BROOKINGS: TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT AND COLLABORATION (1977) Page 4 of 4

VIII. International Development Foundation

          The contribution of the United States to worldwide development would be enhanced by the establishment of an International Development Foundation (IDF), which would be a catalyst and coordinator of U.S scientific, technical, and education activities related to development problems. This Foundation would be governed by a board of trustees with both public and private members, the latter in the majority.

          The IDF might be established on a permanent basis by the Congress, with multi-year authorization for sustained work on the major development problems. Annual appropriations would be sought; the IDF should not be under pressure to obligate all of its funds on an annual basis.

          The IDF would be autonomous, in the sense the National Science Foundation is autonomous; its Executive Director would be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

A. The purposes of the IDF would be:

·        to expand knowledge of the nature of the development process;

·        to facilitate the application of U.S. and international research competence to the search for solutions to critical scientific and technical problems of developing countries;

·        to improve access to U.S. research and technical resources for developing countries;

·        to facilitate the growth of institutional and individual capacity in developing countries for research and experimentation on development problems;

·        to encourage technical cooperation by U.S. institutions with institutions in developing countries on topics of mutual interest such as food production, environmental quality, and population; and

·        to assist U .S. private and voluntary organizations and foundations to contribute effectively to international development.

B. In order to accomplish these objectives, the foundation would perform the following functions:

          1. It should serve as a central source of knowledge concerning research needs and priorities on selected development problems.

The Foundation would need a relatively small but highly qualified staff capable of grasping the scientific dimensions of key problems and interacting as peers with scientists in U.S. and international research institutions working on these problems. It should keep current with the advancing frontier of knowledge concerning these problems, and be able to advise the adminis­tration and cooperating research institutions on research priorities.

          The Foundation should periodically organize thorough reviews of research priorities in selected problem areas. The World Food and Nutrition study is a model for such reviews. The WFNS should be updated every four or five years, and similar studies should be sponsored in health, population, education and human development.

          2. The IDF should serve as coordinator and catalyst of research and development problems by government research facilities.

          Increasing international interdependence suggests that increasing priority should be given by the research arms of many U.S. departments and agencies to problems of international significance. Broadening these research interests will take time, however. Congressional committees governing departmental budgets tend to be strongly oriented toward domestic interests. Departmental staffs, including researchers, also have a strong domestic orientation that will take time to broaden.

          The Foundation could assist these agencies in targeting development problems. These agencies could also serve as catalyst and guide, if they accepted broader research responsibilities. Initially, it would be enabled to contribute supplemental funding for its research on priority development problems and to support and assist agencies using research funds generated abroad under PL 480. The Congress and the departments should accept the addition of research on development problems of mutual interest as an integral part of departmental missions. Research on problems only of interest to the developing countries would, however continue to be funded by the IDF.

         3. The Foundation would enhance the contribution of U.S. universities and private research and training facilities to the solution of key devel­opment problems.

         It should have authorization in all development fields to focus attention on research priorities identified in the proposed periodic reviews by:

·        sponsoring research competitions;

·        contracting for research; and

·        building up the capacity of selected institutions to work on particular problems.

         4. It would encourage and support U.S. participation in international research and development programs on development problems.

         As the official U.S. donor to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, the Foundation would be in a position to support linkages from the international centers back to the basic research resources in the United States, and forward to the national research systems in developing countries.

         In other fields, the international cooperation may offer similar advantages and opportunities, and should be explored by the Foundation.

         5. It would improve access to U.S. training and research facilities by the developing countries.

         The Foundation would strengthen foreign student orientation, language training, and other programs which prepare foreign students for studies in the U.S. It would ensure the existence of adequate mechanisms for the identification of appropriate U.S. training facilities by institutions and individuals from developing countries, and for placing students.

         The placement of foreign students is a highly professional job: the Foundation should be prepared to assist in the placement of DCA-funded students as well as students funded by the Foundation or the developing countries.

