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Review prompts overhaul of Danish development research

Image: Comrade King [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr

The Danish government wants to copy neighbours Sweden and Norway and channel its support for development research to a smaller number of poor countries.

The news came in a proposed development research strategy for 2014-18 published by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 25 September.

The government also wants to overhaul its funding systems to ensure recipient countries have a bigger say in what research is funded. However, Danish and international institutions would remain important partners in the research, the document says.

The government estimates that it spends between 200 and 285 million kroner (US$36-52m) on development research every year. At present, this money is spent without any overarching strategy.

This would change with the proposed strategy, which follows the publication on 18 September of a review of Danish development research by Danish and British consultants.

The review found that Denmark’s development research support was out of line with the recipient-led direction in which other Danish development support has been going.

“There has been too much focus on what Danish researchers and research institutions have had to offer,” it says, although it adds that this has started to change in recent years.

There has also been a lack of coordination, the review says—both with other development agencies’ research support and between Denmark’s various support programmes.

The government admits that many of the reviewers criticisms are fair. Its planned overhaul will give research partners in developing countries more say in funding programmes.

Support streams would shift from individuals to institutions, in order to build research capacity in target countries.

Denmark would also limit its targeted research support to between five and seven countries. The proposal does not give a list, but says that Tanzania and Ghana—which have received significant Danish support in the past—will be among the target countries.

A new support mechanism would also strengthen national research management in priority countries, a first for Denmark.

The government is consulting on the strategy until 29 November. The consultation will engage directly with researchers and research institutions in Denmark’s partner countries, which include Burkina Faso and Tanzania.