Changing Approaches to Technical Assistance

Question

Please provide an overview of how donors are moving away from or changing their approaches to technical assistance, and a summary of problems in the field, drawing on a selection of donors' strategies and plans for technical assistance.

Summary

Technical assistance and technical cooperation have a long history in development aid and have often been criticised as being supply-driven, expensive, poorly planned and integrated, and failing to promote country ownership. Despite criticisms, these activities continue to play an important role: the OECD estimates that technical assistance makes up about one-quarter of global aid, while ActionAid suggests that the true figure could be much higher, perhaps as high as half of all aid. Expenditure on technical cooperation has not declined in absolute terms, although it has declined as a proportion of overall aid as other forms of aid have grown more quickly. Donors are taking steps to reform technical cooperation policies in response to the main criticisms, including repositioning technical cooperation so that capacity building, rather than technical support per se, will be its main purpose, but skeptics point out that problems with technical cooperation have been known for many years, with few signs of change.

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