Country strategies as road maps for cooperation going forward
In 2010, VLIR-UOS signed an agreement with the former Minister of Development Cooperation to limit the number of partner countries to 20. The list of 20 partner countries was elaborated considering past cooperation and a set of criteria. For each of these partner countries, a country strategy needs to be elaborated, which serves as a roadmap for further cooperation with the country.
DR Congo, Cuba, Ecuador, Uganda, Tanzania and Vietnam are the first countries for which a country strategy has been worked out. Ethiopia and South Africa followed in 2013, Burundi and Suriname in 2014. Peru, Kenya, Bolivia, and Morocco strategies were elaborated in 2015. In 2016, the country strategies for Nicaragua and Indonesia have been elaborated. Recently the partner country list was updated and aligned with the new list of 31 countries eligible for Belgian non-state actors defined in the context of the reform of non-governmental development cooperation in 2015-2016. Cambodia, Rwanda and the Philippines were included in the country list whereas Ghana, Sir Lanka and India dropped out as compared to the list of 2010 bringing the total back to 20 countries. The publication of the country strategies for Rwanda, the Philippines and Cambodia was done in January 2017.
Since 2015, a new element is taken into account in the elaboration of a country strategy. Considering the spirit of the reform of the Belgian non-governmental cooperation we will also look into what other Belgian actors do in a given country and look at complementarity and joint actions. The reference here are the Joint Strategic Frameworks of Belgian non-governmental actors which were elaborated by Belgian non-state actors in the 31 eligible countries and approved by the Minister of Development Cooperation. All recent country strategies (since 2016) explicitly refer to these documents and use them as a general framework.
Framework for programming and selection
A country strategy reflects the opportunities for university cooperation for development between the country in question and Belgium/Flanders. A country strategy serves as a reference framework for programming, leading to strategy based calls for proposals.
A strategy assures relevance and complementarity. Relevance because it focuses on the needs and priorities of the partner country, and complementarity because it takes into account what others do. As such, a strategy departs from the needs of the partner country, and in particular the national priorities in terms of poverty reduction and national policies for Higher Education. Furthermore it will take into account the available expertise and interest for cooperation in Flanders.
The country strategy represents the strategic niche for future VLIR-UOS cooperation in a specific country. A strategy can contain a geographical and/or thematic focus. It should be multidisciplinary and include an optimal balance between the different programme types and levels of intervention of VLIR-UOS.
Country Strategy Identification (CSI) process
A country strategy is the result of numerous inputs and consultations with a wide spectrum of actors in Flanders and the country in question. The basis of the country strategy paper is a desk study comprising a context analysis of development and higher education priorities, including what other development actors (international, Belgian) do in the broad field of cooperation. As part of the desk study we also organise a broad-based enquiry into the priorities for future cooperation with and in the country. Furthermore we consult the Flemish academic community and other stakeholders via a North Seminar looking at clarifying the interest/experiences in cooperating with a given country. In certain countries also an identification mission (including a South Seminar) was foreseen.
Each country strategy results in a country strategy paper. This is a policy document that will be used by VLIR-UOS to guide its funding decisions and as the framework for future project calls.
From country strategy to country programme
The country strategy paper is the basis to work out a fully-fledged country programme. A country programme consists of a portfolio of specific cooperation projects according to different intervention types.
In order to achieve this both competitive open calls and strategically earmarked partner selection will take place. The following scheme represents the evolution from country strategy to country programme.
A country programme will consist of a portfolio of different intervention types and levels.