Rajesh Tandon

Rajesh Tandon argues that new global trends such as the fight against terrorism, economic globalization, and civil society protests against globalization, have to some extent had a negative influence on the nature of international cooperation. Many goals have not been achieved and results are disappointing, as was evident from the review at the Dakar EFA Forum. Tandon sets out five tasks which could help to show up international cooperation once more in clear “rainbow colours”. Dr. Rajesh Tandon is President of PRIA. He was also President of ASPBAE during the period 1990-2000.

What Colour Is Your Rainbow?

Global Development Context and International Cooperation 

This is indeed a significant occasion. I am proud to be here celebrating 25 years of wonderful cooperation between ASPBAE and the Institute for International Cooperation of the DVV – a cooperation that has transcended significant shifts in regional and global trends over these 25 years. The Deutschmark has been replaced by the Euro; China is leading the worldwide march for rapid economic growth; democratic regimes are flourishing in Eastern and Central Europe, which are ready to become part of the expanded European Community; East Timor, Indonesia, Cambodia are new examples of democratic regimes in the Asia-Pacific region.

Many things have changed dramatically in these 25 years. What can then our meeting here signify? The last time I was with colleagues like you in Chiangmai (Thailand) in November 2000, was when my term as the President of ASPBAE came to an end. At that moment in the New Millennium, we were all full of hopes. There were signs of rapid economic growth, widespread democratic regimes and relatively peaceful global order.


We gather today when significant shifts are occurring once again around the world at a rapid pace, comprehending or even enumerating them will be impossible in one brief presentation. Let me, therefore, identify five major colours that the present rainbow of humanity contains and then explore how we can reorganize, redecorate, repaint our human rainbow.

The first trend began with the growing tensions in the Middle East in early 2001 and catapaulted after the events of September 11 in New York and Washington. A global war on terrorism was waged after these events since the extent of devastation caused had revolted human conscience worldwide. But subsequent military action in Afghanistan and the continued chain of terrorist blasts and military missiles in Europe, Asia and Africa has only further escalated! The dark, sinister, thick war clouds are hiding our rainbow today. Unilateral US action in Iraq is impending, despite global public opinion for restraint. Unilateralism is on the rise; whatever happened to multilateralism?

The second trend is reflected in the state of the national and global economy worldwide. Stock markets are down, economic growth has stagnated. Examples of rapid economic improvements in Japan, Russia, Argentina are fast becoming obscure. Many countries of Asia, led by China, are maintaining a respectable growth rate, despite such stagnation. But the primary engine of economic growth – private corporate enterprise, foreign direct investment, private-capital flows – that engine has become rusted. Corporate credibility has come to a crash ever since Enron’s scandals were revealed. Professional accounting firms and management consultants, professional managers, corporate executives, members of corporate management boards have all lost their credibility in the face of continuing scandals worldwide, most significantly in the bastion of capitalist enterprise: the United States of America. Models of professional accountability in governance which were being paraded with such pride from the corporate sector, are no longer seen as viable or even legitimate. Whatever happened to models from the developed North?

The third trend most notably began from the streets of Seattle, spread to Bologna and has now taken over Porto Allegre – civil society on the streets – young people, farmers, workers, researchers, political leaders are all presenting a major challenge to the current structure and manner of globalization led by the elites, controlled from the top and regulated through WTO. More organized, formal, long-term organisations embedded in the civil society around the world are being challenged by the citizens on the streets. Radicalism has acquired a new face; protest has gathered new energies. ‘Another World is Possible’ (the credo of the World Social Forum) is inspiring the new generation. Whatever happened to the pursuit of human development?

Fourthly, there has been a global consensus, led by the United Nations with its Millennium Development Goals – clearly defined, sharply focussed, important benchmarks for human development. International Aid, however, has become Africa-centric. Asia is expected to look after itself. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has become Asiacentric (nearly US $ 160 billion in 2000) and rapid economic growth has been witnessed. The European Union has become the dominant actor, both in terms of international aid as well as in shaping the debate and discourse on development. In a strange way, from Monterrey to Johannesburg, the United States has become marginal to the discourse on development. New formulations and agreements in the Earth Summit-2 brought about Track II negotiations and partnerships with business and civil society, with business and government. But both civil society and government have significantly changed since the time of the Rio Earth Summit ten years ago. Whatever happened to old commitments (Mexico, Nairobi, Vienna, Cairo, Copenhagen, Beijing, ….)?

Fifthly, the Dakar review on Education for All signalled major disappointments. Very little seems to have changed around the world with respect to education during the recent decades. Global emphasis on primary education has marginalized adult education and literacy. Fewer resources have gone into education (as a percentage of GNP, public investment in education has stagnated or declined across the Asia-Pacific region). Market hegemony and control over education, vocationalisation of education and continued disparity in access to quality education have been the hallmark of the current scenario. Education for All is being increasingly driven by the requirements of economic growth, preparing an economic instrument, a worker, a producer, a manager; education to create a human, a humanist person, a human being has been marginalized in most systems of education (with declining government expenditures on education and increasing private supply of education especially at the primary level). Whatever happened to Jomtien?

Bow or Rainbow?

What then about International Cooperation, in general, and in adult education in particular, in the face of these five trends that I have briefly described? My submission is that International Cooperation needs to reinvent itself, needs to redefine a new niche, a new value and perhaps a new modality. It therefore needs to be built on a newly reiterated set of principles.

The first principle is that of multilateralism. International cooperation must whole-heartedly embrace multilateralism – ensuring that diverse voices, capacities, and institutions can sit around the table and cooperate. People’s multilateralism – needs to be the building block of international cooperation. This is quite in opposition to the present trend of growing unilateralism and bilateralism. It is only in a multilateral forum that representatives with unequal power can sit around and speak out, unequal power relations make it impossible to do so in bilateral fora. Authentic cooperation at global level must respect this principle.

The second principle that needs to be reiterated is the value of human education which helps shape morals and ethics, and builds human capital, liberal understanding of the world, its past and its potential. Merely attempting to establish functionality of education in market terms will undermine the creative, spontaneous and liberating aspects of the human spirit. Education must rekindle, nurture and strengthen the human spirit.

A third task for international cooperation is to redefine cooperation as a multi-directional enterprise where learning occurs from different parties – jointly creating new models of professionalism which combine the best elements and best practices from all the different parties – a model that rejects the notion that wisdom resides only with those who are economically and politically well endowed. Or, that knowledge resides with those who have lots of formal education.

A fourth principle around which international cooperation needs to be designed is the principle of connecting citizens and communities. While intermediary civil society organisations have contributed significantly towards this end, the time has now come to enable, facilitate and encourage citizen action to connect across cultures, boundaries, countries. Only then, long-term sustainable bonds of cooperation, overcoming the vagaries of institutional designs and leaderships, can be nurtured.

Finally, civilizations that have had a long history regularly go through periods of reinvention, redefinition. Europe and Asia Pacific are two of the oldest civilizations. We need to define international cooperation beyond materialistic measures so that it is rooted in the civilisation process, which is at times contentious, at times painful, but the only way of ensuring that we learn from history in order not to repeat it.

My submission here is that the global context has fogged and polluted the nature of the international cooperation rainbow. The time has come to clean it, recolour it, repaint it and rearrange it. This gathering, these sets of institutions and partners, these leaders, all of us present here have the possibility to contribute towards the same.    

Adult Education and Development


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