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A Global Capacity Map -- What If?

Tom Grubisich's picture

Countries are rated how effective they are in human development, governance, and doing business.  What if they were rated by their capacity to achieve success in all key areas of their national mission?

Ratings would measure progress in such mission "how-to's" as knowledge sharing, stakeholder participation (especially at the local level), and program results vs. objectives.

The U.N. Development Programme has singled out what it calls major successes in capacity development in 19 nations that included the Least Developed Countries of Laos, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Sierra Leone, Bhutan, Nepal, Mozambique, and Afghanistan.  But there's no comprehensive capacity rating of all 49 LDCs, much less all 145 countries classified as developing.  Even the UNDP ratings of 19 countries are based only on selected initiatives in those countries.

Mapping capacity -- horizontally across countries all the way from the national to local levels -- would, no question, be a major undertaking.  But if public, private, and nonprofit development actors collaborated, especially by mobilizing advances in networking technology, the job would not seem to be insurmountable.  Perhaps it could begin with the LDCs and go forward from there.

Multi-layered, continually updated capacity maps could be an important new tool especially for the poorest countries and their development donors in closing stubborn gaps toward achievement of 2015 Millennium Development Goals.  The maps could also be a big help to all developing countries and donors in responding to locally diverse impacts of climate change.  And that's just for starters.



Gathering this sort of data is extremely intensive, takes dedicated effort in each place. There's a technical challenge here ... conflating so many sources of data/systems, in a common schema ... but that is surmountable with the open source/standards approach. The real challenge is social, convincing holders of information to share effectively, or even organize it to begin with, and be ok working openly and in the commons. My advice is to start small, one country, or one organization, demonstrate how to do it right, then scale slowly. This isn't just implementing a system, but changing fundamentally how the development field operates.

Thanks for this posting Tom. There is one area amongst others, when we talk about the need for building capacity and assessing it, which is rarely touched upon by the development-economics conversation. This area is cultural practices and heritage. I am affiliated with some of the work Unesco is doing to broaden acceptance of its landmark 2003 Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage. It is a daunting task. Unesco's Intangible Cultural Heritage division must work at full speed internationally to allow the potential of the 2003 Convention to be of use to the communities that need it most. My view is that Unesco field offices are running two races simultaneously: one to spread as quickly as possible an understanding of the provisions of the 2003 Convention and its key machinery; and two, to support the ICH 'extension' work (to borrow an agricultural term) that allows state/provincial structures and non-state groups (universities / NGOs / foundations / CBOs) to build the machinery and institutions that can take up the work as soon as possible. The question is - and this is why I found your post interesting - is there usable capacity at the local and regional level in several countries which can under guidance share the Unesco load? At the field level NGOs and CBOs are in a constant race to, first, save ICH and second, protect what can be saved through convincing or pressurising the state to take the needed measures (law / statute / legislation / empowerment, etc). Usually, awareness and education follow these two basic efforts - not precede them - simply because of the shortness of time in which to act and the lack of people who can be mobilised for all but the most urgent needs. If there is usable capacity (my experience in India/South Asia tells me there is) then how would Unesco assess it for its needs? After all, this is an area in which the usual 'normals' of measurement do not apply. Your thoughts will be most valuable.

Rahul points out the importance of cultural resources, especially at the regional and local levels, in assessing capacity. But, as Rahul notes, cultural capacity isn't easy to measure. But open-source mapping involving multiple sources should be able to produce some balanced and credible subjective evaluations. The whole process might also help Unesco and NGOs and CBOs to collaborate more effectively to save threatened cultural heritages, and encourage development donors to channel more of their aid to this time-driven mission.

Submitted by SEYDA KOCER on
there is much opportunity in this area for multi national peace building, knowledge sharing, and regional econ. development as cultural heritage often crosses political borders of nations... (mesopotamia, for example)..

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