Germany’s continuing commitment to Sri Lanka

Thursday, 10 July 2014 00:02 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

With more than 60 years of strong ties between the Governments of Sri Lanka and Germany, there is much to say about Germany’s long and successful commitment to the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector in Sri Lanka. One such commitment, and the most talked about, is the Sri Lankan German Training Institute (CGTTI) or ‘German Tech’ as it is more commonly known. Moreover, what is most praiseworthy is the German Government’s continuing commitment to the TVET sector in Sri Lanka, through Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, in partnership with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Skills Development.   GIZ together with the Ministry has organised an international conference on TVET titled ‘Enhancement of Skills for Social Integration, Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development,’ to be held on 15 and 16 July at the Galadari Hotel, Colombo, to mark ‘World Skills Day’. To get a better understanding of the work done by GIZ and about the upcoming conference, the Daily FT met German Ambassador Dr. Juergen Morhard and GIZ Country Director for Sri Lanka and Maldives, Randa Kourieh-Ranarivelo. Following are excerpts of the interview:   By Radhi De Silva Q: Germany has contributed to the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sector in Sri Lanka for over 50 years. Could you tell us how it all began? Dr. Morhard: When I go out somewhere and introduce myself as the Ambassador for Germany, the first remark I get is “oh Germany is, German Tech in Moratuwa”. The people may know very little about it, and how it came about, but it reflects the mindset of people and the impact German Tech has had in this country.     In 1956, Germany agreed to supply training assistance to maintain a fleet of Mercedes buses, imported by the Transport Board of Sri Lanka. A central workshop was established in Werahera to carry out body building and overhauling. Werahera became home to the engineering training school known as the Ceylon German Technical Training Institute (CGTTI) which was a gift to Sri Lanka from the Federal Republic of Germany. Apart from CGTTI, the German Government also assisted in establishing the Apprenticeship Training Institute by collaborating with the National Apprenticeship and Industrial Training Authority (NAITA) and the Sri Lanka German Railway Training Institute. Q: What is GIZ? Kourieh-Ranarivelo: GIZ operates on behalf of the German Government, implementing projects in the sector of international cooperation for sustainable development. Former GTZ, GIZ was created in 2011 in a merger with two other German organisations, InWent and DED. GIZ operates throughout Germany and in more than 130 countries worldwide. Our registered offices are in Bonn and Eschborn. We have 16,510 staff around the globe, almost 70% of whom are employed locally as national personnel. GIZ’s business volume was over EUR 1.9 billion as at 31 December 2013. Dr. Morhard: You may have noticed that countries are known for a particular expertise. Germany is known for vocational and apprenticeship training – it is the backbone of its economic success – and the German Government wishes to share this expertise with other nations through organisations such as GIZ. Q: Tell us about GIZ’s work in other parts of the world? Kourieh-Ranarivelo: GIZ works in more than 130 countries all over the world and operates in many fields: economic development and employment promotion; governance and democracy; security, reconstruction, peace building and civil conflict transformation; food security, health and basic education; and environmental protection, resource conservation and climate change mitigation. We also support our partners with management and logistical services, and act as an intermediary, balancing diverse interests in sensitive contexts. In crises, we carry out refugee and emergency aid programs. Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is one of our most important sectors with a strong demand from different countries. Right now, GIZ is working in 16 Asian countries in the TVET sector in more than 50 vocational training projects. Dr. Morhard: Due to economic progress, certain countries no longer qualify for development aid by the German Government. Therefore, German private companies can now buy the concept or the blueprint for vocational training from the German Government, partner with foreign governments and carry out projects that are similar to the projects carried out by GIZ. Kourieh-Ranarivelo: For example, in Saudi Arabia, where the government has enough funds to finance vocational training, government contracts with GIZ are about benefitting from the knowledge and quality of the German Vocational Training system. Q: What is GIZ’s commitment to the TVET sector in Sri Lanka? Kourieh-Ranarivelo: GIZ currently works in four main projects underway in Sri Lanka and those are: social integration; Vocational Training in the North (VTN); education for social cohesion; and the promotion of small and medium enterprises. All those projects are   supporting the efforts of social integration and reconciliation in the country. Our commitment in the TVET sector is to support the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Skills Development in creating a new training institute in Kilinochchi, the Sri Lankan German Training Institute (SLGTI), continuing in our common tradition of cooperation. Q: What are GIZ’s current plans? Kourieh-Ranarivelo: For the moment, we are focussing on the preparations for the SLGTI in Kilinochchi. We are working with satellite centres which will prepare young people for the training at SLGTI; we are trying to involve the private sector in the trainings and updating of curricula. We work with an existing training centre to introduce other aspects to the trainings such as the development of soft skills. A very important part of our work is related to social integration and reconciliation. We organise information visits for youth from the North to Colombo, where they get to meet and have exchanges with youth from the south. These ‘The North meets the South’ events are organised every year. Dr. Morhard:  Our close ties with the Government have allowed us to support the administration to develop a sustainable vocational training system by sharing our knowledge. Q: As you just mentioned and as was recently announced, a vocational training centre will be established in Kilinochchi. When will the training commence?   