EPI B4B Internships Program: Expanding Successful Internships in Georgia

In designing the Economic Prosperity Initiative (EPI), USAID recognized that to enhance competitiveness at all levels in the Georgian economy, the country must improve the degree to which universities and industry collaborate. USAID recognized internships as a simple, easy form of collaboration and included in the EPI contract the requirement for periodic reporting on the number of internships utilized by the project. EPI took the larger view that it would be beneficial to support a more comprehensive understanding of and implementation approach to the creation and expansion of successful internship programs in Georgia beyond those few interns that EPI might utilize.

On 25th May 2011, an article appeared in The Financial entitled “Internships Wanted” that detailed the difficulties that Georgian universities were having in placing their students in meaningful internships. In response to that article, and as part of the on-going development of its more comprehensive Business4Business business development services program in Georgia, EPI launched a series of brainstorming sessions to more fully understand the expectations, challenges, and potential solutions related to internships. The brainstorming targeted three internship stakeholder groups and several sub-groups as follows:

  • Management representatives from Georgian universities
  • Students from Georgian universities
  • Internship Providers
    • Donors/Projects/NGOs
    • Private Firms
    • Government Agencies

The methodology EPI employed is one that has been adapted to a wide range of business brainstorming worldwide. It was employed in this instance for three reasons:

  • To use the methodology to better understand internship issues in Georgia;
  • To explore its workability in Georgia; and
  • To train EPI staff on the structured facilitation approached facilitation methods.

The brainstorming sessions provided participant views on the expectations and challenges related to internships, and revealed much about current status, concepts, and perceptions of current internship practices in Georgia.

EPI Public Private Dialogue: Construction Sector

A Public Private Dialogue (PPD) took place among representatives of Georgia’s apparel companies, the National Bank of Georgia, Tbilisi City Hall, the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, and Georgian National Investment Agency. The purpose of the meeting was to identify major challenges and issues that inhibit successful operation of the apparel industry, as well as ensure a comprehensive understanding of trends, challenges, and solutions.

Participants shared their experience, knowledge, views and concerns, and jointly elaborated recommendations, the successful enactment of which requires support from the Government of Georgia, financial institutions, media and other relevant parties.

The Public Private Dialogue (PPD) pinpointed major challenges in the construction sector that prevent successful development and implementation of modern techniques.

Useful recommendations can be summarized as follows:

  • Government support through the introduction of a legal framework regulating compliance with necessary standards aimed at ensuring high quality construction.
  • Support from financial institutions by offering reasonable interest rates.
  • Support from donor organizations in terms of facilitating the enactment of a legal framework.
  • Increased awareness of technical characteristics and effective use of basalt fiber and perlite construction materials.
  • Support for training and laboratory testing.
  • Support and promotion of energy-efficient construction through tax incentives.
  • Enhanced workforce capacity through relevant retraining, to increase the competitiveness of local staff.

EPI Public Private Dialogue: Apparel Sector

A Public Private Dialogue (PPD) took place among representatives of Georgia’s apparel companies, the National Bank of Georgia, Tbilisi City Hall, the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, and Georgian National Investment Agency. The purpose of the meeting was to identify major challenges and issues that inhibit successful operation of the apparel industry, as well as ensure a comprehensive understanding of trends, challenges, and solutions.

Participants shared their experience, knowledge, views and concerns, and jointly elaborated recommendations, the successful enactment of which requires support from the Government of Georgia, financial institutions, media and other relevant parties.

The public private dialogue (PPD) pinpointed the apparel sector’s major challenges preventing success. The presence of public sector representatives at the meeting was essential in terms of their contribution to finding solutions. The National Bank of Georgia has agreed to disseminate relevant information arising from the meeting to appropriate bodies.

