what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

More thoughts about neighbourhood strategy

I reached the limit of creativity last week with the draft of my paper for the Varna Conference of NISPAcee. The present draft (updated 9 April) basically looks critically at the European Commission’s 2008 “Backbone strategy" for improvement of Technical Assistance; and at the absence of any public discussion of the various tools it uses in its good governance projects. The one exception is the “democracy promotion” strand of work where Richard Youngs is particularly prolific. Indeed I discovered today an important book he edited in 2009 which matches the concern I voice in the second part of my draft paper - about the failure of the EU to understand properly the context of neighbourhood countries and to adjust TA accordingly. The book has the marvellous title of “Democracy’s Plight in the European Neighbourhood – Struggling transitions and proliferating dynasties” with chapters on Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Serbia, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Egypt, Algeria and Morocco

But my point still remains – that few people (certainly in the EC) seem to be looking at how state institutions and local government can realistically be developed in neighbourhood countries in a way helps develop a real citizen- or customer-orientation and which is sustainable. For example in 2009 Sigma produced a very important paper which suggested that the work of the merit-based civil service agencies established with EC Technical Assistance were being undermined. Very few people are casting such an analytical eye over the work of institution-building in neighbourhood (let alone recent member) countries. The Court of Auditors’ 2007 Report (which provoked the Backbone strategy) was concerned with procurement procedures – it is questions about the substance which are overdue.

In 2007, the Journal of Democracy, for example, had an excellent paper by Tom Carothers which looked at some of the global thinking about the institutional development process which affects the Technical Cooperation field. He took exception with the argument that democracy should take second place to the establishment of the rule of law. Tom Carothers (US Aid) is a rare voice of logic, clarity, experience and balance in the world of international aid subject (Brinkerhoff is another) - and their articles are so good that they rate folder of their own in my laptop library. In 2009 Carothers produced another paper which looked at the experience and discussion of the past decade with rule-of-law projects. His paper points out the ambiguity of that term - which finds support from a variety of ideological and professional positions and therefore leads to confused implementation if not state capture.
I need to work all this into the new draft of the Varna paper. Feedback would be much appreciated!
The painting is an Alexander Milenkov

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