Field Coordinator interview test

I had the pleasure of a phone interview for an international post. To get shortlisted for the interview I had to take a written test. I had to answer 2 questions and email the answers within 2 hours. Initially, I was a bit annoyed because usually you have to do a written test if it is your first assignment. I went along for the sake of an experience. Without having to spend too much time googling things, I could rely on previous experience, exposure and insights. I was happy to know I was short-listed for the interview which was pretty straight forward. I was happy not to get any obnoxious questions. When I asked how many years the Mission had been in situ I got a very vague answer and I had to ask them to repeat themselves not because of crackling reception but because their answer was not straight. They had to spin a story and I was given the impression they didn’t want to answer it. Anyhow, below is the test answer.

Coordination is about building partnerships. Please explain (max 1 page)

Coordination is about building relationships because it is through partnership with different organizations, programmes are effectively implemented. Coordination also contributes to programme sustainability and hence better community development. Moreover, it is through coordination better communication is made between the different partners. Also, coordination facilitates development of trust. Where there is good communication, the degree of trust concerning programme activities is likely to be either developing or already existing. It also reduces wastage of resources through duplication of efforts and activities. All of these illustrate that coordination is about building partnership.

Essentially, in these hard financial times and the increasing question of the relevance of the United Nations as an implementation and funding partner, as well as developing countries greater awareness on how to solve their own problems, cost sharing regarding development projects is an increasing concern. Considering donor governments are reducing international aid, development organizations are cutting down staff, and United Nations peace keeping missions are wrapping up their activities to pave the way for a greater role for the country teams, these are all factors which suggest the need for greater partnership building and better coordination. In this light, the United Nations, being the world’s primary development organization, has the expertise and capacity to moderate international development activities through its national staff, implementation partnerships with local NGOs/CBOs, all work towards common goals. It is partnerhips like these which ensure effective and coordinated implementation of policy documents such as the UNDAF, or country assessment plans are in alignment with the concerned country’s government development objectives. In this connection, coordination in the current climate requires adopting a locational contextual perspective to get the most out of programme goals.

Coordination is about building partnership because the broad range of humanitarian issues-human rights, peacebuilding and development- cannot be sustainably managed without partnerships with NGOs/CBOs and country governments to guide the development priorities. Moreover, effective coordination depends on solid partnership to reduce wastage of resources, to facilitate accountability and impact measurement, reduce risks from natural disasters, upgrade information and technology requirements. With growing local awareness on how to deal with issues in the field, developing partnership with local expertise such as consultants, experts within government agencies, NGOS/CBOs, funding and implementation partners are contributing to trust building and capacity development of local talent. All in all, resulting in greater facilitation of fewer financial resources.

In conclusion, coordination is about building partnerships. They ensure implementation partners or donor objectives are met as well as ensuring good communication with certain government institutions and within development organizations. Essentially, we are all working towards common goals.

It is sometimes said that peace and development are two sides from the same coin. Would you agree with this or not? Justify your answer in maximum 2 pages.

I agree with this statement. From my experience if there is no peace, there can be no governance. Since it is the government which is supposed to facilitate services and opportunities, or at least strive to do so. Even if it is in partnership with international organizations, it is unable to fulfill its main responsibility if there is no peace. If there is no peace, education and healthcare are disrupted , human resource capacities are drained. Moreover, industrial activity, foreign investments, all require peace. More importantly, they depend on a stable government and good governance. Good governance itself depends on legal efficiency. If there is no rule of law, you have chaos and optimal use of resources is overlooked. Even the potential of natural resources is wasted to fund weapons procurement among many things. Consequently, when nothing works, and state authority has broken down, a failed state emerges.

To me, peace and development are two sides of the same coin because economic growth requires a stable investment climate, educated people in jobs, business ventures, industrial production, entrepreneurial inventiveness. In a failed state, all these processes have broken down. These all require peace. In a war situation- failed state, people fight over already limited resources because this is the only way they survive. In times of peace, structures are in place such as truth and reconciliation commissions, interfaith harmony and other dialogue processes which encourages people to speak up, make their voices heard and get on with their lives. It is peacebuilding which contributes to development in previous war zones. A hospital cannot operate in full capacity during a crisis situation. It cannot dedicate itself to preventive or curative tasks because the doctor and nurses and other health staff will be busy either removing bullets or chopping off limbs. There is no one to check if a victim which comes in has HIV/AIDS or hepatitis, or give vaccines to infants. When there is peace governments can work towards addressing health concerns, develop its capacity to tackle terminal diseases or medical conditions.

Clearly, planning, policy making, implementation of programme activities, partnership development, join ventures, all depend on a stable environment. Peacebuilding in itself also depends on learning from past mistakes and listening to everyone affected. However, it is the long-term planning enabled by peace which contributes to national development. In this connection, peace and development require a move away from the main focus of civil-military cooperation and focus on more holistic approaches to address humanitarian issues. Clearly peace-keeping missions have a strong military component. And for all the benefits of military intelligence and security facilitation, holistic approaches such as developing civil society organizations, great tolerance for differences of opinion, independent media, and overall institution building requires a move away from conflict prevention to partnership building. In this case, the military as an institution is not as effective because it works on authority, whereas for sustainable peacebuilding and development to take root, diversity of alliances and coalition building is required.

In conclusion, peace and development are two sides of the same coin because it is only though multilateral interaction, partnership building can be developed to facilitate the emergence of strong, viable governments and productive economies.