20 years in pictures
Our story of making things happen began 20 years ago. In honor of this remarkable milestone, we invite you to take a journey across 20 pictures that tell the story of the CEF’s transformation and growth as a regional knowledge hub.
The CEF was established in 2001 by the government of Slovenia in collaboration with the ministries of finance of all the former Yugoslav countries and Albania. Two years later, Bulgaria, Moldova, and Romania joined and Turkey joined in 2009. The idea was to have a regional training center that focuses on capacity development in public financial management within the framework of the EU Stability Pact for South East Europe. After 14 years as a regional institution, the CEF became an international organization in 2015.
The CEF's Advisory Board was established in 2002. Members include experts from our network of donors and partners, who assist us in developing and delivering our learning program. Our wide range of partners includes:
- International financial institutions (IMF and the World Bank Group)
- Global and regional international organizations (EU, OECD, Regional Cooperation Council - RCC)
- Peer learning institutions (JVI, ReSPA)
- Governments in their capacities of donors and recipients of official development assistance (Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Slovakia, United States, and CEF constituency countries)
- Professional organizations (CIPFA)
- Independent oversight bodies, NGOs, and individual experts
We have worked continuously to improve our learning program. A good example is the development of an internationally recognized professional qualification program for accountants in finance ministries of South East Europe. Designed by our UK partner, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), the program – Capacity Building in Public Accounting – addressed one of the most important and neglected aspects of public finance, accounting. Without sound accounting policies and practices, the entire reform process is at risk.
We also developed a program for central banks that places an emphasis on experience sharing and peer learning. This expanded mission is reflected in our governance structure, with governors of central banks joining finance ministers in our Supervisory Board, now Governing Board. This Board meets once a year to set the guidelines for the CEF’s activities, adopt a business plan and a program for the year ahead, as well as approve the annual report with financial accounts for the previous year.
The first meeting of the CEF Coordinators and Advisory Board was held in 2004.
Today the CEF Coordinators are a strong network of representatives from our regional constituency, who are responsible for capacity development and involved in the management of human capital in their respective institutions. As human resources professionals, they focus on strategic personnel retention and talent development. The Coordinators meet periodically and rotate as hosts of meetings, to discuss our program for the upcoming years. Together we identify the capacity development priorities in the region and build a strong network.
Government ministries and central banks are paying increased attention to organizational culture and purpose, leadership, inclusion, diversity, and well-being as critical elements of the employee experience. They seek to create an institutional environment that enables the growth of talents among their staff. The CEF puts special emphasis on how to strategically manage human capital, develop leadership, and build staff capacity. We are helping regional institutions become learning organizations and knowledge hubs themselves, as well as improve their understanding of how training and knowledge sharing can enhance officials’ expertise and skills.
Since 2005, IMF regional advisors have been using the CEF as a hub for their technical assistance missions in South East Europe. Over the years, 10 IMF staff based in Ljubljana have provided technical assistance in the areas of public financial management, revenue administration, and government finance statistics. IMF experts: Eivind Tandberg, Brian Olden, Duncan Last, Vincent Marie, Norman Gillanders, Dirk Jaan Kraan, Steffen Hansen, Deon Tanzer, Suzanne Flynn, Allan Jensen.
Our organizations’ efforts have been complementary, as these technical assistance missions help determine the needs for learning and knowledge sharing among practitioners. The CEF then designs courses that address these needs, many of which are delivered by the IMF advisors. This strong, long-term partnership was reinforced in the Memorandum of Understanding that the IMF and the CEF signed in 2017.
In 2006, CEF was an all-woman run regional organization. Through the years the team has grown – from 3 in 2001 to 33 in 2021. Today we are more gender balanced and international, with women and men from Albania, Georgia, Germany, North Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey.
People are at the heart of the CEF. We trust ourselves and each other in our goal to deliver high-quality programs, support regional cooperation, and work effectively with our partners. We respect, accept, and support each other in combining our diverse roles and capacities. We set clear and measurable goals, with specific action plans and efficient use of resources, while also considering our interests and capabilities.
We take responsibility for what we do, how we do it, and how this affects the world around us. We are committed to support an environment where we grow as individuals and teams.
Slovenia's public sector internal auditors were the first to be awarded with the internationally recognized Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) certificates for successfully completing the Training of Internal Auditors in Public Sector (TIAPS) program.
Following these excellent results, the program has expanded over the years, being delivered in local languages also in Kosovo, Montenegro, and North Macedonia. It has contributed to the development of the internal audit profession in line with the best international audit standards and practices. A preparatory project for introducing TIAPS was also successfully completed in Georgia in early 2020.
One of the goals of the TIAPS program is to help countries develop capacity to run it on their own, ensuring that they have systems, processes, resources, and infrastructure in place locally. In Montenegro, this was achieved by adjusting and improving the local legislation and regulations for the appointment of internal auditors, as well as strengthening the relationship between the Ministry of Finance and the institution that operates TIAPS, the Human Resource Management Authority of Montenegro.
