on how green economies can increase the economic development of the country and at the same time protect the environment.    More links to increased development which I hadn’t previously thought about.

How did I feel?

At the start of the unit, put of but then by the end I was raring to go.  Governance is something which carries over to all levels of society and can not just be seen as something which is the responsibility of the Government; good enough governance of NGOs, donors, civil society organisations (CSOs) and others is all necessary for their to be an impact on the ground.  I feel that this needs to be remembered and sometimes the donors can be concentrating on the national level and forget about the communities – change may happen at the national level but that does not necessarily mean it will filter down should there have been no effort at this level.  Donors or International NGOs need to consider the CSOs and local NGOs that they may be working with and conduct a simple assessment of their capacity at present and what works and what needs tweaking can only bring benefits to all in the end.  Too often CSOs and LNGOS are required to carry out technical aspects of a programme but they don’t actually have the relevant mechanisms in place or the understanding on how to go about it.

An example is when I was working with Save the Children in Eastern Indonesia and we just started to work with a small LNGO who were very keen and motivated, excited about working with an INGO and wanting to get out in the field.  It quickly became apparent that there were serious issues regarding finance, reporting and areas of management – not corruption by any means but just lack of capacity; the result was a participatory assessment to understand what support was required to ensure that the project objectives were achieved.  The impact was that the LNGO felt valued as a partner rather than a contractor, they implemented all activities to a satisfactory level, brought new innovations to some existing activities and there was a positive impact for the beneficiaries.  Subsequently and partially due to improved governance in the LNGO, they began to get funding from other INGOs in the geographic area.

Interpretation

Of course it has to be understood that governance is here to stay and that in some cases it will be bad, in others good enough and lastly it may be good.  But there needs to be a concerted effort by the donors, NGOs and governments that support for improved governance needs to be targeted and relevant to the organisation’s needs and there needs to be a positive outcome for all concerned.  Additionally, considering how everyone can be involved in holding the government or an organisation to account should be included.  My mind goes to some of the child based budget monitoring that I worked on with Save the Children in Timor Barat.  These children had been involved in the development of school development plans which were partially funded by the Indonesian Government’s school operational funds (locally known as Dana BOS) and then the same children were involved in ensuring that these funds were used as directed by the plan.  Of course, there had to be substantial work carried out with the Parent Teacher Committee and the Head teacher to ensure that there was a complete understanding of what the children were doing and to ensure that the children’s rights specifically that of protection was upheld.  The result was increased ownership for the school by everyone concerned.

Decision level

Some of what I should say here has probably already been said above but the main point has to be that when I’m writing proposals, conducting evaluations or supporting the capacity development of NGO staff, there has to be an increased focus on what aspects of governance will be covered.  Too often I’ve written in reports or proposals, ‘support the development of increased governance in the district education office’ or something similar but what does that actually mean?  It may sound ok but there needs to be a detailed analysis of what aspects of governance should be covered and these should be prioritised.

 

Dependency and Modernisation – Where Do I Stand?

•October 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Fortunately this week, the readings were more at my ‘level’ of comprehension and they only needed to be read a couple of times instead of the 4-5 of unit 1!  However it’s still difficult trying to find the time for the studying– my home seems to be the inside of a plane at the moment; but I know that the travelling will soon stop just in time for the first assignment!

What did I learn?

I found out that both modernisation and dependency theories both have their place in history and have also influenced how I, myself perceive the world today.  When I think about what most people want in life today, people will often say financial security, having friends and family close by, being healthy, getting a quality education.  Most of these (except maybe having the friends and family close by) can be related to improving the livelihoods of individuals which can be related to improved economic growth of a town, district and at the larger scale, a country – this links back to the theories of modernisation and dependency.

I was amazed to read about the Bretton Woods Agreement and how four very powerful institutions in the world came about and continue to influence much of what happens economically in the world today.  What I was not so happy about was to learn that the agreement was made mostly between powerful countries  who would subsequently make decisions for other countries who were considered ‘less well off’ and these more affluent countries thinking that they knew what was best for the others – never a good recipe.  I’d like to think that this type of thinking has been obliterated in more recent times as lessons have been learned but unfortunately I would be wrong with many countries still exerting a considerable influence over others.