Experimental courses designed for the special needs of students from developing countries in such fields as low-cost health delivery systems, economic planning and project appraisal, and cross-cultural child-rearing studies would be supported. Training for Americans preparing to work abroad, such as the personnel of private and voluntary agencies, could also be provided or supported by the Foundation.

         Support would also be available for the U.S. share of joint research projects undertaken collaboratively by U.S. institutions and institutions in the middle-income countries.

         6. It would help to build indigenous capacity for training, research, and experimentation, through:

·        funding training in the U.S. and third countries for prospective local institution staff members;

·        funding research projects and competitions;

·        organizing research methodology workshops and sponsoring regional conferences on key problems;

·        promoting links between U.S. and international research efforts and local institutions;

·        strengthening indigenous training institutions and in-service training programs;

·        making grants when necessary for equipment and furnishings; and

·        supporting experimental and pilot projects.

         7. It would help public and private foundations and voluntary organizations interested in development to become more effective.

         With regional field offices staffed by technically qualified people knowledgeable of the local conditions, the Foundation would be in a position to assist private foundations and voluntary organizations to target their efforts more effectively. Field office support might also be made available to publicly supported development and people-to-people programs such as the Appropriate Technology International, the Inter-American Foundation, and the Peace Corps.

C. Regional Offices

         The IDE should have regional field offices, headed by senior representatives at ten or twelve locations in the developing world. They would maintain contact with research and development institutions in the region, and with collaborative projects between those institutions and others in the United States. The typical field office might have three to five core staff members, who would have a long-term commitment to and knowledge of an area, assisted by one or two technical consultants in each problem area in which the office was working. The consultants would normally be on leave, for two to three years, from a university or research center with interests in the area. Local and third country consultants could also be employed where possible.

         Projects or programs requiring more staff would normally be undertaken by other institutions, funded by the Foundation through grants or contracts. Their logistic support would come from the field offices.

         Like the Peace Corps, the field offices would normally not be part of the U.S. Embassy. They might be attached to a university or research insti­tution. Country project leaders or IDF staff, where posted, would, of course, be responsible to the Ambassador and would coordinate their activities with country DCA missions in those countries receiving concessional assistance. As indicated in the body of the report, technical assistance associated with capital goods transfers and DCA-financed projects for delivering goods and services would remain in DCA. The Foundations focus would be on the adaptation or creation of knowledge, or experimentation on the uses of knowledge in developing countries.

D. Issues

          Periodically, since at least l964, recommendations have been made by committees and commissions concerned with scientific and technical relationships with developing countries, for the creation of a public foundation or institute to facilitate the task. This persistence of the idea is impressive; so is the recurring resistance to it. The discussion below seeks to examine not only how the IDE could mitigate the shortcomings of the present system, but also its potential defects.

         1. Orientation

         A major concern of those skeptical of the public foundation approach is that it could become a vehicle for funding U.S. research of only peripheral value to the developing countries. This is a potentially serious problem. The proposed systematic periodic review of research priorities on key problems, and the creation of field offices that can identify research and technical cooperation needs and opportunities, should help to meet it.

         2. Technical Qualifications of Staff

         One of the principal reasons for establishing a public foundation is to create a professional environment that will attract technically qualified staff. This would only be possible, however, if the Foundation management had flexibility in staffing; the automatic transfer of staff from AID would mitigate the supposed gain. Measures to facilitate personnel movement between the Foundation and universities and research institutions would be important. Legislative provision for this latitude would be required.

         3. Contracting Procedures

         Simpler contracting procedures for research and personnel services would be essential. Attempts to simplify AID procedures have apparently met with little success in recent years. The proposed Foundation would only be able to institute procedures compatible with the type of work to be performed if the need to do so was explicitly recognized in legislation from the start.