Learn4dev is an international network of development organizations from a variey of backgrounds, who work together to provide better learning opportunities for staff and partners. Today the network counts 34 members, including bilateral donor organizations, multilateral organizations, and international training and research centers. In 2008, when the CEF became a member of Learn4dev (still known then as the Train4Dev network), we joined a group of institutions that each have a mission and focus on international development and learning. Engaging in meaningful peer learning and knowledge sharing with many of the world's leading learning and knowledge institutions has had a profound impact on CEF’s development as a training institution.
In 2008, we also marked our first expansion of learning and work space at our headquarters in Ljubljana. Expanding into the historic premises of a landmark building, the former Postal Savings Bank, we gained more and better facilities, where knowledge sharing can bring together a larger number of participants to explore, share, and compare their practices as they strive for and gain new knowledge.
Apart from coordinating the speakers and participants for our courses, the CEF staff plays an important role in delivering effective learning, both at our premises and across the region. As facilitators of learning in the fields of PFM, central banking, tax administration, data & analysis for designing policies and leadership, each staff member involved in a specific thematic area is equipped with subject matter knowledge to complement the discussion in the classroom. But our staff are especially strong in the key elements and techniques that make our learning events meaningful.
To expand our impact and bring knowledge closer to officials across the region, we organize a variety of training-of-trainer sessions. These bring participants into the world of learning, helping them apply and what they learn as they share their knowledge and experience with others.
In 2010, the CEF established a major focus on participatory learning and the importance of the learning space. In our approach, the learner is at the heart of the learning process, and we encourage each learner to take ownership of it. By embracing the capacity development cycle as part of this new approach, and adapting our learning space with new and more welcoming features, we marked the start of a new learning era at the CEF.
The CEF uses a variety of methods to engage participants and make them actively contribute to teaching and learning, rather than passively receiving information from outside experts, who may not have a local understanding of the issues. Participatory methods include a range of activities with a common thread: enabling ordinary people to play an active and influential part in the decisions that affect their lives. This means that people are not just heard but listened to, and that their voices help shape outcomes.
Several events honoring the 10th anniversary of successful operation of the CEF were complemented by the Regional Policy Forum on Growth Strategies after the Crisis, which took place in June 2011 in Ljubljana. High-level representatives from international organizations were invited to share their views on the regional growth agenda with ministers of finance and governors of central banks from South East Europe. The main goal was to promote the policy debate in the region by analyzing factors that would ensure a more balanced and sustainable catch-up process for its countries. Discussions looked at the global economic outlook and its implications for the region, then at strategies to boost the region’s growth performance. More than 100 participants and guests agreed the event was a timely and effective contribution to the debate on strategies for growth in South East Europe.
CEF celebrating 10th anniversary.
The CEF has an extensive and steadily growing network of experts. We had 46 experts working with us in 2002, but over 200 in 2020, with half of them coming from countries across South East Europe. These leading professionals in their fields are crucial in providing lectures and practitioners' expertise to our learning program. Many of these experts have cooperated with the CEF on an ad-hoc basis. Others are affiliated experts, who have cooperated with the CEF extensively for many years. They are: Norman Gillanders, Dirk Jaan Kraan, Mojmir Mrak, Max Watson, Noel Hepworth, Janez Šušteršič, Steffen Hansen, Mira Dobovišek, Paul McClure.
In 2012, we hosted our affiliated expert from the World Bank, Paul McClure, who helped us design and carry out our program on writing and communication skills.
CEF made a major step in in its ongoing evolution, by changing its legal status to an international organization. Five countries signed the international Agreement on Establishing the CEF at a ceremony hosted by Slovenia's president, Borut Pahor, at Lake Bled in September 2013.
The agreement became effective in 2015 after three countries ratified the agreement. Today, the CEF has seven member countries whose ministers of finance and central bank governors form our Governing Board. While the CEF continues to serve the 12-country constituency in South East Europe, the member countries on our Board drive our governance.
This new legal status has enabled the CEF to pursue more partnerships and financing opportunities. It has allowed more hiring of international staff.
The Ministry of Finance of Slovenia has hosted the CEF since its setup in 2001. From a few rooms in the attic of a ministry building in our earliest days, the CEF has expanded to four contemporary classrooms, a spacious lobby, and modern offices in a landmark building, Ljubljana’s former Postal Saving Bank.
The CEF officially launched as an international organization in 2015. The transition to our new legal status went smoothly, and we were pleased that seven member countries – Albania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, and Slovenia – signed and ratified the Agreement on Establishing the CEF.
In our effort to remain a leader in the area of learning and knowledge sharing, we made a further step forward in our participatory approach to learning with the redesign of our facilities. We teamed up with an architect who helped us translate our understanding of learning into the redesign of the CEF lobby. This renovated space, a key amenity for our course participants in Ljubljana, was featured as a best practice in educational facility investments at the OECD Centre for Effective Learning Environments (CELE) and as a facility of the week in 2016.