An example of this is the relationship between Timor Leste and the donor community – Timor Leste has a huge number of donors and very close relationships with the Portuguese, Australians and Brazilians.  Timor Leste is relatively financially secure due to it’s oil reserves but it is still being somewhat pummelled by the various donors on what prioritisation needs to occur now and in the future to improve the lives of its people.  Many donors forget that few countries especially ones which need to be built from scratch (including the development of laws and policies) do not have the capacity to assimilate multiple projects and programmes and that the result can be that the impact is limited in many instances.  This became very topical in 2009 when it became public knowledge that over eight billion US dollars had been spent in improving the lives of the Timorese in the last 10 years (and there are only one million Timorese) – the question that was subsequently asked was “What change has there been for the normal man on the street?” and the answer was somewhat worrying; very little.    This is an example where donors are well meaning but are not appreciating that the capacity of the Government to assimilate all these programmes is limited.  In addition, the donor may have influence over the development of the country’s policies and programmes due to the amount of money it is pouring in e.g. one donor from 2012 will be providing funds of what amounts to 33% of the Government’s annual education budget.   An example of the dependency theory in all its glory.

One benefit of the modernisation theory that I had not considered before was that in some manner the industrialised countries have done a lot of work for other less industrialised countries.  The development and implementation of numerous technologies are something which all can benefit – less industrialised countries do not need to spend time and money on developing technologies as others have already done this for them.  All that the less industrialised countries need to do is to  have the skills to manage these technologies in an appropriate manner for their country.  An example is in Indonesia where in 2003, hand phones were few and far between, signal coverage was very patchy or non existent, phones were expensive and texting and phoning was also pricey.  Many people especially out of the main urban areas lived in isolation with poor communications and infrastructure.  The establishment of various hand phone companies over the coming years  introduced healthy competition and a price war which continues but now even in remote areas of Indonesia there will be people with hand phones.  The lives of people in these remote areas has changed somewhat due to the introduction of this technology;  These villagers can now communicate immediately  with the ‘outside’ world instead of having to wait for the weekly bus or other transport to go past in which they would send a letter.  These communities now have a voice and an entry into the world around them and the Government are now very much aware that these communities exist.  One result from this increased communication is that there is increased lobbying by these communities for basic services and road infrastructure which is slowly starting to happen which results in improved trade links between communities.  A win win situation for nearly everyone. 

How Do I Feel?

Feelings are difficult to explain as I can appreciate the necessity of modernisation and how when we look at things globally, there has been an overall increase in the economic wellbeing of many countries.    Supporting the economic growth of countries on a global level has supported progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals even though progress has been slower than was initially envisaged with many countries not being able to meet the 2015 target.  Without modernisation and improved technology, much of what has been achieved for the MDGs would not have been possible e.g. improved water and irrigation systems, improved farming methods.  What is more difficult to stomach is the ‘one size fits all’ thinking which can not work once we start looking at specific countries or regions within countries and that  as a result of modernisation there is increasing inequality in many areas of the world.   So overall, even though I feel that the objective of increasing economic growth is good and that there have been benefits in many instances, there may still be other ways which could be explored which would support increased reduction in inequality rather than increasing the gap. 

How relevant is this?

I’m learning that it’s so important to have a good understanding of the different theories of development so that this can support the development of any aid project or programme.  3 weeks ago I wasn’t feeling this!  Although my development work has been in the areas of education, child rights and child protection, it’s become increasingly apparent that having stand alone projects is insufficient and that there needs to be  a more holistic approach to programming both at the local and national level.  The crux has to be that for many aid projects to succeed there needs to be links to how livelihoods or the economics of a family, community or country can be increased.  Supporting improved livelihoods should lead to increased health and education outcomes which will lead to increased awareness and hopefully implementation of rights and protection issues.

This makes me think of when I was conducting an evaluation of Save the Children Norway’s whole education programme in Cambodia in 2010.  Save the Children had initiated an innovative approach to support children’s attendance at school.  Previously many children would drop out of school or have to repeat grades as they would miss school for up to 3 months every year as they needed to help their parents during the fishing season or planting/harvesting period – the main source of income for many families.  The INGO worked with the provincial, district education offices and individual communities to come up with a school calendar which was linked to the farming or fishing seasons (very similar to what England had  quite a while ago e.g. October half term for harvesting).  As a result, children are now able to attend school throughout the year and repetition and drop out rates are beginning to decrease.  Advocacy was made at the National level jointly between the target provincial education offices and Save the Children and as a result, changes have been made to the policy regarding the scheduling of the school year.   An example of how supporting livelihoods can increase educational opportunities.

How can I apply what I have learnt from the unit?

