The Intergovernmental Authority on Development is a Regional Economic Community for the Horn of Africa region. I spent six months in the sunny and colourful Djibouti as an intern at IGAD.
Being a member of the Project Preparation and Management Unit (PPMU) team, I got to learn about IGAD and its development projects and programmes, to know its employees from the eight member states and to see how its capacity was improving. For the purposes of this article, I interviewed my team.
The region has plenty of resources but various population segments suffer from undernutrition and hunger. The states in the region often share similar drought-related problems and for this reason regional cooperation can more efficiently help to develop agriculture and resistance to the effects of climate change.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD) was founded in 1986 as the Horn of Africa states wanted to cooperate on controlling drought in the region and avoiding famine in the future.
Later the mandate of IGAD widened to incorporate regional economic cooperation and conflict resolution because these issues relate closely to the challenges with cross-border problems and drought.
The vision of the organisation is to be the premier REC for the achievement of peace and sustainable development in the Horn of Africa. It aims to promote regional cooperation and integration as well as to support its member states in their pursuit of peace, security and prosperity.
The member states now include Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda. They should cover the main funding for IGAD through membership fees but most programmes and projects are supported by development partners such as the European Union (EU), African Development Bank (AfDB) and World Bank (WB) as well as several organisations and countries bilaterally such as GIZ (Die Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), USAID, Italy and the Nordic Countries including Finland.
The employees of IGAD come from all member states. My team consisted of two Djiboutian employees, one Kenyan, one Ethiopian and one Sudanese as well as me and my supervisor from Finland. What was most interesting in my internship was to get to know people from the different member states – the wide range of cultures.
“Having a multicultural team allows us to approach things from different viewpoints and take different cultures into consideration”, says Mr. Muhanad Yousif, Regional Expert from my team.
“It is also a good opportunity to learn about ourselves”, continues Mr. Beyene Belachew, Regional Expert.
“We don’t even think about the multicultural working environment really. What is nice about it is that we have time to get to know each other’s cultures, ways of living. We cannot get to know the other culture very well unless we are very close to it. We should have more extra activities or events with the employees”, explains Ms. Fatouma Said, Project Assistant.
Eng. Mwathi Kung'u, Senior Expert, finds the multicultural working environment a big and continuous learning process.
“We deal with issues so differently, of course. One of the purposes of IGAD is regional integration and the fact that we are working together from different cultures, regions, also helps that. Even when I go to Ethiopia, I have an idea how to behave, how to say hello… Some things we sometimes do out of ignorance. You cannot help anyone without knowing certain facts. For example, here I have learned a lot about Islam, because people speak openly without any hindrances. You appreciate it, as opposed to when people just make statements. Once you acknowledge that we are all different, it is easier to deal with people.”
Even working cultures can differ significantly from one member state to another – as I came to learn from my colleagues – simply because of things such as weather conditions.
When IGAD was created Djibouti was for political reasons the only option for the location of the secretariat. The other states were not stable enough and Djibouti had good working relationships to each state. Even now the safety and security of the capital are highly appreciated by foreigners and employees from the member states, although these positive factors are often overshadowed by the hot weather and the high cost of living. To ease the settling down of employees from other member states to Djibouti and IGAD, one of my tasks was to compile an orientation handbook for new staff.
IGAD has many donors and the efficiency of the organisation of course interests them. According to Eng. Kung’u, the work of the organisation has been assessed three times during the last decade: once by the EU, once by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and once by itself. The conclusion was that in order to move ahead, IGAD was facing some challenges in terms of capacity and those challenges needed to be addressed.
As a result, the Nordic Countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland) came together and harmonized their support to start a pooled funding.
“The plan for institutional strengthening, funded from this ‘basket’ fund, has tried to address the capacity needs in four components: first, the actual strengthening of the capacity of IGAD itself as an institution and its specialized institutions; second, the interaction with member states; third, the interaction with development partners; and fourth, with other stakeholders like the civil society, non-governmental organisations and others”, Eng. Kung’u explains.
Dr. Leena Kirjavainen, Chief Technical Advisor, emphasizes the importance of capacity development in gender mainstreaming in the technical development work, such as agriculture and infrastructure projects, as well as in improving staff’s understanding of gender issues within organisations themselves, gender staffing in particular.
Due to the institutional strengthening plan, IGAD organised an intensive training on gender mainstreaming for more than 50 participants from the staff, including high level managers and directors in April 2013. It was held in Khartoum, Sudan. The training, facilitated by gender specialists from Kenya, evoked very interesting conversations among the participants and made me think that even if members of the staff thought they knew all about gender, there was an obvious need for more training on gender planning, monitoring and evaluation.
