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  /  Capacity development in fragile environments: insights from parliaments in Africa

Capacity development in fragile environments: insights from parliaments in Africa

Severine M. Rugumamu, University of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

Abstract: Capacity development in fragile environments in Africa has often proven to be a complex undertaking. This has largely been because of existing knowledge gaps on what exactly causes fragility of states, the economy and society. The liberal peace development model that generally informs post-conflict reconstruction and capacity development has a limited conception of fragility by narrowly focusing on the national dimensions of the problem, promoting donor-driven solutions, emphasizing minimal participation of beneficiary actors in the identification and prioritization of capacity development needs, and by subcontracting the design and management of projects and programs. The resulting capacity development impact has generally been disappointing. In the absence of homegrown strategic plans, stakeholder participation and ownership, international development partners have all too often addressed capacity gaps by financing training, supply of equipment and professional exchanges of parliamentarians and parliamentary staffers. These efforts usually achieved their presumed number targets but tended to ignore addressing the larger issues of political economy within which capacity development take place. However, the recent re-conceptualization of parliamentary capacity development as a development of nationally owned, coordinated, harmonized, and aligned development activities seems to be gaining growing attention in Africa. As the experience of Rwanda eloquently demonstrates, capacity development is essentially about politics, economics and power, institutions and incentives, habits and attitudes - factors that are only partly susceptible to technical fixes and quantitative specifications. These structural factors have to be negotiated carefully and tactfully.
Keywords: Fragile States, Conflicts, Capacity Development, Parliamentary Strengthening, Coordination, Harmonization And Governance