While there is general agreement that capacity building is important, the record of capacity building in practice so far is mixed. There are many examples of attempts at capacity building that have failed (UNDP/HIID, 1996; UNDP, 1997; ODA, 1994), and fewer successes to chronicle (for some successful examples see for example Chapter 16 Case Study 5 "PV Solar Home Systems in Kenya" and Case study 16 "the Baltic Biomass Boilers". Part of the problem is that capacity building is neither easy nor quick:
There is a great deal of uncertainty about precisely what capacities are needed and how they are developed.... Unfortunately, experience suggests that the necessary competencies can, at best, only be improved slowly, and that many of the requirements are cumulative, and involve tacit and uncodified knowledge that is difficult to purchase on the international market (Barnett, 1995, pp.15-16).
More often the donor agency's understanding or concepts of capacity development/building
have frequently been understood to be that institutional and human capacity
changes can be induced, that these capacities are weak and the human and institutional
capacities can be developed or strengthened along the lines of management and
organisational models of the donor countries. The experiences and results of
over three decades of capacity and institutional building in sub-Saharan Africa,
for instance, suggest that these assumptions or concepts do not necessarily
hold (Berg, 1993). Increasingly, there is a consensus amongst both analysts
and participants that: local involvement, in the form of traditional institutions,
local organisations and individuals is critical to increasing national capacity.
Further, less controlled styles of governing are required; central institutions
need to be reorganised with attention given to creating space for them; and,
local NGOs need institutional development (OECD, 1995). There is a need for
extensive exchanges of experiences by the collaborating agencies. New relationships
between donors and local actors are required (OECD, 1995).
Because much of donor understanding about institutional issues comes from the lessons of failure over the last three decades rather than success, more investment needs to be made in upgrading donor understanding of capacity development issues (OECD, 1995). Capacity strengthening is thus needed in developed countries. Due to low success rates in transfer of technology, implementation of programmes and sustainability, some donor and MDB programmes have undertaken capacity-strengthening in their own organisation to develop a more participative and less traditional approach (Wight, 1997). "Given the entrenched institutional bureaucracy and resistance to change in donor organisation, however, this (process facilitation) would require a major orientation and concerted change effort" (Wight, 1997). Local staff recruitment for projects in particular has been identified as a major issue (Gray, 1997)
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