Power, Knowledge and Home Grown Solutions
By Norman Girvan
It has often been said that ‘knowledge is power’ and development knowledge—the widely accepted theories and polices of development—is an area in which the North exerts power over the Global South. The institutions that produce and disseminate such knowledge are largely controlled by the North and thereby exercise considerable influence on government policies in the South, especially among the weaker economies. Other factors such as conditionalities, resource imbalances, and historically rooted prejudices contribute to ‘development knowledge dependency’.
This is in contradiction with the requirements of ‘home-grown solutions and ownership’—the subject of a recent Workshop held at the OECD Development Centre. From this perspective the main problem with the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness is that it does not question the policy parameters within which national plans are prepared, which are based on prevailing neo-liberal orthodoxy. Home-grown solutions can only come from knowledge and policy interventions that are generated locally and are specific to the local environment. This means that there must be recognition that diversity is an inherent characteristic of the global community; that national context must be the point of departure for diagnosis and prescription; and that development must be driven by local effort and initiative.
It follows that donors need to accept heterodoxy and ‘trial and error’ in development policy. Development cooperation should support the accumulation of indigenous capabilities in the South in development research and policy-making; which is a long-term process of institution-building and social learning. Indigenous knowledge centres have a crucial role to play; and regional centres and South-South collaboration can help to address resource constrains of the smallest and poorest countries.
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