The challenges of capacity development: Practical approach

12 Nov 2018 10:15h - 11:15h

Event report

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The session on capacity development stressed the need for greater co-operation among all stakeholders involved, facilitated by dedicated spaces for discussion and by concrete steps during project planning and implementation. Various financing models were discussed and the provision of core-funding and a hands-off approach from providers were highlighted as ideal cases.   

The session moderator, Ms Tereza Horejsova, DiploFoundation and Geneva Internet Platform (GIP), stressed that we hear calls for increased capacity development in Internet governance (IG) frequently and prominently. She argued that while there is a strong consensus on the need for capacity development, it is important to shift the focus to a debate on how this can be achieved practically – especially with a view to avoiding competition, creating meaningful co-operation and partnerships between various actors, and ensuring sustainable impact.

Mr Dustin Phillips, ICANNWiki, stressed that capacity development initiatives should not perceive each other as competition. While this might be driven by a perceived scarcity of funding, it is important to realise that there is a lot of complementarity between various initiatives and programmes. Realising this will also ensure project continuity and sustainability. He also stressed that carefully navigating profitability on the one hand and the delivery of results that meet the needs of stakeholders on the other is a key task.

Making the call for co-operation more specific, Ms Lara Pace argued that it is crucial to open a conversation about the impact of capacity development. This conversation about envisioned impacts is crucial for partners to find a common language and to begin understanding each other better. Further, possibilities for other organisations to join in the effort should already be included at the planning and design stage to avoid duplication, foster collaboration and coordination, but also to add value to the project.

Mr Alberto Cerda Silva, Ford Foundation, speaking from a donor perspective, pointed out that legal constraints can place limits on the kinds of organisation that can be supported. He introduced the important distinction between core-funding support and project-focused support and argued that core-funding presents an ideal situation. In response, Horejsova stressed that core-funding support is a sign of trust but also crucial to build much needed partnerships, overcome the competition mindset, and ensure that projects are sustainable. Cerda also identified a lack of coordination and joint efforts in the area of digital policy, in contrast to other policy fields such as the environment and human rights. There is not a critical mass of donors engaged in this field who could coordinate. Looking at Latin America for example, he stressed that currently only five donors are active in the region, a slight increase in recent years.

Mr Jorge Cancio, BAKOM, agreed from his context that legal requirements can present a hurdle to funding organisations and projects. The Swiss authorities realised the key importance of stakeholder engagement and support for their involvement as early as the 2003 World Summit on the Information Society. He also emphasised initiatives by the Swiss authorities to support small and developing country delegations in Geneva to empower them to take part in the relevant discussions. Here, the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) is a crucial initiative to support digital policy capacity development. Cancio argued that, from a donor perspective, it works well that the Swiss authorities provide core funding but leave project-related decisions largely up to the implementing organisation itself. This gives the GIP freedom of manoeuvre to be perceived as independent and to explore relevant partnerships.

Ms Hannah Slavik, DiploFoundation, involved in the planning and implementation of various capacity development initiatives, issued a useful reminder that the success of capacity development needs to be measured on the basis of long-term sustainable change. She outlined a number of reasons why projects do not achieve the intended impact, including lack of understanding of the local environment and needs, lack of trust, and neglect of elements related to soft capacities. Other challenges include pressure from donors to report success and an unreliable or missing system of monitoring and evaluation. She concluded that it is crucial to learn from each other and consider the lessons of capacity development initiatives from other sectors and the experiences of other organisations.

Starting on a personal note, Ms Anju Mangal, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, explained that capacity development was important in enabling her to gain work with the IGF secretariat and to become the first Pacific islander to join the MAG. She stressed a lack of buy-in from leaders, lack of political commitment, and a lack of strategies to ensure that donor investment is sustainable in the long-term. She called on everyone to learn from past projects. Mangal also called for a donor and partner organisation roundtable across the Pacific community to discuss needs and expectations.

Ms Susan Teltscher, Capacity Building Division, ITU, stressed that capacity development is one of the core objectives of the ITU. Her input focused on financing for capacity development and how the model the ITU is using in this area shifted four years ago from project-funding to self-funding. She mentioned the Centres of Excellence Programme, which consists of local entities, often universities, who deliver training on ICT and digital policy. Tuition fees have been introduced to support the programme. In terms of co-operation, Teltscher stressed that there should be more forums for bringing various actors together, including academia and the business sector. ITU’s bi-annual capacity building symposium plays an important role in this regard to allow stakeholders to come together.

Speaking from the business sector perspective, Mr Deepak Maheshwari, Symantec, spoke about the importance of empowering people to use ICT-related products and services properly. An example of this is the cyber security curriculum that his company developed in cooperation with NASSCOM, a trade association of Indian ICT. He stressed the importance of assessing ICT-skills needs with a view to future needs and moving to focusing on what should be done.


By Katharina E. Höne