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Making Waves: Reimagining Policy Transfer in the Context of Development Cooperation

  • 24 June, 2021
  • 16:00
  • IHE Delft, Water Governance
  • Prof. dr. Margreet Zwarteveen
  • dr Jaap Evers

This thesis explores different ways to conceptualize, think of and discuss policy transfers in international cooperation contexts. It takes issue with conventional analyses of policy transfer in diffusion terms, as these both assume and create hierarchies in knowledge and expertise between the origin and the destination of transfer. Especially in the context of development cooperation, the diffusion narrative also represents transfer as a unilateral process importantly steered by its initiators. The thesis experiments with telling the story of the transfer of the Dutch Delta Approach to Vietnam and Bangladesh differently, as a process of policy translation. This is a more agnostic way of understanding transfer, one that does not a priori identify with the ‘goodness’ of transferred policies, nor intends to support the originators of transfers. The thesis shows that understanding transfer-as-translation allows acknowledging its deeply dialogic and relational character. This in turn paves the way for re-imagining policy transfer as a “symmetrical conversation”: a conversation in which many knowers are dialoguing and learning to co-develop policies. It also opens up discussion about how to assess the success of policy transfer, and provokes re-thinking of how different knowledges and knowers (should) relate to each other.


Shahnoor Hasan

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