29 August 2012

Donor drive

by Dr. Robert Zuber, Global Action to Prevent War

One of the key elements for Programme of Action (PoA) implementation, as has been widely discussed by diplomats, is 'capacity assistance' linking donor and recipient states. The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) has attempted to institutionalize capacity support through the program of “matching needs and resources” through the PoA Implementation Support System (PoA-ISS).

This UNODA program, which is an integral and regular part of the agenda of the Group of Interested States for Practical Disarmament Matters (GIS), is for states that wish to embark on important new efforts to destroy illicit small arms and secure borders and harbors, among other activities, and to be partnered with donor states with the resources (money, technology, consultation) to make such efforts possible.  The excellent and attentive UNODA Regional Offices are available to make such partnerships as fully operational as possible.

While the program has yet to achieve the robustness hoped for in terms of the number of resource partnerships developed and maintained, there is broad agreement that effort to institutionalize such relationships is time well spent. As Global Action to Prevent War (GAPW) has mentioned many times, implementation-oriented capacity support is the lifeblood of the PoA and effective strategies for motivating new capacity partnerships are highly prized. 

A missing ingredient in all of this good work is the encouragement of reciprocity. Such reciprocity is grounded in a sound principle: not only is giving more 'blessed' than receiving, but generosity creates opportunities for learning and skill development that are different from and often more robust than those generated through receiving.  

This encouragement of reciprocity has a twist in this context, insofar as the PoA is not so much about returning the favor but in spreading its impacts. The hope is that states which have received assistance on various PoA-related projects will in turn share lessons learned and skills practiced with other states that can benefit from such assistance. In this way, bilateral exchanges result in multi-lateral webs of skills and information sharing that can create hopeful and practical options for implementation.

While there remain disincentives for some states to grasp this truth, all have skills and insights to contribute to the elimination of illicit small arms and their dire threats to security. In this struggle, no state is without needs, but neither are states without capacity to contribute to the needs of others. This recognition has been strikingly (and thankfully) apparent in many of the national statements issued early in this first week. States have PoA related capacity deficits, but they also have initiated programs—both internally and externally—that brand themselves as leaders and authors of capacity support. This trend must continue so that more and more states can openly claim authority and generosity in the areas of their particular expertise.

There is an organizing principle which asserts that we should discourage anyone from making demands without also making commitments. Couched within our expressed needs should be some tangible contribution of resources, both to address areas of immediate concern and to offer assistance to others facing similar circumstances. What states 'want' regarding implementation needs to be accompanied, more and more, with commitments to contribute some of their own resources. In this way, capacity assistance can generate change on the ground as well as sound pedagogy and honed skills to guide the next phase of implementation efforts.     

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