Notes from the Field

Korea and The Asia Foundation: Partners for Development Effectiveness

February 11, 2009

After rapidly rising from poverty to the ranks of advanced industrial economies, Korea is now committed to becoming an important contributor to the economic development and stability of the less developed countries of the world. In January, the Korean government submitted its formal application for membership in the Development Assistance Committee (DAC), the group of member countries of the OECD committed to increasing and improving aid to emerging nations. Korea already provides some $800 million in official development assistance and aims to increase this to over $3 billion by 2015. The Asia Foundation is cooperating with the Korean government to support its efforts to rapidly improve the effectiveness of its aid programs.

The Korean International Cooperation Agency, or KOICA, recently invited Asia Foundation experts to organize a seminar for Korean government aid agency staff focusing on a critical element in improving aid effectiveness, and the process of developing and using Country Assistance Strategies (CAS) to plan and guide country-level aid implementation. The all-day seminar, held January 18, was attended by some 80 development specialists from KOICA, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance and other ministries, as well as academic advisors and NGO leaders. There was also a separate in-house workshop for working level KOICA staff.

Dr. Bruce Tolentino, the Foundation’s Director for Economic Development and Reform programs, led the team. He was joined by Anthea Mulakala, the Foundation’s Country Representative in Malaysia, and Erman Rahman, our Director of Economic Programs in Indonesia. In his keynote talk, Dr. Tolentino went straight to the most pressing questions: what are the challenges posed to development aid during this global economic downturn and why is a focus on aid effectiveness even more critical under these circumstances? Other presentations focused on assessing the practices of major multilateral and bilateral aid agencies-the World Bank, The Asian Development Bank, the UK’s Department for International Development, and others-in using Country Assistance Strategies to improve the targeting, design, coordination, and evaluation of their aid programs. Staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and of KOICA presented papers on Korea’s current approach and challenges associated with problem assessment and program design.

A wide-ranging and open discussion followed about how Korea could improve its effectiveness by building on some of the best practices of other aid agencies. Key lessons focused on using the CAS to coordinate the separate programs of several Korean agencies, harmonize Korea’s programs with other aid agencies operating in each country, and integrate Korea’s aid efforts with the development plans of recipient countries.

Cooperation between KOICA and the Foundation is expected to continue. In 2008, KOICA placed five junior staff in several Foundation field offices for periods ranging from one week to two months as part of its staff development program, and this initiative will be expanded in 2009. A KOICA representative has been invited to participate in The Asia Foundation’s in-house workshop on economic reform and development to be held in Singapore, February 24-27.

For over 50 years, The Asia Foundation has been a partner with Korea to help strengthen institutions for accelerating economic development and good governance in Korea. We are continuing this cooperation, as Korea prepares to enter the ranks of the major aid donor countries. Korea is expanding its programs for sharing its rich development experience as well as critical resources and expertise. The Foundation is ready to engage Korea in exchanges of practical knowledge and methods as well as through active cooperation in the field, making us true partners for Asian development.

Edward Reed is The Asia Foundation’s Country Representative in Korea. He can be reached at ereed@tafko.or.kr.

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