When I think about this, it has to be about the benefits of using a holistic approach and considering how economics and livelihoods have such an impact at all levels of our lives.  A holistic approach does not need to be done by one NGO, one donor or Government but can be through a combination of different agencies working together so that individual programmes interlink with one another.

For example in West Timor, a small weaving company noticed that many of the young girls who were in the weaving communities were frequently dropping out of Junior High School due to early pregnancy or early marriage; additionally there were very few of the young girls who could weave.  The issue of early marriage is primarily due to economics as the girl’s family will receive financial or in kind compensation for their daughter getting married.  The weaving company decided to initiate a small pilot project in 2 communities which would provide young girls who were still at school or in danger of dropping out with training in weaving in the afternoons after school  The junior high schools have incorporated the training into extra curricula activities with the training being conducted by older women in the village.  The girls have now produced their first pieces of cloth to sell through the weaving company – just selling one cloth will provide the girls with enough money to cover school fees for 4 months, a huge contribution to the economics of the families.  This is an example of where increasing livelihoods is supporting girls’ education and how the weaving company and the school are working together.

It makes me think of how coordination and harmonisation between all agencies can be increased and how important it is for regular meetings to occur which do not only talk about individual successes and challenges but how the agencies can work together in a more effective and efficient manner – something which is not that common from my experience.  I’ve been on many ‘coordination meetings’ at the regional and national level and am aware of how difficult this can be with competing agendas  of donors, NGOs and Governments, however I would like to try and make this one of my priorities in the future of how I could support the achievement of improved harmonisation and coordination; one way of which of course has to be how donors and NGOs actually develop country strategic plans which are in line and support implementation of the Government’s strategic plan.  This is not an easy task and it’s something which the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (2005) and the Accra Agenda for Action (2008) is aiming to do at the national level  – something which many countries are still struggling to achieve.

First Attempt at blogging Unit 1

•October 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Well, it was with anticipation that I started the International Development course as I had been thinking for a couple of years that it would be nice to get the brain into gear and to actually be challenged academically by something rather than having to appear to know everything which is the life of a consultant these days.

However after starting to read the first article, I did start to think maybe I have bitten of more than I can chew and thought I don’t have a clue as to what is going on and why can’t people just write in plain English, after all when you are out in the field working in development, the stakeholders/dutybearers and others are wanting things in plain language.  Anyway I persevered thinking I can’t give up without even trying to make head or tail out of things and am now posting my blog albeit a little later than anyone else.  So here goes:

Objective level:  What is it that I actually learnt from Unit 1 (other than I need to expand my vocabulary which has suffered for the last 12 years of being in Eastern Indonesia and speaking Indonesian every day!)

First of all I learnt that it is impossible for everyone to agree on what development  means, and that everyone will have a different take on it whether it be providing a village with a water supply, supporting the economic development of an area, providing opportunities for people to have an education, formulating policy which will support everyone or a particular vulnerable group of people.  But that this is only a small part of development and that it is necessary to look at ‘theories which are more universal in application and are based on an understanding of  a long term development process’ (Sumner & Tribe, 2008, p84).  It’s not enough to look at for example the smaller picture of grass roots development or local governance strengthening but that we need to look at the relationship between capitalism and development and how these are difficult to separate.  It’s interesting to note as Thomas (2000) ‘Meanings and Views of Development’ points out how the different theories have evolved since the Second World War with it starting with neoliberalism with development being immanent, the theories of structuralism and interventionism coming about and how today more and more development practioners would be favoring the people centered development approach.  This people centered approach which is probably what I have been most involved in rejects or questions the benefits that large scale industrialisation  can bring to many people and focusses more on how people themselves are the development of change and have the responsibility and ownership of any intervention rather than development being placed in the hands of a trustee.

Thinking of an example of where there have been huge issues between economic growth and development is the massive Freeport gold mine in West Papua.  This mine is run by a foreign mining company with the majority of the profits either going back to the company or to central Government based in Jakarta, a 7-8 hour flight away.  Imagine the dissent amongst the locals when they learnt that their district and province would not undergo decentralisation in the same way that the rest of the country would back in 2000/2001.  Papua was to have a special status where the majority of the proceeds would return to central Government coffers as opposed to the district or provincial treaury.  Dissent and violence erupted with the result that people were killed and security around the mine became even stricter with min workers now not being allowed to leave the compound.  This is an example where industry has come to a very remote area where life expectancy and quality of life is well below other areas of Indonesia and where locals could not be employed as they did not have the requisite skills.  It is only in more recent years that an increasing emphasis has been placed on upskilling local ethnic Papuans and providing significant support to improving the health, education and livelihood opportunities for the locals.  This example shows how Governments and companies can get it wrong but how the power of the people (in this case the Papuans living around the mine) can end up changing things so that their lives are impacted upon in a more positive way.