Important recommendations were proposed at the meeting. Recommendations can be summarized as follows:

  • Encourage local apparel companies to participate in different exhibitions to increase their awareness and exposure to international markets, experience, and knowledge;
  • Facilitate the formation of a healthy business environment, a pre-condition of which needs to be full support from the government, financial institutions, media and other relevant parties;
  • Introduce major changes to the tax system through tax code liberalization and incentives to benefit business development;
  • Establish an association to serve as a bridge between companies and the authorities; accountable for ensuring effective communication and timely delivery of key messages such as changes to the tax system, information on export markets, and other relevant topics;
  • Enhance the workforce through relevant retraining to increase the competitiveness of local staff, and enable them to operate effectively, not only locally, but also at the international level;
  • Facilitate the local companies’ access to raw materials to reduce dependence on imports, and boost performance efficiency;
  • Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development to support local business development by identifying and attracting markets.

SURGE Report: The Conference of Sustainable Land Governance

One of the major activities of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Strengthening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity (SURGE) Project is the Conference on Sustainable Land Governance that was held on February 8-9, 2017 at the Diamond Hotel Manila, Philippines. Through the Cities Development Initiative (CDI), USAID partners with the local institutions to bolster the role of secondary and tertiary cities as engines of inclusive, environmentally sustainable, and resilient growth. Land is a key asset that can drive economic development, food security, women’s empowerment, natural resource management, and sustainable urbanization.

The conference gathered 60 international and local speakers, moderators and more than 300 participants from the national and local governments, international experts, development partners and from various stakeholders from the academe, the private sector, non-government organizations and students. The United States Ambassador to the Philippines, the US Agency for International Aid (USAID) Mission Director, the Secretary of the Department of Finance, the Program Director of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) other officials from USAID, and other key government officials were also present.

The event promoted the sharing of good practices and new sustainable approaches to urban land administration. It facilitated multidisciplinary discussions on practical solutions to challenges in land governance in the Philippines among key partners. It was co-sponsored by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the World Bank.

Other conference partners were: Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the National Competitiveness Council of the Philippines (NCCP); the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF), the Land Registration Authority (LRA); the Geodetic Engineers of the Philippines (GEP) and the League of Cities of the Philippines.

The SURGE Project employed the services of a sub-contractor, the Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST) as the event organizer.

The discussions during the conference focused on 12 interactive streams of topics: (1) land administration and management and the challenges of urbanization; (2) land sector reforms in the Philippines; (3) alternative land dispute resolutions; (4) urban land constrictions; (5) asset management for local government units; (6) policy frameworks for land administration and management; (7) experiences in implementing land sector reforms; (8) technology solutions in land administration; (9) improving access to land records/information; (10) gender and social inclusion in property rights; (11) resilience land management; and (12) managing commercial pressures on land markets.

Launch of the Sustainable Urban Land Coalition and Call to Action

The launch of the Sustainable Urban Land Coalition with representatives of various agencies, institutions and organizations was considered as the highlight of the conference. The coalition called for the adoption of a sustainable land governance to address the country’s land sector development concerns.

Signed on February 9, 2017, the conference produced a Call To Action urging “responsible institutions take the lead in improving, streamlining, and making accessible national and local government land programs and services to fast track the development and adoption of policy and institutional reforms”, such as:

  • streamline and rationalize the mandates of land related agencies;
  • prioritize and direct the implementation of a massive national titling program involving all land related agencies;
  • provide equal opportunities to women and men to acquire properties;
  • issue a policy to link and harmonize land records and systems for a comprehensive, gender sensitive and cost efficient land-related database;
  • strictly enforce compliance of local government units on property valuation regulations;
  • issue a policy for the adoption of new technologies for surveying, mapping, adjudication and titling;
  • address a responsive national land use policy;
  • pass amendments to land laws to remove antiquated restrictions to land ownership;
  • expedite resolution of land-related cases (e.g., conflicting land claims/titles, etc.); and
  • support and advocate for the reforms in land administration and management.

