Banking on Knowledge: The Genesis of the Global Development Network

By Diane Stone | Go to book overview

13

Knowledge, power and policy

Diane Stone

'Knowledge equals power'. This final chapter takes as its starting point this declaration made by the German federal minister for economic cooperation and development, Heidimarie Wiezoreck-Zuel, at GDN99 in Bonn. It is an important political equation and one to keep in mind in the aspiration to 'create and share knowledge'. The significance of knowledge is that it informs, enables and empowers those who possess it and the institutions that are the embodiment of it. Knowledge creation is usually regarded as a good thing for its own sake, but one that may also have unanticipated benefits. Knowledge sharing is viewed as an important route for grappling with complex problems faced by societies and economies of both the developed and developing world. The expansion of state capacities and responsibilities, the rapidity of technological and communications advances, the forces of globalisation, the pressing need for reform, adjustment, and greater uncertainty over policy choices calls forth a requirement for informed decision making. The pace of change creates a dynamic not only for information and analysis but also for intelligent criticism and alternative ideas that is often provided by research.

The chapters that have been included in this volume are drawn primarily from the papers and presentations delivered in the 'Business of Think Tanks' panel sessions at GDN99. Accordingly, the contributions collected here are only one facet of the range of papers and presentations that were prepared for the first conference. The research papers that were delivered in Bonn covered issues as diverse as land reform, privatisation, education, labour standards, financial contagion and regional economic integration. By contrast, the common theme of the papers in the 'Business' panel sessions was an analytical concern with how ideas do or do not influence policy and more specifically, how think tanks and research institutes as organisations and as congregations of scholars and experts might inform policy making and make the critical connections with decision makers. In these panel sessions, there was a recognition that knowledge represents a form of power.

In many respects, the book has been built around the chapter written by Joseph Stiglitz. His presentation in Bonn set out a vision for the future of the network and what could be achieved through sharing global knowledge and reinventing it locally. Accordingly, the remainder of this first section rehearses some

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