Academic journal article Human Ecology

International Partners in Forming Policy Development

Academic journal article Human Ecology

International Partners in Forming Policy Development

Article excerpt

President Emeritus Frank H.T. Rhodes often explained his vision of Cornell University as a "global land-grant college" with a mission of outreach and purpose that extends internationally. David E. Sahn, professor of economics in the Division of Nutritional Sciences, shares that vision. His position as the director of the Cornell Food and Nutrition Policy Program (CFNPP) is the linchpin that brings several international partnerships together at Cornell.

The partnerships of CFNPP cover a wide spectrum. Some involve international agencies like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the U.S. Agency for International Development; others include research networks and academic institutions in developing countries. The work focuses on generating policy-relevant research, enhancing research capacity, and developing indigenous researchers in Africa and other developing countries.

"Our partnerships are critical," says Sahn. "Policymakers in government and those who influence policy in civil society desperately need more opportunities and access to careful analytical work that elucidates the impact of government action and policy on human capital development and the welfare of the population. That is what CFNPP provides."

The two most important, complex, and developed partnerships in which CFNPP is involved are the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) and the Strategies and Analysis for Growth and Access in Africa (SAGA) program. AERC, headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, is a network of researchers that extends throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Its objective is to raise the level and sophistication of economic research on the continent, using training programs, research mentoring, and improved communications among African researchers. The network usually comprises at least 150 researchers.

Sahn says the biggest challenges to the AERC researchers' work are isolation and limitations on access to information. "All the things we take for granted at a place like Cornell--access to the Internet and electronic libraries, availability of computers and software, seminars, a collaborative atmosphere--are a dream for them," he says. While most African researchers are well trained, this partnership, he explains, helps the scientists add to their skills and improve the quality of their research and--most important--helps them more successfully integrate their research into the policy-making arena.

Twice each year CFNPP participates in workshops for AERC researchers on the topic of research proposals. Cornell conducts training sessions, similar to intensive graduate courses, that help researchers put together proposals for funding. "In these proposals, researchers are encouraged to undertake policy-relevant, albeit publishable, research that is informative to government activities," Sahn says. "Thus, impact on policies that affect the poor is an important complementary objective to high-quality academic output."

Cornell and three other universities--the University of Goteborg in Sweden, Universite Laval in Canada, and Oxford University in England--run a collaborative research program with AERC that focuses on poverty, health and nutrition, and human resources. Teams of researchers from countries like Madagascar and Nigeria come to Cornell for one to three-month periods to engage actively in policy analysis in their fields of expertise. The research teams also organize and sponsor workshops and other events in their own countries to communicate with their policy-making communities. These activities often fulfill requirements of the World Bank or the IMF, which sponsor research when it is framed within or contributes to poverty-reduction goals. The collaborative research process can take two of three years. Researchers then bring their analytical capacities in the areas of poverty, human resources, and health back to their own countries.

CFNPP's other large partnership is with Clark Atlanta University and the SAGA program, funded primarily by the U. …

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