TOKTEN (Transfer of Knowledge Through Expatriate Nationals) Programme


TOKTEN Sudan was launched in 2006 to increase the participation of the Sudanese diaspora in the ongoing recovery and reconstruction efforts in Sudan, especially in war-affected areas. TOTKEN is a special volunteer programme that calls on expatriate nationals to volunteer in their country of origin for a short period of time. TOKTEN volunteers merge their acquired learning with their familiarity of local culture and language to effectively transfer their knowledge and skills.

The problem addressed by the campaign: 

Following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the overall social and political environment has changed and opened an unprecedented window of opportunity to turn the devastation of years of war, displacement and under-development into a new era of peace and prosperity in Sudan. However, a large number of the qualified and experienced human resources of Sudan who could contribute to the recovery and development process in Sudan live outside the country. Studies conducted by different agencies on the expatriate Sudanese nationals living abroad have indicated that a large number of highly talented and experienced expatriate nationals are willing to contribute to the reconstruction and peace-building initiatives in their home country.


The main objective of the TOKTEN project in Sudan is to support the national capacity building of Sudanese institutions in various development sectors through the transfer of knowledge from professional Sudanese in the diasporas. The approach of TOKTEN project can be summarized as follows:

  • Demand-driven with institution focus. This means institutions make requests for TOKTEN consultants after clearly identifying their capacity development needs.
  • First-come, first-serve. To avoid the tendency for regional allocation of services the project would handle requests as they are received. Being mindful of regional differentials, the project intensifies its advocacy in those regions lagging behind with the view of making them more proactive.
  • Knowledge transfer, not gap filling. TOKTEN consultants do not cover for staff shortage, as that would be an inappropriate use of their highly technical talents. Indeed having staff on the job is an essential condition for deploying a TOKTEN consultant to an institution.
  • Neither a return nor a resettlement programme. The project is well aware of the agencies working in the field of return and resettlement. As a result, it is not a TOKTEN comparative advantage to engage in return or resettlement.
  • Through October 2011, the programme recruited 73 volunteers to provide institutional capacity building support for more than 100 government institutions, universities and private sectors in Northern and Southern Sudan.
  • The programme supported more than 60 national and state government institutions, universities and research institutions, private sector organizations and NGOs in Northern and Southern Sudan.
  • The project trained and built the capacity of 3,175 personnel from national and state government institutions, universities and research institutions, private sector organizations, and NGOs across Sudan.
  • A database was developed that includes over 370 professional Sudanese expatriates who are willing to join TOKTEN through a mission in Sudan.
Why has it worked?: 
  • TOKTEN has seen a recent spike in interest as country offices in post-conflict programme countries increasingly turn to this model. Successful TOKTEN programmes are currently at various stages of operation in Afghanistan, Vietnam and Sudan.
  • The volunteers’ knowledge of the country frequently results in the identification of special needs that might otherwise have been ignored, and their cultural and linguistic skills facilitate the transfer of technology and pave the way for more permanent relationships.
Conclusions and Recommendations: 

The Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan are encouraging Sudanese expatriates to volunteer their professional experience to national and state institutions. Governments must have human resources capacity-building policies that encourage the involvement of displaced nationals in recovery and development efforts.

Foundational Issues: 
Public and private constraints on mobility
Level of Collaboration: 
Level 4: Collaboration on a global or multistakeholder level
Global (all of the above)
Economic and political context: 
  • The United Nations Development Assistance Framework for Sudan (UNDAF) 2009–2012 identified four interlinked development priorities and four corresponding strategic objectives for the country, which are in line with priorities identified by the Government of National Unity in its National Strategic Plan 2007–2011, Government of South Sudan three-year rolling Sector Plans and addressing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement precedence. These development priorities are: Peace-Building, Governance and Rule of Law, Livelihood and Productive Sectors, and Basic Services.
  • In accordance with the UNDAF development priorities and outcomes, the UNDP developed its Country Programme Action Plan for 2009–2012 in partnership with the government, CSOs, NGOs and other stakeholders.
  • Upon recognition by the government that TOKTEN is strategic to Sudan human resource development, the project has been included in the new Country Programme Action Plan for 2009–2012.
About the Author(s): 

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) introduced TOKTEN in 1977 to help reduce adverse effects of the brain drain phenomena or “reverse transfer of technology” in many developing countries.