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Capacity Development: Between Planned Interventions and Emergent Processes

Policy Management Brief 22

March 2009

Land, T., Hauck, V., Baser, H. 2009. Capacity development: Between planned interventions and emergent processes. (Policy Management Brief 22). Maastricht: ECDPM.

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In recent years, the international community has been emphasising the importance of capacity development for the achievement of the millennium development goals and sustainable development more generally. The Accra High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, for example, which took place in September 2008, produced the Accra Agenda for Action. This commits signatories to taking additional steps to develop a country’s capacity to determine and implement its own development vision.

Yet despite the greater importance attached to capacity development, insufficient attention has been given to fully understanding how capacity develops in different organisational and societal contexts. The same applies to ensuring that aid agencies provide appropriate support for country-led efforts. In fact, a recent World Bank report remarked that, despite the level of resources committed to capacity development, it has not evolved as a distinct area of development practice.

The apparent mismatch between the rhetoric of the donor community in support of country-driven capacity development processes on the one hand, and their capability for doing so on the other, accounts in part for the very mixed record on the ground.

This Policy Management Brief, which draws on the findings of an ECDPM study on capacity, change and performance,3 aims to contribute to a growing body of knowledge on capacity development. It does so by highlighting the study’s main findings on how capacity develops as well as by taking account of evolving insights on this discussion. However, it provides no more than an introduction to a complex topic. Readers wishing to delve deeper are referred to a list of sources at the back of this publication.

Read Policy Management Brief 22

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Cross-cutting TopicsPolicy Management Briefs (series)Capacity development