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Rosa María Torres, Knowledge-based international aid: Do we need it?, Do we want it?

Rosa María Torres, Knowledge-based international aid: Do we need it?, Do we want it?

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Paper prepared for the International Seminar on “Development Knowledge, National Research and International Cooperation”, CAS/DSE/NORRAG, Bonn, 3-5 April 2001.

Included in: Gmelin, W.; King, K.; McGrath, S. (editors), Knowledge, Research and International Cooperation, University of Edinburgh, 2001.
Paper prepared for the International Seminar on “Development Knowledge, National Research and International Cooperation”, CAS/DSE/NORRAG, Bonn, 3-5 April 2001.

Included in: Gmelin, W.; King, K.; McGrath, S. (editors), Knowledge, Research and International Cooperation, University of Edinburgh, 2001.

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Published by: Rosa María Torres del Castillo on Sep 02, 2009
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05/11/2014

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KNOWLEDGE-BASED INTERNATIONAL AID”DO WE WANT IT, DO WE NEED IT?
Rosa-María Torres
 
Instituto Fronesis
www.fronesis.orgPaper prepared for the International Seminar on“Development Knowledge, National Research and International Cooperation”,CAS/DSE/NORRAG, Bonn, 3-5 April 2001.Included in: Gmelin, W.; King, K.; McGrath, S. (editors),
 Knowledge, Research and  International Cooperation
, University of Edinburgh, 2001.
 
KNOWLEDGE-BASED INTERNATIONAL AID”DO WE WANT IT, DO WE NEED IT?Rosa-María TorresPRESENTATION
This paper approaches “knowledge-based aid”
in vogue
today within the international aidcommunity from some specific perspectives: a) a view “from the South”
1
, that is, fromcountries traditionally considered repositories and beneficiaries of such aid, which in turn istypically facilitated by “the North” through International Assistance Agencies
2
; b) a critical perspective, thus acknowledging that there is an uncritical South -- and a critical North; c) aregional focus on Latin America, with which the author is more familiar with; d) a focus oneducation (reform) as a specific field to analyze some of the assumptions and practicalconsequences of such “knowledge-based aid”, particularly over the last decade; and e) afocus on the World Bank (WB) as a paradigmatic Agency, given its contemporary leadingrole in shaping the North/South cooperation mode and in promoting “knowledge-basedaid”, specifically for (school) education reform. The “WE” used in the title of this articlerefers to the South in general, and to the Latin American region in particular.The increased global concentration of economic and symbolic power (information andknowledge) and of the means and resources to access, synthesize and disseminate suchinformation and knowledge is supported by an instrumental ideology about all these issues(development, knowledge, information, education, learning). In this context, and withoutfundamental changes in North-South relationships and cooperation patterns, as well as inknowledge and learning paradigms, there is little hope that the announced “knowledgesociety” and “lifelong learning” will bring the expected “learning revolution” and a moreequitable distribution of knowledge.On the contrary, we are experiencing a major epochal paradox: never before have there beenso much information and knowledge available, so varied and powerful means todemocratize them, and so much emphasis on the importance of knowledge, education andlearning, but never before has the
banking 
education model been so alive and widespread ata global scale:
education
understood as a one-way transfer of information and knowledge,and
learning 
understood as the passive digestion of such transfer. Many enthusiastic global promoters of “knowledge societies”, “new networking” and “lifelong learning” dream todaywith a world converted into a giant classroom with a few powerful global teachers, andmillions of passive assimilators of information and knowledge packages via telecenters,computers and the Internet.In an era characterized by change, uncertainty and unpredictability, knowledge-disseminators and technology-promoters appear to have just too many certainties about the present and about the future. Recommendations and solutions are at hand and become global – “global development knowledge”, “global education reform”. “Global” here means in fact[for] “the South”, “the developing world”, “the low- and middle-income countries”, “clientcountries,” “the poor.” “What works” and “what doesn’t work” are offered as clear-cut black and white alternatives, without the obvious questions that should follow: what works ---2
 
where, when, for what, with whom, for whom, under what circumstances? Knowledge- based aid rhetoric insists on avoiding the discussion of issues such as power and vestedinterests, not only within governments but also within civil society and within and amongAgencies themselves.
“KNOWLEDGE-BASED AID” FOR “DEVELOPING COUNTRIES”What
development 
? What
knowledge
? What kind of 
aid 
? Who is “
countries
”?
BANKING EDUCATION MODEL
Think (globally)
GlobalGlobalKnowledgeKnowledge(management)(management)Local wisdomLocal wisdom
INTERNATIONAL AGENCIESDEVELOPING COUNTRIES
Act (locally)
DISSEMINATIONCAPACIT YBUILDING
There is nothing new about “knowledge-based aid”. Knowing, and transferring knowledgeto “developing countries” under the form of technical assistance has been the
raison d’ être
of Agencies. It may be new, however, from a bank perspective, since banks are supposed to provide money, not ideas.WB’s decision -- in 1996 -- to become a “Knowledge Bank” made explicit the evolution of its role over the past few years into an institution that provides both expert advice and loans – in that order of importance, as the WB explicitly states. This new role includes lending nolonger as the most important role, but technical assistance, knowledge production andknowledge sharing; expanding clients and partners beyond governments, also incorporatingorganizations of civil society (OCS); and aggressive support to, and use of, moderninformation and communication technologies (ICTs) as a critical tool for putting suchstrategies in place.3

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