Coordination and cooperation are a key to success. With a shared “Vision” all actors can see where one should be going. If they even share the “Mission” – why one is heading to that direction – and a “Drive” to get there, there are good chances to have a major impact on the ground.
Why donor coordination is so very difficult? Experts working within international organisations and projects funded by international donors, all share the same sad joke that “Everybody wants to coordinate but nobody wants to be coordinated”.
This does not mean that international community would not have paid major attention to coordination structures and made efforts to overcome this dilemma. There is willingness to learn from others and to share information with other donors and implementers to ensure that activities are not overlapping as well as to prevent donor shopping. There is also quite an impressive level of honesty among the actors on their capabilities and limitations – a shared understanding that maybe someone else could fill in the gap.
There are various ways to attempt to coordinate peace-building efforts. One way is to develop a donor mapping to keep track of which agents are doing various peace-building activities. A second is to organize regular meetings and ensure clear communication lines between the actors. Local ownership in donor coordination is crucial to ensure sustainable development and capacity building of the local actors. Any external initiative should also enhance the capacity of local actors to build peace-enhancing structures that support reconciliation efforts throughout a society. Understanding a bigger picture of the international support is important.
Difficulties, nevertheless, remain. On the one hand, international actors are often limited by their internal bureaucracies, complicated funding structures and timelines, which makes it difficult to effectively coordinate and share relevant information on a timely manner. On the other hand, major deficiencies can be observed on the beneficiary side. Too often the international support is coordinated among the international donors with very little input from the beneficiaries. Each donor naturally relies on their own discussions with the local authorities and their own needs assessments, but a comprehensive approach from the beneficiary Governments may be lacking. In turn, lack of local ownership will negatively impact on the sustainability of the results.
I have over 17 years of experience working at the interface of thorough academic analysis and policy work on conflict transformation and as a practitioner in EU CSDP Missions in the Balkans and Eastern Neighbourhood with expertise on dialogue, confidence building, policy advise, donor coordination, planning and evaluation.
In my work I strive to bring together the research-based knowledge of successful practises and lessons learned from field work. In my current work as well as policy advice I draw from my academic expertise as well as lessons identified in Kosovo, in my role as the Head of Planning, Coordination and Cooperation Department in the EU Advisory Mission in Ukraine. In Ukraine, I focused, on the one hand, on improving internal planning and evaluation processes and, on the other hand, ensured a coherent approach from the international community to the security sector reform (taking into account the conflict affected areas and sensitivities).
Overseeing donor coordination, I paid special attention on local ownership as Ukraine was a great example of a conflict society attracting multitude of donor projects. Together with the team I launched a training and capacity-building project for the local beneficiaries to facilitate hand-over of the coordination responsibilities paying special attention to local buy-in. I also ensured that the key donor coordination meeting on support to law enforcement would be co-chaired with the Ministry of Internal Affairs. My team kept regularly updating the donor mapping ensuring that EUAM Ukraine together with EU Delegation and Support Group for Ukraine were able to build extensive experience in implementing the EU integrated approach and to find synergies with other donors (e.g. the Americans and Canadians). I coordinated the joint planning of the Commission funded 36 Million Euro PRAVO Special Measure with the Mission. The lessons I collected, and which were disseminated with the Commission and Member States, will hopefully be of further use for other Commission projects and CSDP Missions working hand-in-hand. Lessons for improved donor coordination were also discussed in high-level conferences organised by my team.
In addition, I am a keen advocate for improved impact assessment tools for the international community. I have participated in expert groups working on indicators and impact analysis e.g. for the Finnish institutions. In EUAM Ukraine I improved our internal online progress tracking tool, the Operations Implementation Framework (OIF), to ensure better monitoring, project management and evaluation of the Mission mandate implementation. This tool was presented to CPCC in External Action Service in March 2019.
In my current position I am responsible of a number of coordination processes. This is an opportunity to implement lessons learned over the past years, as well as to collect good practices to be later disseminated to ensure that the EU and the international community has the best tools for donor coordination to ensure positive impact on the ground.
Little by little, I am putting on paper the best practice collected throughout the years on donor coordination, especially coordination and cooperation among international actors when it comes to rule of law reforms, dialogue facilitation and peacebuilding. A practice-oriented publication can support actors in the field who do not have the luxury to take the step back to improve processes. In addition, in the recent years I have coached a number of colleagues to succeed in CSDP mission interviews, I have also advised and supported a number of younger colleagues preparing Master or Doctoral thesis with aspirations of working in international organisations in the future. Making connections with a younger audience have inspired me to start writing a book in Finnish with hints and guidance for succeeding as practitioner in the field of international relations.