Tue, May 07, 2019 - Page 13 News List

The important role TaiwanICDF plays in Taiwan’s diplomacy

Contributing reporter Juan Fernando Herrera Ramos, a Honduran lawyer residing in Taiwan, sat down with International Cooperation and Development Fund Deputy Secretary-General Lee Pai-po and discussed the organization’s mission, challenges from China and the sustainability of its projects and prospects for the future.

By Juan Fernando Herrera Ramos  /  Contributing reporter

Lee Pai-po, deputy secretary-general of the International Cooperation and Development Fund, gestures during an interview in December 2016.

Photo: CNA

Juan Fernando Herrera Ramos: For the people that might not be familiar with this organization, could you explain to us what is the International Cooperation and Development Fund (TaiwanICDF)?

Lee Pai-po (李栢浡): TaiwanICDF is a diplomatic agency that functions in a similar way to USAID from US... We implement ODA [Official Development Assistance] and international cooperation programs, using a bilateral and multilateral approach to implement our international cooperation programs.

Ramos: What is TaiwanICDF role in Taiwan’s foreign policy?

Lee: TaiwanICDF and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) share a close relationship and help each other to implement Taiwan’s foreign policy projects. TaiwanICDF and MOFA are independent institutions that work very closely; MOFA provides some of TaiwanICDF budget for technical missions, scholarships and other development programs. All of the programs and activities that TaiwanICDF executes are oriented to consolidate the diplomatic relations between Taiwan, our diplomatic allies and other countries.

Ramos: What is the process TaiwanICDF follows to execute a project?

Lee: Taiwan ICDF uses a methodology called “Project Cycle, [which] usually starts after a country requests for assistance in a certain area through our embassy. The embassy then will report the said request back to TaiwanICDF, so that we can proceed to evaluate it and make a feasibility study. Once the feasibility study is completed, the results will be sent back to MOFA to let them know whether the project is feasible or not, and at that point MOFA will make the final decision.

Ramos: What do you consider to be TaiwanICDF’s biggest challenge?

Lee: I think that when we talk about the implementation of a project, one of our biggest challenges would be the pressure from China, which is something we always take in account when making our political cons.

The second biggest challenge that we usually face is the sustainability of the projects. When we execute a project in developing countries one of the key issues is human capital, because even if we can provide capacity building or technology to the people in those countries, we have seen that in some cases it becomes a problem for them to take over the projects. Some of the people in those countries have been able to take over very well, but some cannot.

The third biggest challenge comes down to financial issues, some of these projects can take up to four to five years to be completely operational, but when it is time for the local government or local organization to take over, they have constraints with budget support or manpower, and this leads to the suspension of the project.

When the projects start to be implemented, the majority of the budget is covered by ICDF and MOFA, with the local government only providing a small amount of the costs, but when the project is completed and Taiwan withdraws, the cooperating local government has to take over the whole operation. At this point the funding needs to come completely from the local government and we have had some instances where the funding severely declines and is very difficult for the program to survive.

Ramos: Could you mention some of the projects in which TaiwanICDF is currently involved?

Lee: Currently, the amount of countries in which we have a technical mission on the ground is 26, but overall we are cooperating with 46 countries. That is because we also hold workshops and offer scholarships to people from countries that do not have a diplomatic relationship with Taiwan.

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