Training for nothing? IFIs asked to surrender reins over capacity building

Source An evaluation of the World Bank’s training for capacity building reveals serious flaws in design and implementation that undermine country ownership; the same criticism is being levelled at the IMF over its plans to charge for technical assistance.

The World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) published the report on the Banks’ project-based and central training programmes that are supposed to build capacity for development in February. The Bank has provided around $720 million annually for training programmes in the last ten years, though training is only a portion of the Bank’s overall technical assistance (TA) work.

The evaluation conducted surveys in six countries and field studies in another four and revealed serious shortcomings in the applicability of the Bank’s training work. “Most Bank-financed training was found to result in individual participant learning, but only about half resulted in substantial changes to workplace behaviour or enhanced development capacity.” It found that there was a lack of attention to the application of newly learnt knowledge and a lack of training targeted at participants’ and organisations’ needs as trainings often were not embedded in local capacity strategies.

Incentives for participants to apply their knowledge as well as incentives for employers to rely on new knowledge were low. The IEG found that “the Bank does not adequately monitor or evaluate training results.” It particularly noted that the World Bank Institute lacks the ability to assess capacity gaps and does not engage in direct consultation with clients on their requirements, undermining the sustainability of trainings.

The IEG made three recommendations: develop clearer guidelines and quality standards for training programmes; make training experts available to staff and borrowers before the design of programmes; and clarify the World Bank Institute’s training mandate.  Management committed to draft guidelines for training design and circulate a roster of training experts before July 2008; but did not give any indication of how it would ensure implementation of new guidelines. It put off consideration of reforms to the World Bank Institute until the Bank finishes developing the knowledge component of its long-term strategy (see Update 60).

NGO ActionAid International has set out a detailed critique of TA arguing that while constituting between a quarter and a half of aid, it has largely been ineffective, over-priced, donor-driven and based on an outdated model of development. Elvira Groll of ActionAid UK said: “We have repeatedly called for a strong alignment of capacity building programmes to national and local needs and priorities in order to actually have any impact. As this evaluation shows, the World Bank is really failing to deliver.”

Those same critiques are finding a new target in the IMF, which has announced plans to start charging for its TA work (see Update 59). Peter Gakunu, the IMF executive director representing anglophone Africa wrote, “The likely outcome could be a trade-off between financing critical social spending and paying for TA. For countries that cannot afford to pay for TA, this would adversely affect their efforts to develop their institutional and human capacities. While the proposal to rely on donor funding for TA may help alleviate the financing burden, it will also imply that the Fund is competing for donor resources with its members.”

While Gakunu argues for the Fund to continue providing TA free of charge to low-income members, some civil society organisations have argued for a more recipient-owned approach that lets countries choose how to use aid resources. In evidence submitted to a UK parliamentary inquiry on aid effectiveness, the Bretton Woods Project recommended that “funding to pay for TA should be routed through country procurement systems. Recipient countries should be free to choose which TA projects they want and who will undertake the project.”

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Filed under Aid, capacity development, Development, IFIs, International Aid

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