Harmonising the Provision of Technical Assistance: Finding the Right Balance and Avoiding the New Religion

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    In April 2001, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) to undertake a study on the harmonisation of technical assistance (TA) in the context of sector-wide approaches. This study is part of the ongoing reflection within international development organisations (IDOs) on ways to harmonise their management procedures. The overall aims of such initiatives are to encourage country ownership, to reduce the fragmentation of externally funded development activities, and to reduce the administrative burden on all development partners. Based on reviews at field level and discussions with IDOs, this study aims to encourage current attempts to bring policy thinking on improved aid management practices to the operational level. The main form of harmonisation considered is pooling, which the terms of reference for this study defined as ‘the integration of all technical assistance within a single management and financing framework under recipient country ownership or third party management support’, and requiring ‘acceptance and usage, by all stakeholders, of common implementation procedures’. This definition was refined during the course of the study, as will be discussed in this report.
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