In his speech, Jonas George Soriano, Deputy Executive Director for the Performance and Projects Management Office of the Cabinet Secretary of the Philippine Government lauded the newly-formed coalition and assured that the administration of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte supports the Call to Action. In fact, he announced at the conference that President Duterte will sign into law the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) and the National Security Policy which will be the basis of all plans and reforms in the government.

Undersecretary for Regional Development of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Adoracion Navarro, on the other hand, said NEDA has reactivated the national land use committee which is responsible for tackling land governance issues in the country. Navarro encouraged the newly-formed coalition to aggressively work with the government to address land issues in the Philippines.

Based on the observations and result of the post-conference survey, the conference raised awareness on improving sustainable land governance both at the national and local levels. The knowledge-sharing, networking and partnerships during the conference were valuable in advancing urban land administration and reform in the Philippines.

For instance, conference participants realized the importance of asset management as a new systematic approach to increase the effective use of real property, owned or operated by a local government. Asset management involves a comprehensive inventory of all assets and an evaluation of each property to determine the best use for a local government. By addressing other property management issues, this multidisciplinary approach to managing assets results in improving local finances, service delivery and facilitates local economic development. SURGE Project Chief of Party Maris Mikelsons stressed that the project will assist CDI cities in implementing asset management with the League of Cities as the main partner and driver of institutionalizing it in the Philippines. An important task for this is the preparation of an Asset Management Manual for distribution to all local governments.

Land Governance Support Activity (LGSA): Initial Gender Strategy

The Land Governance Support Activity (LGSA) will support the Government of Liberia (GOL) land rights reform process through four primary components: (1) demand-driven support to the land reform agenda led by the GOL; (2) strengthening the policy, legal, and regulatory framework for land governance; (3) development of a customary land rights recognition model based on the Land Rights Policy; and (4) support of stakeholder engagement in land governance through communications and outreach and enhancing local capacity through the provision of land sector services.

The LGSA must traverse Liberia’s legal landscape of statutory and customary laws, infused with myriad local practices and social norms. While several formal laws uphold women’s rights to use, access and own land, and the Constitution bans sex discrimination, other laws undercut women’s equal right to land and resources. Overall, women in Liberia hold land in significantly lower proportion than do men. Many documents providing evidence of land and property rights are issued in men’s name only. This has been attributed by women’s rights groups to both lingering legal limitations and to women’s low literacy rates (48% compared with 71% for men based on Liberia’s latest Demographic and Health Survey).

Moreover, rural women generally exercise rights to land within customary systems. Under customary systems, women often depend on their kin relations – by blood or marriage – to access, use and control land. Such access can be tenuous, and vulnerable to breakdown in kin relations including those brought about by death or divorce. Communities in Liberia are varied in their approaches and practices generally and around women’s land rights specifically. As such each community’s customs and practices will require careful gender analysis that accounts for the specific context of that community and the realities for the women associated with it.

A key project objective is the achievement of gender equality, as fundamental for the realization of human rights and central to effective and sustainable development outcomes. As a critical social characteristic that shapes the experiences, roles, opportunities, constraints, rights, and responsibilities of men and women, gender and related dynamics underpin governance systems and practices, including those related to land. The LGSA aims to align GOL land laws, policies, and regulations with best practices, particularly around recognition of customary land and the attendant impact on women in that process. It further seeks to inform policy-makers and communities about women’s land rights, and influence the execution of relevant best practices.

This Gender Strategy provides a framework and guidance for a gender-responsive approach to the LGSA. The Gender Strategy directs the project team, implementers, and partners to account for gender differentials in the ways men and women might have varying experiences, priorities, knowledge, interests, opportunities, and constraints. It calls for a more holistic and nuanced approach to reveal complexities and challenges, and present opportunities to capitalize on the nexus between land rights, gender equality, and sustainable development. The Strategy intends to guide both project substance and processes – including monitoring and evaluation – through principles, strategies, and more concrete guidance for implementation.