Power Dynamics in International Negotiations toward Equitable Policies, Partnerships, and Practices: Why it Matters for Africa, the Developing World, and their Higher Education Systems

In: African and Asian Studies
José Cossa Syracuse, NY USA

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Based on lessons learned from examining the relationship between several international organizations and African higher education, this paper unveils the subtleties and complexities of power dynamics in negotiations, provides illustrative cases to enhance such understanding, discusses the implications of power dynamics in negotiations over higher education policy, and provides a glimpse at the necessary ingredients to build sustainable and healthy international partnerships. Based in a conceptual framework of power dynamics, the paper hinges on international regimes for its theoretical foundation, and on the intersection of conflicting agendas for a transformative higher education in Africa, as advocated by the Association of African Universities (AAU) and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), for its historical framework. An understanding of the subtleties and complexities of power dynamics in international negotiations is critical for Africa at this crossroads of her relationship with BRIC countries, particularly amidst the competition between China and other superpowers and their respective organizations over Africa as a market arena. This understanding will also be important for examining newly claimed ‘reformed’ policies originating from the historically dominant Western countries because (a) the dimensions of this relationship are still being negotiated/established, thus a good time to address power dynamics; (b) Africa is engaged in a quest for development through partnerships; and, (c) African scholars are often confronted with the idea of a higher education system by African design. With a focus on Africa that simultaneously highlights the problem of developing nations more generally, this paper discusses four categories of power – hermeneutical, informational, manipulative, and monetary – that must be taken seriously into account in international negotiations as they have dire consequences for the developing world.

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