By Jackson Celestin
On March 11, 2016, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John F. Sopko released a report reviewing 45 Department of Defense (DOD) reconstruction projects in Afghanistan. Of the 45 projects, 28 did not meet structural contract requirements or technical specifications, 16 were structurally deficient to the point that they were considered unsafe for use, and 7 of the 15 completed projects had never been used. According to Sopko, the projects suffered from inadequate contractors, project management and oversight; and faulty building materials. To limit deficient projects, Sopko suggested the DOD improve its project planning and design procedures, hire contractors who are qualified and capable of complying with construction requirements, and conduct adequate oversight to guarantee that projects are built to protocol and contractors are held accountable.
Though Sopko’s recommendations are reasonable solutions, they ignore larger trends visible in the U.S.’ reconstruction budget in Afghanistan. Of the $114.92 billion the U.S. has spent since 2002 through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Fund, the DOD has dedicated $10.68 billion (9 percent) to Operations and Oversight and only $990 million (less than 1 percent) to the main infrastructure fund, the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund (AIF).
Between Sopko’s report and the allocation of U.S. reconstruction funds in Afghanistan, there appears to be an expertise, administration, and funding gap that is preventing the United States from establishing sustainable infrastructure projects in Afghanistan. In the field of international development, this is a common challenge, and more agencies are turning to public-private partnerships (PPPs) to address it. Inspired by PPPs in international development, this blog presents a new model that partners the public and private sectors with the military. This article will refer to this model as Public-Private-Military Partnerships (PPMPs). Though they may face challenges in attracting private investors, working with low starting budgets, and addressing anti-Western and anti-military perceptions, PPMPs can combine the groups’ comparative advantages to fill the knowledge and funding gap in the United States’ Afghanistan reconstruction projects. They can also further connect the military to global development for better military assistance in conflict areas and help conflict and post-conflict areas to pursue global development and sustainability goals.
By Miguel E. Eusse Bencardino
Water scarcity in the Middle East has long been an issue due to the area’s desert climate and lack of freshwater resources. While water access is a humanitarian issue, in this region it also carries enormous political importance. Despite efforts in previous peace negotiations to bring water security, more technical, institutional and political cooperation is needed. A new World Bank initiative aims to help spur this type of cooperation, with Israel at the helm.
Israel is internationally recognized for its ability to manage and deliver scarce water resources. Israel has built four desalination plants since 2005, and five more are expected to begin operations soon. Additionally, cooperation agreements with Jordan have improved the region’s water distribution infrastructure. Through desalinization of Mediterranean and Red Sea water (which accounts for 80% of Israel’s total water today), Israel has reached water stability.
Nitzana Desalinization Plant in Israel courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
On June 17 Israel’s Ministry of Economy signed a $500,000 agreement with the World Bank to promote knowledge sharing on water issues through technical assistance, capacity building, and knowledge dissemination. Every World Bank Group member country aiming to improve its water resilience is eligible to participate; countries facing water stress are highly encouraged to take part.
By Elizabeth Melampy
A recent USAID study points out that 80 percent of employers in Southeast Asia want to hire more workers, but only 15 percent think education systems are adequately preparing the workforce for available jobs. This difference between employers’ needs and the workforce’s skills is known as a ‘skills gap,’ and workforce training programs are one of the best ways to minimize this gap. Donors and host country governments have leaned on STEM-AT (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, accounting, and tourism) training initiatives to meet these needs, to meet private sector demand, and to create more competitive economies.
In 2014, USAID established the ‘Connecting the Mekong through Education and Training’ (COMET) program to help meet these needs and help create a more competitive workforce in Southeast Asia. The five-year initiative works closely with the private sector to train students in 12 universities and 90 vocational centers across Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia in STEM-oriented programs to help secure employment in the region. USAID has organized workforce training in the past, but in the last five years has renewed efforts to build a workforce to meet the specific demands of the markets in developing regions. In addition, the initiative builds on the Obama administration’s ‘Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative’ (YSEALI) and the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) to enable job-ready graduates with practical education.
Students at Saigon International University in Vietnam.
By Sarah Carson
Public-private partnerships (PPPs) in education are often categorized based solely on funding and management—i.e., private funding and public management and vice versa. However, these categories oversimplify the complex partnership structures developed in recent years to meet one of today’s most pressing development challenges – youth education and workforce training.