Paving the way with Danida Fellowship Centre and the Danida Alumni Network
Danida Fellowship Centre’s Scholarship Programme and Alumni Network have been instrumental in Mexico and Denmark’s strategic collaboration.
By Vibeke Quaade
Mexico is one of Latin America's most interesting markets for Danish companies and the ties between the governments of Denmark and Mexico are well established. Among recent activities has been the development of sector programmes focusing on health, agriculture and food safety. These are areas where Denmark can provide the expertise and know-how to support development in Mexico.
The overall strategic partnership agreement was officially signed in 2017 by the Mexican president and the Danish prime minister. However, it has taken time to get the technical cooperation on pig production rolling, partly due to a change in government in Mexico in 2018.
Becoming an advantage
The change of government has meant that new political priorities have had to be consolidated and incorporated into the cooperation project. This process has taken time, but the two parties have used this period to build a strong foundation on which to develop their collaboration further.
Looking at the long term, I would say that the situation has been to our advantage. With the tools that the Danida Fellowship Centre offers we have been able to use the interim period to strengthen Danish-Mexican relations even before the cooperation project has officially started, says Thomas Falke Mortensen, Counsellor at the Danish Embassy in Mexico since 2017.
One of the tools that the embassy made use of to spearhead the collaboration was Danida Fellowship Centre’s Scholarship Programme. The Scholarship Programme offers capacity development courses in Denmark to professionals, who are working in Denmark’s strategic sector cooperation activities in 17 growth countries. So far, a total of 200 employees of Denmark’s partners in Mexico in the health and food safety sectors have been offered capacity development courses in Denmark. Thomas Falke Mortensen thinks that in the current situation the scholarship programme has helped pave the way for successful collaboration.
The scholarship programme gave us the golden opportunity to kick-start our strategic cooperation and start building technical and political relations from the outset in tandem with developing the strategic cooperation project. This has helped generate even greater interest amongst employees and employers alike, he says.
According to Thomas Falke Mortensen, the scholarship programme has had two main outcomes. Firstly, the course participants have come back to Mexico with new and useful knowledge that they have been eager to use and implement in their jobs. Secondly, the employees’ new skills and motivation have been a living demonstration of the fact that Denmark has relevant competencies to offer. This increases the partner institutions’ awareness of the more concrete technical possibilities.
When both management and employees find the Danish training courses useful, this creates positive momentum and stimulates interest in further collaboration, he says.
Danida Alumni Network, a consolidator
You must be proactive to maintain momentum and keeping up 200 people’s motivation and energy is no small task. While the Danish Embassy in Mexico and the Mexican authorities are still working on a final project document for strategic cooperation in the pig industry sector, the Danida Alumni Network has proved itself very useful.
A local Mexican Danida Alumni Network was launched at the end of 2018. Shortly afterwards the network decided to apply for one of the Danida Alumni Network’s mini-grants to arrange a meeting on the theme “Resistance to antimicrobials: Snapshots of the Danish Experience”.
In Thomas Falke Mortensen’s view, the choice of theme could hardly have been more relevant. It is an area, which is highly prioritized in both Mexico and Denmark and where Denmark has expertise and knowhow to share. In addition, it covers aspects of both the health and the food safety sectors, where Mexico and Denmark have launched strategic cooperation agreements.
The meeting took place on 26 June 2019. It attracted experts in antimicrobials from Denmark and Mexico, both as presenters and participants. High-level representatives from relevant Mexican ministries and institutions were also among the more than 50 participants. They included both public and private stakeholders, and strategic partners such as the competent ministries and agencies responsible for food, veterinary and health policy.
When the obvious becomes obvious
The meeting helped to promote a shared interest in continued collaboration between Mexico and Denmark on antimicrobial resistance as an area in its own right.
Denmark has been aware of antimicrobial resistance for many years, both within the fields of healthcare and veterinary standards. In relation to pig production, Danish farmers hold a very strong position internationally as far as productivity, sustainability and food safety standards are concerned.
In Denmark, we have long experience in working with these issues, which is why we can offer technical courses at the highest level through the Danida Fellowship Centre. And through the Network and with the help of activity grants we can continue the technical dialogue, even after the alumni return to Mexico, reaching a broader audience at the same time, says Thomas Falke Mortensen.
He believes that the alumni seminar made it clear that both countries would gain from increased collaboration in the field of antimicrobial resistance, and that a more formalized cooperation can be developed in the future.
The seminar definitively helped bring the right people together and has increased their awareness of the benefits that lie in cooperation in the field of antimicrobial resistance, says Thomas Falke Mortensen.