what you get here

This is not a blog which opinionates on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers to muse about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

The Bucegi mountains - the range I see from the front balcony of my mountain house - are almost 120 kms from Bucharest and cannot normally be seen from the capital but some extraordinary weather conditions allowed this pic to be taken from the top of the Intercontinental Hotel in late Feb 2020

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Part IV - strengthening the backbone


If I’m so unhappy with the EC’s approach to institution building in kleptocratic countries, how would I improve it?"
The first steps in any such change are, of course, to assess the situation – describe how the systems works and assess how well it works – and then find out what the various stakeholders think.

The 2007 European Court of Auditors' assessment of the EC Technical Cooperation programme was a good start. It spurred the Commission to produce its "Backbone strategy" which my present draft to the NISPAcee Conference in Varna currently assesses here .

Given the bureaucratic constraints on policy change (particularly given the upheavals involved in creating the External Service), it is hardly surprising that the Backbone strategy says that the strategy is OK and that it is the staff of the 81 EC Delegations which manage it who need to wise up.

These staff are well trained in procurement issues - but not so knowledgable about the substance of the sectoral work they manage; nor particularly skilled in contractual management. The EC has been publishing Manuals and Guidelines for its Delegation staff in recent years to help them understand the conceptual issues involved in institution building - see this one on capacity development in 2009.

Basically the Delegations are enjoined to -
- get better ToR
- select consultants more carefully
- allow them more flexibility

Easier said than done? And still they hardly mention the people who actually do the work - the independent consultants like myself. Strange!

The European Centre for Policy Development Management in Brussels published in 2007 one of the very few papers I know which focuses on the people actually carrying out TA – and asks how their work can be supported and improved

For more on the Court of Auditors' Report - and the EC response, see tomorrow's post


My recent visit to Sofia set off a paean of praise to that city which should be extended to the whole country – at least as far as its landscapes and townscapes are concerned. And, compared to Romania, it is possible to travel around the country and taste this varied scenery in superb ethnic houses remarkably cheaply. In 2007 I discovered by accident a small book on these places produced by the Bulgarian Association for Alternative Tourism – and was very pleased to come across the 2010 version on my last trip.

The Guardian has a good story about some fundamental changes the Conservatives want to make to public services in Britain which were never mentioned in the manifesto. Democracy is in shambles in that country. The previous government commissioned a paper on this issue to a fairly right-wing body which failed to produce convincing evidence of the benefits of further contracting out of public services. See also here an article about the likely effect on the health service.

The painting is Stanley Spencer's wartime "Welders"

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