To coincide with the high level forum on aid effectiveness in Accra in the first week of September, the August issue of the LINK News Bulletin focused on science and technology and development assistance. LINK co-ordinators Andy Hall and Jeroen Dijkman reflected on the implication of a global knowledge economy and the way it calls into question the notion of donor and recipient countries. With knowledge emerging as the currency of an innovation-driven global economy, new patterns of international interdependencies are starting to emerge that make terms such as ‘developed’ and ‘developing country’ and ‘donor’ and ‘recipient’ look increasingly irrelevant. Does this mean it is time to radically rethink development assistance and the way it deals with agricultural science and technology? Can these emerging global knowledge alliances be harnessed for poverty reduction? Can national self interests replace the altruism of development assistance? Or do we risk even further dividing a world of haves and have nots into a world of knows and know nots?
Andy and Jeroen argue that the nature of modern innovation — with its emphasis on co-creation of ideas, products and services — means that global strategies to acquire knowledge need to be collaborative rather than extractive. Bilateral development assistance would be a much more powerful tool if it were more closely aligned with the development objectives of the donor country. This would allow relationships to move from patronage to partnership and thus take advantage of the incentives inherent to the emerging regime of global interdependencies. Development assistance should focus on helping developing countries make the transition to a global knowledge pool, and, in the process, ease them into new forms of global knowledge alliances.
The effectiveness of development assistance is an issue of much debate and disagreement. However, most would agree that, at best, it has had mixed results. LINK would love to get your take on what needs to be done to change the status quo. Please do leave your comments below.