SPECIAL CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT FUTURE STRATEGY FOR CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT Capacity development activities at the Institute initially emphasized the education and training of individuals. By the end of the 1980s, the Institute became increasingly involved in institutionally strengthening the programmes of universities, research institutes, government ministries and other water sector organizations. With the introduction of the MSc and PhD programmes, research became increasingly important as an instrument in capacity development. By the end of the 1990s, the knowledge networking concept had been introduced and successfully implemented in Africa, for instance in WaterNet and NBCBN/NileNet, and on other continents, e.g. CKnet-INA in Indonesia, as well as the Asia-Pacific Water Forum Network. Consequently, UNESCO-IHE’s role changed from that of a purely implementing entity to a facilitator, moderator and knowledge broker. The strategy for capacity development emphasizes new learning alliances in the context of the global campus. The global network of UNESCO-IHE Institutes is envisioned as an international, academically acclaimed tertiary water education network, firmly linked to the water sector worldwide and within the UN system, and appreciated for partnering with Southern institutions in all of its capacity development activities. This global campus will be known for its demand-responsiveness, ability to swiftly mobilize resources, and creativity in addressing complex problems. As a whole, the global campus will devise comprehensive interdisciplinary solutions in response to dynamic societal demand. Once the global campus has been realized, the UNESCO-IHE Institutes will have mainstreamed capacity development in all their projects and adopted a systematic approach towards knowledge sharing and learning. The network of institutes will not only be a learning organization itself, but will also support partners in adopting this approach. The network will be selective in the projects it engages in, based on criteria such as the societal impact of the project, the innovative and/or 12 interdisciplinary character of the intervention, the exposure to relevant local and regional practices, and the opportunity to learn and further upgrade and expand its services. The aim is for UNESCO-IHE to strengthen the water sector at large through capacity development on three essential levels: individual, organizational and institutional. To accommodate the individual level, UNESCO-IHE will strengthen knowledge institutions in developing countries and assist them in developing and implementing water education and research programmes. These knowledge institutions will be equipped to generate new knowledge which is needed to better understand, interpret and deal with (local) water-related problems and challenges. Through this mechanism, UNESCO-IHE ensures that high-quality water programmes become more easily accessible and affordable for many individuals. Water sector organizations are the key entities for providing adequate water services and proper water management. Capacity development as envisaged by UNESCO-IHE entails direct support to sector organizations and the development of an enabling environment in which people and organizations can prosper. As the goal is to create sustainable organizations, the assistance will focus on developing the ability of these organizations to continuously renew their own knowledge base. The activities of the Institute in this respect will include organizing sector-wide demand assessment studies, developing demand-responsive and state-of-the-art short courses for senior sector staff, and promoting and supporting national and regional knowledge networks. In addition to implementing capacity development activities, the Institute also works to investigate and develop capacity development approaches and policies with the aim of innovating its own application strategies, as well as sharing practices and novel approaches with stakeholders and partners worldwide.
