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Building Capacity in Central and Eastern Europe - institutional adaptation, elite creation or cultural colonialism?

Roger Lawrence

One of the commonly identified needs of accession countries is the creation of stronger capacity throughout government and civil society. Weak capacity is seen to lead to poor performance in developing institutions, in attracting and managing programme funding, in combating corruption and in adapting civil society to the norms of supranational institutions.Significant levels of resource have been directed at building the capacities of individuals and organisations to adapt institutions and processes to fit better with supra-national governance regimes. This investment has generally been seen as positive assistance to accession states and increasingly to 'new neighbours'.Drawing on findings of a recent study of cross-border collaboration, this paper identifies both need and demand for capacity-building. It suggests there may be unintended consequences; that by empowering certain sectors capacity creation may also be elite formation, causing the disempowerment of other sectors.Capacity building may also be a direct result of the demands of the processes of the very institutions (such as the EU) which are promoting capacity-building measures. Barriers set up by supra-national organisations and their expectations of 'clients' can demand a set of international capacities which undermine or make redundant existing local capacity creating a form of cultural colonialism.

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