The radical reforms of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) — which include a new strategy and results framework, and a new set of eight mega-programmes— are already taking centre stage at the conference.
Development expert Gordon Conway quizzed the chair of the new CGIAR consortium, Carlos Perez del Castillo, alluding to dissent among the CGIAR centres.
“I know through the grapevine that not all the centres are 100% happy [with the reforms],” he said. Indeed, the head of CGIAR-sponsored International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Hartmann, has already published his concerns (see CGIAR reforms make research decision-making distant).
“Of course, reform is not an easy task,” replied Castillo.
But there is some good news, he said. There is a consensus that international agricultural research needs reform; that this research must be results-oriented and that “partnerships are essential”.
And five of the 15 CGIAR centres have already signed up to the consortium.
But there will obviously be difficulties, said del Castillo.
As far as the CGIAR centres go, some see the reforms as a departure from how they currently (successfully) operate. “We need to build trust and confidence that they will … be better off.”
Regarding donors, while they talk about harmonisation, many still want to support ‘pet projects’.
“I hope that we will be able to get the donors on board, speaking with one voice, and with less restrictive funds than we have at the moment.”
And as for CGIAR partners: “We must recognise that national institutions can do some things much better than us”. But partners must also recognise that, as part of the mega-programmes, they will have access to more funding, he added.
He said what CGIAR has brought to GCARD is very much a ‘work in progress’ and he appealed to all participants to make their views and concerns heard.
If the informal talk among delegates is anything to go by, he’s unlikely to have any shortage of comment.