20 February 2014, Geneva - Twenty senior officials from the Ministry of Finance of Afghanistan arrived in Geneva on 5 February, 2014 to attend the final module of the Executive Master degree in Development Policies and Practices (DPP). The joint programme in Development Policies and Practices is a unique partnership between the Graduate Institute of International Development Studies of Geneva (the Graduate Institute) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) both headquartered in Geneva.

Before the start of Module 3 on February 6, Afghan officials enjoyed a study visit to the Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration (IDHEAP) campus in Lausanne where they were warmly received by Professor Maritial Pasquier, Director of the Institute. With the February 9 elections in mind participants received a timely briefing on the intricacies of Switzerland’s system of direct democracy given by Professor Dr. Giuliano Bonoli, Chair of Social Policy at IDHEAP. A lively debate followed as questions were entertained by the professors, provoking a lively and extended discussion on democracy. The visit to Lausanne was capped by a tour of the newly renovated (completed December 2013) International Olympics Museum.

On February 7, following the trip to Lausanne,  participants took part in a detailed briefing of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Post-2015 Development Agenda at the Palais des Nations presented by Alex Mejia, manager of the Decentralized Cooperation Programme. After the session, a guided tour of the Palais des Nations was provided against the backdrop of the then ongoing Syria peace talks surrounded by white tented media encampments on the lawn of the Palais, the scene added a real time lesson  on the significance of the Palais des Nations and its historic meeting rooms.

The three-week academic session began in earnest with an orientation event that took place on  Saturday February 8, in the scenic setting of the Graduate Institute’s Villa Barton campus overlooking Lake Leman. Students from Ghana, Nigeria, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan met their fellow Afghan counterparts, and each participant introduced themselves and briefly outlined their thesis topic. Whereas the Modules 1 and 2 of the degree programme stressed the theoretical and methodological aspects of the development policy and planning, module 3 in contrast stressed mostly soft skills, focusing on sharpening students communications and negotiating acumen.

The Executive Master’s degree programme comes to an end on February 27, and will be marked by a graduation ceremony which will be held at the newly completed Maison de la Paix campus of the Graduate Institute. The ceremony will be opened by Professor Philippe Burrin, Director of the Graduate Insitute, followed by remarks on behalf of UNITAR by United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and UNITAR Executive Director, Ms. Sally Fegan Wyles. The Minister of Finance of Afghanistan, Mr. Omar Zakhilwal, invited as the guest speaker will address the graduating class, with a speech dwelling on the complexity of economic development theory and practice at the national and international level. The event will be witnessed not only by family, friends and colleagues, but also by H. E. Ambassador Tarzi, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan and invited Permanent Representatives from student’s countries.

Image 1: Afghan Master’s degree candidates together with their colleagues from Africa and Central Asia listen to a presentation by UNITAR Manager Alex Mejia, on the United Nations during a visit to the Palais des Nations.

For more information on the Executive Master, download the flyer here