         4. Accountability

         Development, research, and experimentation deal with unknowns; it is consequently difficult to be precise about the components and methodology that will eventually yield the best results. It is often even difficult to set concrete norms for results. The principal test of the effectiveness of the use of funds should be the periodic professional review of the Foundation’s program. Such a peer-review process, which should involve knowledgeable people from developing countries, seems to us most likely to permit the creation of an atmosphere of professional dedication to solving critical long-range problems, and to yield the maximum return to the taxpayers’ dollars.

         5. Foreign Policy

         While it is appropriate and necessary for concessional resource transfers to be responsive to long-term U.S. foreign policy concerns, it is less clear that this is the case with respect to U .S. scientific and technical work on solving development problems. The creation of a public foundation would help to insulate this work from foreign policy pressures.

         Problems will arise, however, if the Foundation has a cooperative relationship with an institution in a developing country that begins to deny the fundamental human rights of its citizens or, like India or Egypt in recent memory, passes through a period of strained official relations with the United States. Each case would present different circumstances and require different responses; on balance it would have been advantageous to the United States and to India and Egypt to continue scientific and technical cooperation on development problems through the period of estrangement. Options should be open, on the U.S. side, for continued cooperative work on long-range problems, even during periods of considerable official alienation.

          6. Size and Constituency

          A serious potential defect in the public foundation concept is that it exposes research expenditures to concentrated attack, particularly by critics of foreign aid. When research costs are part of a much larger budget, they are less vulnerable to such attacks.

         Research and experimentation is by nature high-risk; it will inevitably be possible to isolate unsuccessful, unproductive and, seen out of context, apparently silly efforts for criticism and ridicule. If this vulnerability were to result in diminished funding for research, the anticipated gains in quality would be dearly bought. This exposure might be mitigated if, as recommended in the body of the report, the Foundation were also charged with support for U.S. private and voluntary agencies that wish to help developing countries (such as CARE); these have large constituencies which will be of great help in generating support for the IDE.

          7. Continuity of Funding

         Title XII of the Foreign Assistance Act provides multi-year authori­zation for work on food and nutrition problems, but requires annual appropriations of funds. Under this and other titles, contracts and grants of up to five years can be made by AID, although the Agency has recently preferred to limit awards to three years. The Foundation should be enabled to enter into five-year arrangements that can annually be extended for one year, in order to ensure the continuity of funding which is necessary to attract the best scientists, while at the same time providing the ability to curtail expenditures on ineffective or unsuccessful programs.

          8. Interagency Relationships

          Coordination between the IDF and the DCA should take place at all levels, including the board of directors, and should provide a full exchange of information on activities. Each institution should maintain a capability to manage its own affairs, but each should be able to call on the other for assistance in providing specialized services. In the field, the IDF would have a regional orientation and the DCA would have a national orientation. DCA would not be represented in middle-income countries.

IX. Conclusions

          The limitations on the direct transfer of technology, institutions, and policies from the advanced to the developing countries are more clear than in the past. In some cases, adaptations and adjustments of limited scope may suffice, but the more difficult development problems will require new knowledge for solution.

          Sustained and self-reliant development requires the creation, within each country or region, of a range of institutions capable of designing and adapting technologies, and of devising the means of delivering information and services to the broad masses of people, both urban and rural.

          One of America’s most cherished assets is its ability to focus scientific and technical skills on the solution of practical problems. These skills have been underutilized with respect to development problems. The challenge deserves the best that our institutions have to offer. Institutional changes to facilitate application of higher-quality scientific, technical, and educational abilities to the task of building the capacity of developing countries to achieve their development goals should be part of the response.

X.  Footnotes

(1)  “Proposal for a Program in Appropriate Technology,” transmitted by AID to the House Committee on International Relations, February 7, 1977, U.S. Government Printing Office.

(2)  “Report of the Review Team on the International Grants Program”, AID, September 25, 1973, Mimeo.

(3)  World Food and Nutrition Study, National Academy of Sciences 1977.

(4)  World Food and Nutrition Study:  The Potential Contributions of Research, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C. 1977.



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