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Time-Questions

4. Pro and Contra Speed


What is the right speed? Put on the pressure or let loose? As regards this question there were two groups: one of them called for deceleration, the second pointed out the danger of a slower speed for development and modernization processes.

On the one side it was argued, that planning under pressure would lead to superficial solutions. These complained Prelate Valentin Doering of the Hanns-Seidel-Stift ung would take no account of complexity and had merely an alibi function. The correction of faulty developments because of rash decisions can be more expensive later than an investment in thoroughly thought through planning. More time was also asked for implementation. Especially the most important capital of cooperation, trust, was not growing over night. Ownership needs time.

Reinhard Hermle (VENRO, Misereor) summarized the practical experience of development cooperation: development always takes longer than one planned for.

At the same time – this was pointed out by a large number of the interviewees – deadlines are important levers for change. Only under pressure are resources made available in partner countries. This is also recognized by the partners. Hans-Peter Schipulle (BMZ) recounts a conversation he had with the South African Minister for Water, who told him that only deadlines had led to a successful dynamic: “Without this pressure we would have lacked the drive that let us reach the goals we had set ourselves.”

Open processes without time pressure often entail danger – for no action does not mean that nothing happens. To not force processes can mean that undesirable structures ossify and options for action get lost. Speed is good against sclerosis. The announced goal, to increase the aid budget of UN countries to 0,7% of GDP, had been repeated for years without any impact; only in May of this year the countries of the EU signed a declaration of intent, to reach this aim until 2015. The millennium goals also have a deadline until 2015. In the wake of exaggerated hopes as to its feasibility in the donor countries, such deadlines carry the danger of creating excessive expectations, and thus reduce the freedom of action that could become necessary should unforeseen circumstances demand it.

Barbara Unmüßig of the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung brings together the necessity for stamina and pressure: It takes long-termness and continuity in order to build up reliable networks. When suddenly a short window of opportunity opens, as for example in the Ukraine in autumn 2004, it can be utilized.


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