SPECIAL CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT | INTERVIEW STAFF SHORTAGES LOOMING IN THE WATER SECTOR by raymond gijssen Countries around the world are facing growing shortfalls in water-related expertise as experienced professionals are retiring from the sector in great numbers, and finding and developing replacements is proving a struggle. Guy Alaerts, (part-time) Professor of Capacity Development at UNESCO-IHE, gave us plenty of food for thought when we talked to him during a recent short stay at the institute. “We are entering a decade of staff shortages in the water sector,” he said, telling us of the research team’s study of professional capacity levels around the world. In the 1970s, we saw a major surge in the numbers of specialists brought into the sector, also in developing countries,” Alaerts says. “ This first cohort of professionals is now retiring so fast that it is virtually impossible to recruit replacements in sufficient numbers and get them up to speed quickly enough.” And “Those countries have indeed succeeded to double the output of graduates since then, but the economic and demographic growth, and climate insecurity have escalated the demand three- or fourfold.” New recruits ideally are assigned to an experienced mentor who can help them learn and grow on the job, he explained. “But if the old guard leaves too rapidly, a lot of tacit knowledge is lost.” It could be a very dangerous trend for poorer countries in particular, says Alaerts, who was Vice Rector of UNESCO-IHE from 1988 until 1996, when he joined the World Bank in Washington, DC. He is currently one of the World Bank’s Water Sector Leaders, supervising the preparation and implementation of the water projects funded by the Bank. NEW DEPARTURES IN RESEARCH At UNESCO-IHE, Alaerts guides the Institute’s research programme in the broad field of Knowledge & Capacity Development (KCD) that comprises most other factors that determine a water project’s success besides engineering: people’s knowledge and skills, how government bodies and other organizations are structured and operate, legislative and regulatory frameworks, and arrangements and incentives promoting sustainable outcomes. By tallying the number of specialists that countries employ in their water sectors (not just engineers but also accountants, for example), the research team wants to find out if countries firstname.lastname@example.org NATIONALITY Belgian EDUCATION Masters and Doctorate in Applied Sciences, Catholic University Leuven, Belgium MBA, Catholic University Leuven, Belgium CAREER Was appointed Professor of Sanitary Engineering at IHE in 1986 and Department Head and Deputy Rector in 1988. Joined the World Bank in 1996, but remains associated with the UNESCO-IHE’s knowledge and capacity development Core. were developing the people-capacity they need to meet their Millennium Development Goals for water supply and sanitation. The findings were diverse, he says: “Some Latin American countries by now have sufficient specialists employed in some areas of expertise but are still short in others, notably advanced wastewater treatment and integrated water management. Twenty years ago, Indonesia had enough experts for irrigation but covered only 10% of the need for drinking water supply and sanitation, but at this moment it has enough staff in drinking water supply but is lagging behind in irrigation. Universities are pre-occupied with their own agendas and too slow in responding to such dynamics.” Shortages caused by the retirement exodus of experts are also hurting rich countries, he said, noting that in the Netherlands, lavish early retirement schemes had made the problem worse. The OECD, too, notes a decline of sectoral expertise in public administration across most countries, spurred by higher efficiencies but also tightening budgets. “Maybe rich countries will be able to cope with this brain drain, but for developing countries the trend is outright dangerous in the face of growing pressures on water and climate change,” Alaerts says. He hopes this work will help cushion the effects, in part by raising awareness. “The EU already cannot spend billions earmarked for infrastructure investment because some member states don’t have enough qualified people for the feasibility and environmental assessment studies and so on that you need for project proposals,” Alaerts says. The team also researches how people around the world can tap into the already available “global knowledge pool”, how knowledge can help strengthen governance at national and local-government levels, and how water utilities from the North can help improve performance of utilities in the South through partnerships. Research efforts such as these are a relatively new departure for UNESCO-IHE in capacity development. “For a long time, we focused on collecting and disseminating lessons learned from the field,” Alaerts says. “Now there’s a concerted research program with currently four capacity development specialists and three PhD students. But we work closely with other teams, like the Management & Institutions group. It’s all part of a joint effort to ensure that investments and policies in countries produce more sustainable outcomes, for example by ensuring stronger buy-in of the local stakeholders and making the right trade-offs.” But capacity development doesn’t stop at the door of the utility or ministry. Also civil society, and local communities must have an understanding of how their decisions affect the water system, and how they need to contribute—also through their taxes—to sustainable solutions. FOCUS ON POLICY DEVELOPMENT Promoting and supporting policy development will be a key strategic focus in the years ahead, Alaerts says. We are studying how international knowledge networks can be made more effective, such as Unesco-IHE’s Nile Basin Capacity Building Network, WATERNET, in southern Africa, and the new network with the Asian Development Bank in Asia. The institute also will intensify collaboration with national policymakers. But single organisations can also be a target group for new style cooperation. “If we work with a university in an African country, say, we should not just focus on improving its laboratory, but also help them strengthen their quality management, public image and fundraising skills. Or analyse how human resources policies in a ministry can be enhanced to give incentives for staff learning. That is an in-depth investment. The conventional style of capacity development is based on the premise that “we” transfer “our” knowledge to “them”, through training. But the new-style knowledge and capacity development appreciates the value of the local problem itself too, and builds on the local knowledge already available—leading to a more balanced partnership. This is not one of the traditional strengths of Unesco-IHE and it needs to work on it.” 13