In order to support capacity building and gender mainstreaming in a more practical way, Finland funded the forming of the PPMU in 2011 to strengthen the human capacity constraints as well as challenges in programming. During the first half of the 3-year-project, PPMU had prepared harmonized manuals in Project Cycle Management and Monitoring and Evaluation, which is something that many had tried but never finished.
The team had organised trainings to the staff of the secretariat and IGAD’s other institutions and offices, as well as to representatives of the member states. PPMU has also played a role as a think tank in the planning and preparation of regional infrastructure-related programmes and projects.
For me as a member of the PPMU team, organizing trainings was very interesting and rewarding. The employees participated in the discussions enthusiastically and everyone wanted to say the final word. Through participating in the group works, I got to learn more about my colleagues and the details of their projects. Most colleagues had a vast amount of experience from fieldwork and it was sometimes difficult to try to categorize or simplify that knowledge in order to make a feasible project plan as a group work exercise.
There can be challenges in the planning and implementation of projects, such as PPMU. The support provided by PPMU had been fully utilized from the beginning, but during my stay at IGAD I felt that some of the staff were only then becoming aware of PPMU’s actual purpose and role. It may be challenging to disseminate information within a complex organisation. The same problem as with communication applies to information about IGAD itself.
Eng. Kung’u says that capacity building is still needed in how to spread information more efficiently. “The organisation does a lot but is not well known because we are not able to pass on the information or the brand. If you look at our website, for example, there should be much more than there is. Because of that, a lot of people in the region might not know IGAD or exactly what it is doing.”
Indeed, even for me it took some time to understand the range of issues the organisation deals with and what it has achieved.
Drought is a difficult matter to address but according to Eng. Kung’u, IGAD has succeeded in addressing regional factors that go hand in hand with drought.
“I could say that the main achievement relates to peace and security. Which, if addressed, makes it easier for the region to develop economically, socially, and environmentally. IGAD has been a key player in the Somalia peace process”, Mr. Kung'u explains. Mr. Yousif adds that another success is the Sudan peace process, which includes the recent independence of South Sudan in 2011.
IGAD has a growing impact on regional integration of the Horn of Africa also through its infrastructural and trade-related programs and projects. “For instance, we have a rail project which connects Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia. From the business point of view, there is a Business Forum to maintain good trading relationships between the member states, and between them and private traders,” says Mr. Belachew.
Other achievements have been the HIV/AIDS project for cross-border mobile populations as well as the development of social security and immigration policies in the region.
How does IGAD really benefit member states or regions in the area? In Somalia, for example, it is involved in the water sector, food and nutrition, livestock and cross-border infrastructure programs or projects as well as in the development of institutions and government. It has an office of the Facilitator for Somalia Peace and National Reconciliation in Addis Ababa to assist in the peace process and strengthen the government. This office is also in charge of a liaison office in Mogadishu which helps to implement projects and gather information.
“The organisation has been lobbying and resource mobilizing. The situation that has been there for all these years means that Somalia cannot access development loans that normal countries get from the main lenders such as the WB or AfDB. IGAD has tried to lobby how Somalia can get assistance and has had discussions for example with the Islamic Bank”, Eng. Kung'u describes other roles of IGAD in Somalia.
He adds that it was a big achievement that IGAD was able to gather the several parties in Somalia – the Central Government, Puntland and even Somaliland – to come together and validate the Somalia Country Programming Paper for future development projects.
In the future, drought will re-emerge as the main focus of IGAD’s activities, with the new IGAD Drought Disaster Resilience Sustainability Initiative searching for more sustainable and preventive solutions.
As Eng. Kungu says, “It is really about drought resilience which has always been a part of IGAD. There is a need to refocus again on how we can help the communities to be resilient to be able to handle drought as opposed to what has been happening now with all the humanitarian efforts. Now we are looking at how we can help the people and the communities, even the environment, to be able to deal with challenges of drought when it does occur. Hopefully it will also mean more interaction with the member states: because most of the projects will be their projects with the coordination of IGAD, maybe the interaction will be strengthened again.”
The author holds a Master’s degree in Education and Development from the University of East Anglia, UK. She worked as an Intern at IGAD in January-July 2013 and currently works as an Office Assistant at Interpedia ry.
IGAD website: www.igad.int
Photos: Inkeri Kantola