The CEF celebrated our 15th anniversary in 2016 and took stock of the achievements since our establishment. Participation at events has increased more than 10 times, and the number of learning events by 15 times. Our staff is eight times bigger, while working and learning space has more than doubled since 2001. Initially, six constituency members from South East Europe formed the CEF’s geographical focus, while by 2016 the CEF’s constituency consisted of 12 countries in the region.
To meet the changing needs of our learners, we set up CEF Online Learning Campus. This is our internal platform for engaging finance officials from our region and beyond to learn together. Users can watche videos and livestreams, take part in online learning courses, attend webinars, as well read and reflect on blog posts and collaborate in many online discussions. Through their online learning journeys, participants have the chance to connect with their peers, debate ideas, and get help mastering key subject matter. They can also access the content and assignments we have prepared at their own pace.
Having this platform available for online learning became especially critical in 2020, when amid the COVID-19 pandemic we had to swiftly adapt our program and shift all course delivery to an online format, to minimize the impact of cancelation of face-to-face learning events.
In 2014, the CEF put itself on a map as a thematic Knowledge Hub for South East Europe. To accelerate reform processes, we need to combine expertise in public financial management and central banking with knowledge of the specific context of countries in the region. We need a good understanding of how reforms take place, and of how to nourish and expedite learning among individuals and institutions. Capacity development is a process through which individuals and institutions build, strengthen, and maintain their knowledge and skills. To support the region on its capacity development path, our staff needs to be equipped with a wide range of knowledge and skills on approaches to capacity development and theories of learning. And we need practical know-how to be able to mix appropriate approaches, methods, and tools to make learning happen.
To keep a repository of learning-related reading and inspiration, in 2014 the CEF launched its Learning Blog. We use it to share knowledge and experience on learning and encourage knowledge exchange among our partners and friends. It has become an important resource for good ideas, insightful reading, and some provocative thoughts written by CEF staff, regional experts, partner representatives, and guests.
Our partnerships are driven by the impact that we generate together for our constituency. In 2018, we passed the European Commission’s Pillar Assessment, which confirmed our organization’s financial management and control diligence. This assures the European Commission and other donors that the CEF has the capacity to manage EU and other donor funds on their behalf.
Having a positive assessment that key processes are in place to support sound project and financial management gave us a green light to prepare for a major capacity development project for South East Europe funded by the European Union, Fiscal Implications of Structural Reforms (FISR). As part of this effort, we also launched the Line Ministries Portal, which supports collaborative learning among our region's line ministries and ministries of finance. It offers access to the latest information, learning resources, and learning opportunities relevant to carrying out PFM reforms.
In 2019, we launched a three-year multi-beneficiary capacity development project, Fiscal Implications of Structural Reforms, funded by the European Union. Ministers and high-level representatives from Western Balkans and Turkey gathered in Ljubljana with senior representatives of the European Commission, CEF, and other international organizations for the kick-off meeting. The project focuses on the EU candidate and potential candidate countries in our region.
With more than 50 in-country and regional learning events, the project supports public officials, mainly from line ministries but also from ministries of finance, in strengthening the analytical capacities that they need for comprehensive assessment of the fiscal implications of structural reforms. Key learnings are recorded to support attendees in following the content of these events visually and to engage them in a different, creative and innovative way. The project builds upon our long-standing partnership with the EU, and we are hopeful that it will continue to grow.
We extended the reach of knowledge beyond our classrooms in 2020, with real-time online reporting from our learning events. In the first quarter, we knew that we needed to transform our learning by moving all of it online – and we did it overnight. Our Online Learning Campus gave us a great head start, but it was still a massive effort. As we're seeing strong positive feedback from our audience and an up to 50% increase in participation, it's clear that we made the right move. Online sessions on the CEF Online Learning Campus are timely, customized, and cost-effective solutions designed to support connectivity among learners through videos, livestreams, online learning courses, webinars, and other online discussions.
Later in 2020, we went even further, replacing a face-to-face high-level regional policy dialogue with a quite complex live broadcasting event, run from five countries with support from a production company. It was a true innovation in learning and a rich learning experience that took the CEF team on a new path. And now we're ready for future experiments.
This is a special year for the CEF, as 2021 marks 20 years since our establishment on January 11, 2001. To mark the 20th anniversary of our successful operations, events will take place throughout the year. We continue supporting learning through our Online Learning Campus, and when circumstances allow, we very much look forward to welcoming learners back to our headquarters in Ljubljana.
We are convinced that the innovations we have introduced in the design of our classrooms and lobby will contribute to a safe learning environment where learners will feel relaxed, motivated to learn, and stimulated to think out of the box. In the meantime, we invite you to enjoy the updated layout of our redesigned website. Its user-friendly design will help you navigate our wealth of learning resources more quickly and easily than ever.