Regarding what I have learnt about GNP and the use of other instruments for example HDI to measure how a country is progressing economically and on a social welfare level, it just highlighted to me that none of these instruments can be used individually but that a combined approach should be used and that there needs to be additional evidence to support any conclusions which are made.  For example, in Indonesia where I live, many of the NGOs and donors over the past 2-3 years have pulled out of the country or reduced the numbers of programmes that they implement; this anecdotally is a result of Indonesia being labelled a middle income country which is now becoming a force to be reckoned with economically in South East Asia, thus many people are assuming that Indonesia is ‘developed’ and no longer requires the same level of support (additionally there ahve been no major natural disasters and ethnic conflict occurs in only isolated instances).  What the instruments seldom show  for Indonesia  is that the majority of the wealth and population is centered around the island of Java and that there are huge inequities on other islands especially in the Eastern region where I live and where HDIs are similar to sub-saharan Africa.  Additionally where % are used – for example 96% of primary school aged children are now enrolled at primary school in Indonesia but this does not show that there are still an estimated 2-3 million who are not accessing school.  So in conclusion these instruments (GNP/HDI) do have a place but they should used with caution and understanding of the situation on the ground.

Emotional Level – what did I feel about Unit 1

As I mentioned earlier, at first I was not that happy and was struggling with the language used and was thinking why do we need to look at the different theories of development which are no longer in line with current thinking; how will that help me with my career or in the future.  But after sitting down and actually beginning to digest the material, I started to feel that there is a need to get an historical overview of what is happening, to question why this theory may have been in vogue at one particular time and that maybe it was right at that time but not in this day and age.  It makes me again think that these theories of development are like anything else; a learning process that begins, the successes and challenges are recognised and the necessary reworking or the development of a new theory which fits the current situation occurs.  

Intrepretation level – relevance of what I have learnt

As I mentioned before I live in Indonesia and the part I live in is remote, with limited services and infrastructure and I’ve been working with donors and NGOs in this region for 12 years.  Unit 1 has made me think of how I viewed development when I first arrived and how it has evolved since from the initial I am going to save the world to a how can I or the agency I work for provide the best available support without dictating what we feel is necessary.  The issue of trusteeship really had me thinking and made me very uncomfortable as I realised how much agencies, donors and NGOs can be pushing their agenda of what they feel necessary and sometimes with a one size fits all model, not only at the national level but all the way down to the community as opposed to ‘people centered development’ with the people themselves deciding what they need and determining what support is necessary from a ‘trustee’.

Decision level

With regards to trusteeship (yep I keep coming back to it), it’s made me think that this is such an issue especially in countries or areas where governance or ‘capacity’ (a lovely fuzzword, one of may which I must say I have been fond of using when writing reports, proposals etc) is perceived by the trustee to be weak.  It makes me remember working in the Ministry of Education for Timor Leste and how the Inspector General for Education was complaining about some of the advisors who work in the Ministry.  The Inspector General’s take was that although advisors are a necessary evil (his words!), they should be prepared to listen, discuss, take on board what is required instead of the advisor deciding what is necessary with no consultation.  Or even the advisor or donor deciding that what works in Australia must be transferred verbatim to Timor Leste forgetting that Australia has had years to get things ‘right’ in education and Timor Leste has only had since 2002 when it finally became a country in it’s own right.  This has made me think that it’s necessary for me to be even more vocal with donors and some NGOs about the need for a truly participatory approach to be occurring with  there being where possible equal partners as opposed to the trustee and the ward.

Fortunately I am involved in a signifcant amout of monitoring and evaluation work with one thing that we use to inform our findings being that of various indicators whether it be HDI, GNP or individual project/programme/NGO/Donor ones.  In the past 2 years I have been a lot mroe conscientous in finding additional data/evidence to support or not these indicators and I think that Unit 1 has again reinforced the importance of this rather than just relying on these.

OK I think that is me for now, hopefully Tom or Fiona will be able to read this through and provide me with some more input on areas for improvement.

Hello world!

•September 25, 2011 • 1 Comment

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