Last week I attended a symposium on capacity development at UNESCO-IHE. Details and links down below. Academia – as UNESCO-IHE is – approach learning far and foremost as an individual effort. The first 20 minutes of the video on the closing ceremony part 1 summaries the thinking. From the individual a link has to be made / found to the organisational or institutional level. Such is recognized by UNESCO-IHE as the video show. I see this as reductionist approach to sector learning; when all knowledge and capacity of the parts is enhanced the whole – the organization / sector – is enhanced too.
The symposium was divided into three successive parts: challenges, experiences and innovations. Each part consisted of an introduction setting the tone or discussing in panels followed by break out sessions and a plenary summary. Also each part resulted in a nicely done four pager issue of the ‘symposium daily’. The break out sessions were populated with presentations and space for questions and answers or discussions. All well done but to my taste not enough group work, discussion among participants mostly due to a packed programme (time issues) and setting (auditorium / classroom setting). Tip: scan the KM4Dev (knowledge management for development) website for alternatives.
The first daily also reflects on a two day pre-symposium expert meeting. On page 3 ‘learning’ is un-packed. Quote: “We saw in one country that the learning processes that currently exist were quite limited. So defining who else needs to learn, what they need to learn, and also from whom they can learn, are vital questions to be answered.” Serendipity made me stumble upon a nice info-graphic on learning emphasizing the digital age we live in favors network learning / learning in networks.
As grand finale ‘water leadership‘ was introduced. The International WaterCentre (IWC), Nyenrode Business Universiteit, and UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education have developed the International Water Leadership Programme. This programme, specifically developed for the water sector, focuses on building on the capacity of water leaders to influence and drive change, individually and collectively. I am not sure this will bring the needed change but at least it is another attempt to cope with the looming water crises.
According to Daron Acemoğlu and Jim Robinson, the authors of Why Nations Fail, poor countries are poor because they have institutions which prevent growth and enable a small elite to capture the nation’s wealth. Reform definitely start at organisational and not that much at individual level. Perhaps individual knowledge and capacity development and organisational learning, reform and development need to meet in a middle for the WASH / water / IWRM sector to learn.
Source: 5th delft symposium lagging capacity may underpin new post 2015 water goals posted on 30 May 2013
“It is of paramount importance to train a next generation of water leaders, capable of interacting with other sectors, to involve local stakeholders and deal with transboundary water resources”, said rector Andreas Szöllösi-Nagy (talking in photo above) of the Unesco-IHE education institute at the opening session of the 5th Delft Symposium on Water Sector Capacity Development on 29 May.
“Sustainable use of water resources is the key issue for 6,5 billion people living in water stressed river basins where water demands exceeds the natural refill of the water bodies”, the Unesco-IHE rector said. “These kind of water problems cannot be solved if there is no individual or institutional capacity to develop long term water resource strategies with monitoring, decision making and taking measures.”
Unesco-IHE hosts the symposium that takes place in Delft from 29 – 31 May.
Re-invention of capacity development
Rector Szöllösi-Nagy warned that if the United Nations sets new ambitious post-2015 water goals, the lack of capacity to implement all water projects may be a bigger problem that the financing. He urged the water sector to take leadership in re-invention of capacity development.
“There have been estimates that with an extra budget of 20 to 30 billion dollar the current UN millennium goals on water and sanitation could have been achieved. But if this extra money had been available, would there have been enough water managers to do all the work? For Africa alone the number of water managers should have triple”, Szöllösi-Nagy said. He pointed out that his institute receives 2,000 new applications annually but can only accommodate 210 new students per year.
To increase the number of students, Unesco-IHE is working on a Global Campus collaborating with existing academic institutes on all contingents. Szöllösi-Nagy: “An extra advantage of our local presence is the possibility to educate new water leaders with a better understanding of the local water problems and local stakeholders.”
Beyond technical solutions
During the opening session of the symposium Kitty van der Heijden, Dutch Ambassador for sustainable development, and Csaba Körösi, Hungarian Ambassador to the UN, urged to look beyond technical solutions and extend the capacity development to the sustainable use of water resources as well. Both Van der Heijden en Körösi are member of the UNGA Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals. This group discusses a post-2015 sustainable water goal.
Maintenance and management as well
“Clearly, the global water agenda has moved beyond the supply of drinking water and good sanitation,” said Kitty van der Heijden. “Thousands of wells, boreholes and pumps have been built, a laudable effort to quench the thirst of Africa. Yet, an estimated 50.000 of them are either unused or are broken for want of basic maintenance. We must do better to prevent another missed opportunity. Therefore we need to train people in maintaining and using them correctly and education in proper management is crucial”.
Cross silo thinking
Körösi pointed out the need of new capacities to solve complex water issues with interlinkages and feedback loops to energy, agriculture, industry, ecosystems, households. “Sectors traditionally work in silo’s. The ministries, the institutes, the international organisations. They all have their own policies and budgets. Not a single stakeholder has yet achieved sustainability for his own sector and yet in our working group talking about one single framework for several sustainable development goals. That is quite challenging”, Körösi assured.
5th Delft Symposium on water sector capacity development, Delft (29 – 31 May) www.unesco-ihe.org/CD-symposium