The Failure of International Intervention
7. Culture and context MODELS AND REALITY A speaker at a conference in Latin America over 40 years ago discussed the use of models in the reform of public administration. If his advice had been heeded a great deal of time, effort and resources might have been saved and disappointment avoided: The temptation is strong to copy from a model, especially if that model happens to be extant in a country which governmental officials or elected politicians happen to admire greatly, and if it is felt that the effectiveness of the civil service of that country is one of the major reasons why that country has achieved the modernization and development which it has. My advice is simply this, Do not do it! Follow the more painful way of careful research, of careful study, of suiting the remedy to the disease, the organization to the situation, and the policies to the needs of place and time. There is probably no common set of laws and institutions that can be adopted by any given country with the model of any other country as a basis. (Reining, 1965) That temptation has not been resisted. Models have been peddled worldwide, ‘best practice’ has been advocated, with little sensitivity to context. Processes and organizational forms have been introduced, from Katmandu to Bogota, Bishkek to Maputo, regardless of their likely relevance to local circumstances. ‘Our [public sector reform] programme is home-grown’, the Permanent Secretary to the Cabinet Office of a sub-Saharan country told a receptive...
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