James P. Grant School of Public Health at BRAC University hosted the four-day Global Development Learning Network's (GDLN) Asia Pacific Regional Meeting which began on January 8, 2013. Development activists, academics and government officials converged to Dhaka intended to further its effectiveness as a knowledge exchange platform.
About 40 experts from Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the US and Vietnam and top experts from the World Bank are taking part at the gathering hosted by BRAC University, the only affiliate from Bangladesh.
Initiated by the World Bank (WB) in 2000, the GDLN is a partnership of over 120 recognised global institutions in over 80 countries for the design of customised learning solutions for individuals and organisations working in development.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, the WB Country Director Ellen Goldstein said the network's programmes in South Asia and East Asia and the Pacific are the most active in the world. "We are particularly excited by the increasing number of regional programmes." Recognition is growing that the largest and the most important sources of development knowledge lie in the countries' own experiences, Goldstein said.
"We also understand that to be successful in our mission of reducing poverty, the diagnosis of development challenges and the design of policy instruments need to draw on a plurality of development approaches, from developing countries themselves. Many of the best insights come from emerging economies." "Hence, emphasis needs to be placed on facilitating peer-to-peer exchange and development of communities of practice that bring together policy makers and practitioners from different countries."
The WB is particularly interested in seeking lessons from solutions on the ground level and feedback from the system so that they can be implemented in similar conditions elsewhere. GDLN centres can also position themselves as an effective platform for South-South Knowledge Exchange, Goldstein said.
“They could play a role managing the virtual aspects of exchanges or even as a deliverer of expertise on how to design, implement and measure the impact of such exchanges.”
In Bangladesh, the WB is supporting the University Grants Commission (UGC) to implement the Bangladesh Research and Education Network by setting up independent high-speed data-communications network for the universities and research communities.
Ishfaq Ilahi Choudhury, registrar of BRAC University, said the investment on this type of programme would yield higher benefits in future. Philip Karp, regional co-ordinator of GDLN, said it provides a true opportunity for knowledge sharing.
Collectively, the GDLN affiliates put on over 1,000 learning sessions a year, ranging from training courses and informal brainstorming sessions to multi-country dialogues and virtual conferences.
The network, present in most major cities and in many secondary cities, offers direct access to local, regional and international development experts. It also provides tailored learning programmes, knowledge or technical assistance programmes and state-of-art facilities for multi-point videoconferencing and internet-based learning.
On the sidelines of the opening ceremony, BRAC University also signed an agreement with the UGC to join the latter's Bangladesh Research and Education Network. The deal will give the private university access to a global network of universities, said Prof Dr Akhter Hossain, a member of UGC.
Prof AK Azad Chowdhury, chairman of UGC Bangladesh, and Prof Ainun Nishat, vice-chancellor of BRAC University, also spoke.