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Our vision & mission

First... definitions:

There is often confusion about terms in our industry, in particular between ‘contractors’ and ‘consultants/experts’. Sometimes ‘contractors’ are called ‘consultants’ and some individual consultants like to be called ‘experts’.

In our opinion a ‘contractor’ can’t be called ‘consultant’ as the vast majority of contractors do not produce outputs in projects, they merely contract mostly self-employed consultants and they coordinate commercial activities to win tenders.

And the individuals working in projects are consultants, because they do more than giving their expert opinions: a consultant is able to adapt his work and his attitude to the needs of clients and to effectively handle the various interest positions of mainly donors/funding agencies and beneficiaries.

We use the following definitions:

Funding agency / donor: a legal entity developing, financing and (sometimes) managing and (sometimes) executing projects for Technical Assistance, mostly in development cooperation, such as EuropeAid, ADB, AfDB, World Bank, UNDP, USAID, AUSAID and other national agencies. 

Contractor / consultancy company: a corporate entity developing technical proposals to tender for the delivery of technical assistance and managing technical assistance in funded projects, mostly in development cooperation. Typical for these entities is that they mostly contract with two parties: with the funding agency and separately – mostly on a project-basis – with the consultant.

Consortia: project-based joint ventures of contractors / consultancy companies

Consultant: a natural person, properly qualified due to education and experience, often self-employed, personally delivering consultancy and expertise services in technical assistance projects, mostly in development cooperation financed by funding agencies, which are contracted by contractors/consultancy companies/consortia. The consultant can act in various roles and contracts: as a Key Expert, a Short Term Expert, an Expert in Framework Contracts, as a permanent consultant with a contractor/consultancy company, contracted via a Collaboration Contract, a Special Service Agreement or a Consultant Contract or any other comparable contract form.

TA Consultants United organises these consultants.

Vision & Mission of TA Consultants United

Vision

Development cooperation is under broad criticism in society: lack of sustainability and efficiency together with non-transparency are the main issues. The criticism is very broadly directed, without distinguishing between the different components of the development cooperation sector: direct budget support, technical assistance and emergency aid. NGOs (Oxfam, Médecins Sans Frontières, etc) are in the eyes of the public and most politicians seen as part of “one team” along with contractors and consultants.

Partly as a result of this image, but also due to renewed nationalistic trends and the economic crisis, development cooperation is facing current and future budget cuts.

The Technical Assistance industry will have to prove its added value in the coming years, distinguishing itself from other elements of development cooperation.

This is a true challenge as the industry is not well organised:

  1. Results orientation needs strong attention

  2. The industry is organised in a bureaucratic and over-procedural manner, without developed partnerships or alliances

  3. Due to the lack of quality standards “cowboy contractors” and “body shops” have made their entrance

  4. The industry suffers from a general lack of professional standards and has for instance no clear definition or a professional profile of a consultant.

  5. Hence supporting systems, such as targeted HR policies and talent management do not exist.

As one of the results of the current circumstances the position of consultants is:

  1. Poorly regulated

  2. Weak and unbalanced

  3. Lacking professional standards

  4. Pressured by concerns about employment and earnings

Partly because of the lack of professional standards and the blurred definition of the profession there are no mechanisms to (pre-)select consultants and to distinguish between a ‘good’ and a ‘bad’ consultant. The number of consultants over the past years seems therefore to have become more ‘supply’ rather than ‘demand’ driven. The industry probably has to deal with a surplus of consultants, putting pressure on the earnings.  

To meet all these challenges, there is a need for all actors in the industry – donors, contractors and consultants – to organise themselves and to create structures to represent their different and shared interests. Consequently there is a need to create structures for bipartite and tripartite deliberation.

An association of independent consultants needs to be created to work on all the above-mentioned challenges, taking into account the general and shared interests as well as the specific interests of consultants.

Our Mission

Establishing and maintaining the leading organisation to promote and advocate the interests of professional consultants working in technical assistance contracts for donor-funded development cooperation.