Conference on “Contracting out Core Government Functions and Services in Fragile and Post-Conflict Situations" Opens in Tunis

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Tunis, June 8th, 2009 - A conference on "contracting out Core Government Functions and Services in Fragile and Post-Conflict Situations," an issue considered to be one of the daunting development challenges of the time, got underway on Monday, June 8th, 2009, in Tunis, where discussants delved into conditions under which contracting out services can be effective and, at the same time, conducive to state building in fragile and post-conflict countries.

Organized under the auspices of the African Development Bank Group’s Fragile States Unit (OSFU), in collaboration with the OECD’s Partnership for Democratic Governance (PDG), stakeholders across the world, including donors, NGOs, civil society organizations, private sector companies, researchers and consultants are in attendance.

In the opening speech, the African Development bank Group (AfDB) Department of Governance, Economic and Financial Management Director, Gabriel Negatu, noted that the gathering would have to discuss conditions under which contracting out services and core policy functions could be conducive to state building and capacity development in developing fragile and post-conflict countries, while complying with the principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.

Mr. Negatu recommended two critical areas for discussion: When non-state actors are placed in executive positions to carry out state functions, and when non-state providers entirely replace a service sector.

While the prevailing context would invariably define the approach and the appropriate package, “Donors must understand that ownership lies with the government, even when capacity is lacking or weak,” he said.

“Policy dialogue with the governments in fragile states is critical from an early stage. Donors have to co-ordinate their limited resources closely and constantly, working as soon as possible toward sector strategies,” Mr Negatu added.

Also addressing the plenary session, the Head of OECD’s PDG Advisory Unit, Jerzy Pomianowski, commended the AfDB for establishing a Fragile States Unit, noting that the subject of the conference was arguably “one of the biggest challenges facing our world”.

According to Mr. Pomianowski, the issue was how to ensure that the state performed some basic functions and deliver fundamental services to its citizens when it has limited capacities (due to fragility or a post-conflict situation.

“….When, how, and under what condition should (could) government functions be contracted out to non-state actors?” he asked.

Prof. Paul Collier of Oxford University gave keynote address describing fragile states as “states that, for whatever reason, have difficulties meeting the legitimate needs of their citizens – the core services recognised throughout the world”.

He said it was time to dump old practices that have not worked for 40 years and build institutions that are more helpful to the state.

Other issues being discussed at the two-day meeting include:  The political dimension of sub-contracting and technical assistance; Maintaining state and capacity building as major objectives;  Meeting the needs of citizens; Concerns about aid effectiveness; The choice of modalities and sources of assistance; Adopting sub-contracting models to the peculiarities of countries; Making recommendations for the design of policies for interested parties.

The OSFU Head, Margaret Kilo, briefed the participants on the activities and ambitions of the Unit, while stressing the importance of the gathering in efforts at tackling challenges facing fragile and post-conflict states in Africa.

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