02 July 2014, Istanbul, Turkey - Afghan officials from the Ministries of Finance, the Economy, Foreign Affairs and Office of the President, concluded the first module of the joint UNITAR-Graduate Institute Executive Master’s Degree programme in Development Policies and Practices (DPP). A notable addition to the 2014-2015 second edition of this project was the selection of a new academic partner, Kadir Has University, which hosted the DPP Master’s Programme while in Istanbul. Founded in 1997 by a Turkish philanthropist in whose honor the university is named, the institution’s 5,000 person student body is housed, in part, in a cluster of beautifully restored old factory buildings, which serve as the university’s main campus. Sited in the oldest part of Istanbul overlooking the city’s ancient harbor inlet known as the Golden Horn, the university hosted the Afghanistan government officials for the entire duration of their stay.

For three weeks, from June 1-18, students were immersed in intensive courses. The curriculum included subjects on Governance and Policy taught by professors from the Graduate Institute of Geneva. Course topics included “Implementing Reform,” “Monitoring and Evaluation,” and “Policy Formulation.” Emphasizing a practical approach geared towards the work of government officials, the course on Development and Strategic Management focused on development mechanisms including topics on “Conducting Stake Holder Analysis” and the intricacies of “Project Implementation.”

The learning experience moved well beyond the classroom with a visit to an SME project focusing on apiculture and economic development. The Afghan government officials were also exposed to multiple perspectives on development from a diverse group of guest speakers, including Mitat Celikpala, Professor of International Relations at Kadir Has University, who gave a presentation on international development cooperation in a regional context from the perspective of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA). Adding to the richness of the debate, Alex Mejia, Manager of the Decentralized Cooperation Programme (DCP) at UNITAR, and lead focal point for the DPP Master’s Programme, gave a presentation reviewing the MDG advances in Afghanistan and the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Students from Executive Master's Programme in IstanbulThe intensive and rigorous session concluded with an oral exam in which participants presented their thesis topics and took questions from a panel of Professors from the Graduate Institute. Officials returned to Kabul on June 19, well prepared to continue their studies and embark on Module two, which consists of a combination of e-learning and coaching for the master’s thesis. Taking place on home soil, Module two will enable officials to do their professional work while also continuing their studies.

The Executive Master’s Degree programme in Development Policies and Practices (DPP) is a joint collaboration between UNITAR and the Graduate Institute of Geneva. The customized degree programme, specially created for Afghan government officials is now in its second edition following a successful pilot in 2013.

Photo: Standing in front of a statue of Kadir Has University founder, Afghan officials flanked on the left by Professors Matteo Guidotti (front) and Alexander Dormiere Freire (rear) of the Graduate Institute of Geneva, and on the right by Alex Mejia, Manager of DCP at UNITAR.