Kourieh-Ranarivelo: It is planned to open at the end of next year. GIZ provides the expertise, and the investment is by KfW Development Bank. Dr. Morhard: I would also like to add that the work carried out by GIZ is not only about providing infrastructure but facilitating the deployment of the training course itself and assisting in how the training centre is structured. Kourieh-Ranarivelo: What we intend to do is to provide the relevant and latest curricula required for vocational training, and also influence the manner in which such training is created by working with the administration, through the Sri Lankan Ministry of Youth Affairs and Skills Development and NAITA. We are currently working very closely with the private sector in order to help meet the high demand for skilled personnel. Q: Is there a specific time line subject to which GIZ commits to its projects in a particular country? Kourieh-Ranarivelo: The current vocational training projects are targeted to end by 2018, since our projects usually conclude three years from their commencement. But the continuation of GIZ’s vocational training projects in Sri Lanka will depend on the funding provided by the German Government – and the need of further support in Sri Lanka. However, it is our responsibility to ensure the continuance of the training, therefore when GIZ projects conclude, it should be possible for the local government to take over and continue these projects. Q: Tell us about the conference on TVET which will be held in Sri Lanka in a few days? Kourieh-Ranarivelo: This is an international conference organised by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Skills Development in partnership with GIZ. We were invited to be a partner in this conference, because of the commitment we have towards vocational training in Sri Lanka. The hosting of this conference reflects the Sri Lankan government’s awareness of the importance of vocational training especially for economic growth. The conference will coincide with National Skills Day under the theme ‘enhancement of skills for social integration, inclusive growth and sustainable development’. The specific objectives of the conference are to highlight the different aspects of and the challenges faced by the vocational and technical training sector, analyse and learn from the key strengths and best practices of vocational and technical training.   Q: Who are the partners for this upcoming conference? Kourieh-Ranarivelo: Some of the main partners of this conference are the KfW German Development Bank, Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, which are the three main development banks providing funding for vocational training. The Korean International Corporation Agency, the International Labour Organization, the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are also conference partners. Q: Has GIZ’s objectives in Sri Lanka changed subsequent to the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka in 2009? Kourieh-Ranarivelo: We have focused on topics such as social integration and reconciliation for several years, but our objectives also include promoting small scale enterprises and education that addresses the demand at hand. Dr. Morhard: It must be noted that GIZ’s objectives are always in line with the development priorities of the partner government. I must also add that due to global developments the German Government does not have the capacity to provide aid to Sri Lanka directly on a larger scale. What we do is provide indirect funding to Sri Lanka through the United Nations, EU and the Asian Development Bank. Q: What other links does Germany have with Sri Lanka? Dr. Morhard: Apart from GIZ, we also have the Goethe Institute – the German Cultural Centre which offers cultural and language programs. Germany Helping Hands is a comprehensive database of German contributions to Sri Lanka’s development. We have an impressive list of public and private initiatives that are the backbone of cooperation and friendship between our two countries. They range from large scale infrastructure projects such as the funding of the Rantambe Dam by the German Government to community-based, privately-funded initiatives such as the setting up of preschools. Q: What is Germany’s position with regard to the pressures being exerted by the international community such as the upcoming UN investigation? Dr. Morhard: German Constitutional Law acknowledges human rights as inviolable and inalienable, the basis of every peaceful community in the world. Support for human rights is the cornerstone of German foreign policy. But it must be understood that foreign relations are multi-faceted and this also applies to our relations with Sri Lanka. One facet is our economic and cultural relationship, which remains very strong mainly in relation to business and tourism promotion. The other facet is the political relationship. Germany strongly believes that there are rules in an international, globalised world which need to be properly regulated and respected, and this is overseen through international institutions such as, the United Nations, an organisation that we work with and have great respect for. Germany has learned important lessons from its own tragic past. Therefore, we encourage respect for and assist countries to follow a democratic system of governance, comply with the rule of law and respect human rights. Only then can a state and its people achieve sustainable political stability and gain further economic development. When you consider the economic status of a country according to the net wealth per capita it must be noted that most economically and socially successful countries are democracies. Based on the deep friendship between Germany and Sri Lanka, we want the very best for Sri Lanka and wish stability, economic growth and prosperity for its people. And as honest friends we would wish to assist Sri Lanka from an external standpoint to achieve those developments. Pix by Daminda Harsha Perea