Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Different Donor Agencies With Different Charters Do Science and Technology Differently

Why do different donor agencies have such different science and technology programs? Because they were chartered to do different things.

USAID, for example, has traditionally had both development assistance and security supporting assistance programs. The development assistance program has been focused on humanitarian assistance in the sense of providing assistance to reduce poverty; in science and technology it has focused on applications to improve the production of food, to deal with health problems and to improve the productivity of the very poor. The security supporting assistance has included greater per country funding and has been more broadly supportive of the objectives of the host country; thus, for example, in Egypt USAID funded relatively large science and technology projects with a broad intent to strengthen the science and technology capacity of that country.

The World Bank Group includes the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Development Association. The IDA provides concessional aid to the poorest nations; those nations typically have little scientific or technological capacity and the capacity that they have tends to be focused on the technological needs of their populations, who generally are poor so the IDA tends towards less science and technology appropriate to its customer nations. The IBRD on the other hand makes loans to more affluent developing nations which are intended not only to support development but to be paid back in order that the IBRD can repay the people who have bought its bonds; its customers tend to spend more of the GDPs on science and technology and to borrow for a broad variety of S&T purposes and the IBRD tends to be responsive to the borrower demands.

UNESCO has a much smaller budget even for its science programs. While the original founding staff of the organization was interested in the transfer of Western science to developing nations, it has come to focus on catalyzing international scientific networks. As one of many decentralized agencies of the United Nations system, UNESCO's scientific program is deliberately complementary to those of other agencies. Thus the Food and Agriculture Organization will lead in science and technology applied to agriculture and food, the World Health Organization will lead in science and technology applied to medicine and health, leaving UNESCO to focus on science and technology related to oceans, water, biodiversity and the basic sciences.

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