On 18 January 2010 the Dutch Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) presented its report ‘Less pretension, more ambition: development aid that makes a difference’ to the Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation. By questioning some long-established development mantras this report has ignited a lively debate within the Dutch development community. The Hague Academy for Local Governance takes the recommendations of the WRR seriously. In an internal staff meeting we have discussed how we can integrate these recommendations in our approach.

One of the most important recommendations is that ‘self-reliance’ in developing countries should be stimulated: aid should focus more on development and less on immediate poverty reduction. Our “Talent for Governance”-programme, which aims to give young civil servants the chance to develop their professional skills, is a good example of how we are trying to stimulate this ‘self-reliance’. Secondly, most of our participants are civil servants and trainers from developing countries, and by building their capacities, we enable them to create better living conditions in their own communities. Still, there is room for improvement: we aim at increasing our activities directed at strengthening training institutes from developing countries. This enhances self-reliance, because it will allow these institutes to organise training courses to promote good local governance themselves, and adapted to their local situations.
Furthermore, the WRR stresses that our aid programmes should focus on sectors in which The Netherlands has extensive expertise and invest in generating and sharing this knowledge. The Hague Academy is doing just that by working on local governance capacity building, a sector in which The Netherlands has a strong international reputation and position.

In our training courses we build bridges between theory and practical cases from The Netherlands and countries from the developing world. In the coming year, The Hague Academy is planning to invest in making this expertise available to a wider public. We will set up an online database, where you will be able to find state-of-the-art initiatives and studies on local governance from The Netherlands and other countries worldwide.

Finally, the WRR highlights the need to integrate global issues into development policies. Financial stability, environment policies and the fight against infectious diseases, for example, are extremely important for development and therefore need our constant attention. This broadening and globalisation of the development agenda will be a key point in our existing programmes, as well as in the training programmes we will develop in the coming years.