As the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) leaps forward into a millennium defined by growing uncertainty and apprehension, the federally-owned international organization seeks to form better and more appropriate responses to the shifting needs of the developing world. Working on behalf of German ministries, other national governments, and a wide range of international clients, the GTZ endeavors to create practical and innovative solutions that encourage long-term growth and development for countries that need the assistance the most.
One of the most pressing issues that the GTZ grapples with is the persistence of severe destitution in developing countries and the ways with which governments can effectively reduce poverty levels and facilitate genuine economic progress. In the last five years, the GTZ has devoted substantial efforts in supporting the implementation of Poverty Reduction Strategies in different developing countries, an effort that has been propelled by meticulous research and the tireless monitoring of projects in GTZ’s partner countries all over the world.
A key figure in this campaign against poverty is Mr. Wolf Dio, a Priority Area Manager for the GTZ who focuses on poverty orientation and its integration into the framework of the GTZ’s anti-poverty projects. Although Mr. Dio specializes in the intricacies involved in effective poverty orientation, his tasks fall into the general pattern of a triptych. “[The first part consists of] advisory services towards our ministry of economic cooperation and development, to strengthen the poverty orientation in the regional portfolios and also within the sectoral orientation we provide to the development cooperation in Germany,” he said. “The second one is a mainstreaming task; basically, helping here within the GTZ headquarters and in our field offices in the matter of staff qualification, and in strengthening the poverty orientation within their projects and programs.”
The third aspect of Mr. Dio’s job involves providing support to his colleagues in the organization, particularly to those who accomplish their work in the field. “We try to strengthen the relationship of poverty orientation to other cross-sectoral issues, such as gender or human rights. We make sure that this sort of quality criteria are built into the planning, monitoring, and implementation of the projects and programs they are implementing. We also try to ensure that our partner countries monitor the programs in a differentiated manner, so they can detect during implementation whether the chances to reach poor people are really high enough.”
Although poverty orientation is indispensable in improving pro-poor impacts of development programs, Mr. Dio admits that it isn’t always very easy to convince people of this fact. “Most of the time, they will say,
That’s one of the impediments,” he rued. “And obviously, the challenge is to make clear that we aren’t talking about direct poverty reduction – we are talking about attacking structural causes of poverty. And only when we’re talking about these issues do they realize that what they do might even worsen imbalances within the region.” The quality of the work that Mr. Dio and his colleagues produce is also paramount. “It is part of our work to make clear that it’s more cost-effective to make sure that cross-sectoral issues such as gender and human rights concerns are taken into account. These have to be considered from the very beginning, and not when you’re already making the final evaluation, when you realize that the impact hasn’t been as much or as high as you’d hoped it would be.”
Despite these hurdles, however, Mr. Dio finds genuine encouragement in his joint work with other agencies. “First, it was a cumbersome process to discuss with the colleagues of many other bilateral agencies to come up with a harmonized approach to poverty impact assessment, but now seeing it endorsed by the OECD Development Asssistance Committee and experiencing how it’s being spread slowly but surely is something very nice.” He is also heartened by some unusual surprises involved in his work. “We get a demand from countries which you wouldn’t expect to ask for help. For example, Chile has asked us to assist them in their vulnerability mapping, and recently, we got a request from the United Arab Emirates to help them fine-tune their poverty statistics. Seeing countries which are not the traditional candidates of our work being interested in GTZ support because they reckon that we have a certain competence in these areas is another thing I’m very glad about.”
Before he occupied his post as a Priority Area Manager three years ago, Mr. Dio worked for the GTZ in Bolivia as a government advisor for decentralization. He also served in the Asian Development Bank for five years as a project economist, and holds an MSc in Agricultural Economics from the University of Redding, as well as an MSc in Financial Management from the University of London.
However formidable the challenges that Mr. Dio must constantly contend with in his work, he hopes that in time, the various elements in the poverty orientation portfolio – such as social security and pro-poor growth – will be recognized as crucial factors in eliminating poverty on a wider and more profound scale. “I also hope that poverty-reduction impacts are seen as major quality criteria for measuring the success of our work, and eventually help GTZ be recognized as a competence center with respect to poverty-related work, and capacity development for poverty-oriented policies.”