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Beyond the Partnership Rhetoric

Reviewing Experiences and Policy Considerations for Implementing 'Genuine' Partnerships in North-South Cooperation

December 2000

Hauck, V. and T. Land. 2000. Beyond the Partnership Rhetoric: Reviewing Experiences and Policy Considerations for Implementing 'Genuine' Partnerships in North-South Cooperation. (ECDPM Discussion Paper 20). Maastricht: ECDPM

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In 1998, the ECDPM embarked on a new venture to engage in partnerships with selected African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) institutions. Spearheaded by the Centre’s capacity-building programme, the partnership initiative sought to nurture regional networks of expertise, and facilitate Southern organisations to become recognised actors in policy dialogue in international cooperation. In this regard, emphasis was placed on the role of partnership in mobilising the capacities of regionally-based policy institutes and institutions engaged in research and learning, including development and funding organisations. From the outset, this initiative was recognised as experimental and likely to face numerous challenges in making the transition from theory to practice.

This discussion paper provides an initial ‘stocktaking’ of lessons of experience based on the first few years of operation and discusses the extent to which genuine partnership is a way forward towards the development of capacities. Recognising that the development and sustenance of partnerships requires time, the paper acknowledges that the conclusions drawn and lessons presented are only preliminary. 

We also note that the Centre’s venture into partnership has taken place at a time when the concept and practice of partnership have gained widespread attention in international development cooperation, and have become subjects of regular debate and scrutiny. Those who champion the partnership concept see it as reflecting a deliberate policy choice which seeks to establish new roles and relationships between North and South that challenge structural inequalities and the inculcated mind-set of giver and taker in aid relationships. Partnership, in this sense, becomes a development objective and is closely linked to notions of capacity development, ownership and participation, which see the current distribution of roles and relationships between North and South as undermining sustainable development. Genuine partnership 
provides a framework for building greater equality, for identifying shared development objectives and for accommodating both ‘Northern’ accountability requirements and ‘Southern’ ownership.

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