Koenraad Van Brabant

Currently Senior Peacebuilding Advisor in International Peacebuilding Advisory Team (IPAT), an initiative of Interpeace

Twenty five years of working in and on conflict, of which 15 in humanitarian action and 10 in peacebuilding.
Educational training as social scientist (anthropology) and development studies.
Experienced (and trained) facilitator, trainer, mentor, advisor.
Working languages: English, French, Spanish, Dutch
Has worked in senior management positions and as consultant, at field level and in headquarters.

Policy and Research Papers

'Jack' and 'Jill' of all trades, master of some. Competency requirements for effective advising in international cooperation contexts.

At any given time, there are thousands of ‘advisers’ to governments and public sector institutions facing complex and delicate situations. On the surface, it seems that there are big differences among them: many are nationals and others ‘internationals’, they have of course different types of expertise and they find themselves in very different contexts. Notwithstanding, an implicit or explicit objective of their advisory role is to contribute to more efficient and effective public sector institutions. An effective public sector can be an important factor contributing to ‘good governance’, if there is also a very healthy relationship between government and citizens.

 

The effectiveness of an ‘adviser’ depends on a variety of factors, many of them out of her or his control. Other factors however are more under the control of the individual adviser, and can be consciously cultivated as personal competencies. Effective advisers do not only have their ‘thematic expertise’. They also come with an understanding of and competencies related to capacity-strengthening and change processes. They actively seek to understand the various contexts in which they operate, which is a learning process. They are able to exercise good situational judgment, and can see tactical opportunities to move forward towards a greater strategic goal. They have excellent interpersonal skills, also across ‘cultures’. Confronted with challenges and dilemmas, they show pragmatism but also rely on a strong moral compass. They can do this because they have a maturity and self-mastery that is the result of conscious personal development.

Paper

Value for Money? The overall record of technical assistance for institutional and governance reform.

‘Technical assistance’ in the form of international experts and advisors, and loans and grants for ‘institutional reform’ constitute a huge share of official development assistance. Yet a growing body of comparative and cumulative evaluations, further bolstered by academic research, show that its overall effectiveness in terms of better functioning governments, is limited at best. There is a whole range of reasons for these, with the bulk of the blame often laid on the recipient countries. But there are also well-known problems with the quality of the ‘experts’ and ‘advisers’ being deployed, and long-standing and deep-seated problems generated by the predominant bureaucratic cultures of the ‘donor’ agencies. Based on reflection and learning from experience, there is strong convergence among many different sources about what are more productive ways of engaging for the purpose of sustained improvements in public sector capacities and performance. Part of this lies with the recipient actors who can be more assertive in maintaining control of their own agendas and strategies. But under any given scenario, it requires from ‘experts’ and ‘advisers’ a much broader range of competencies, and from the ‘donors’ a change in actual practices, that would bring these more in line with their professed policy principles.

Paper