Prof. Sachin Chaturvedi is the Director General at the Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), a New Delhi-based autonomous Think-Tank. RIS specialises in issues related to international economic development, trade, investment and technology. The focus of the work programme at RIS is to promote South-South Cooperation and collaborate with developing countries in multilateral negotiations in various forums. Dr. Annapoorna Ravichander, editor at large for South Asia at On Think Tanks, conducted this interview.
Dr. Annapoorna Ravichander: Give us a brief background about yourself
Prof. Sachin Chaturvedi: I am currently the director general at the Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), a New Delhi-based think tank, under the Ministry of External Affairs. I was a Global Justice Fellow at the MacMillan Center for International Affairs at Yale University. I worked on issues related to development cooperation policies and South-South cooperation and also worked on issues like trade, investment and innovation linkages with special focus on WTO; S&T; development cooperation; SDGs; etc. Previously, I served as a visiting professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and have also been a consultant for the FAO, the World Bank, UN-ESCAP, UNESCO, OECD, the Commonwealth Secretariat and IUCN. I have been a developing country fellow at the University of Amsterdam (1996), visiting fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla (2003), and visiting scholar at the German Development Institute (2007). I am on the Editorial Advisory Board of the IDS Bulletin (UK) and editor of Asian Biotechnology Development Review. I have authored/edited nine books apart from publishing several research articles in various journals.
AR: How ready were you for the job as a director?
SC: I have always been fully committed to whatever responsibility I have been assigned to in my career as a researcher. Becoming a director general at RIS in September 2014 was a challenging proposition, and I accepted the task with humility and with a deep sense of commitment to serve the institute to the best of my ability with the support of my colleagues. Being part of the senior research faculty at RIS, I was conversant with the work programme of RIS and its aims and objectives to serve as an active and effective think tank of developing countries. So when I became director, RIS had a clear vision of how to strengthen and deepen the role of RIS in the national and international research fraternity.
AR: Why and how did you join RIS?
SC: The Government of India had invited applications for the post of director general at RIS. I was selected and appointed to the role by the Government of India in consultation of RIS Governing Council in September 2014.
AR: What have been your challenges as director general, in terms of retaining human capital, raising and managing funds, and engagement with different audiences?
SC: Building and sustaining an institution is a herculean task. Every day comes with a new challenge and I look at them as a new opportunity. This of course requires committed human capital and availability of resources. We are striving hard on all fronts to build upon the existing available resources. I am thankful to all my colleagues from the faculty and different divisions of administration for their unstinted, whole-hearted, support. The foremost challenge is to serve India and other developing countries with sound analytical support on issues concerned with international economy.
AR: How do you plan on choosing a domain or a project? Is there an specific agenda or method that you follow?
SC: As mentioned above, RIS is a think tank intended to serve developing countries. Hence, the entire focus of our work programme is to realise this objective. While evolving our agenda we select the themes for research and policy dialogue accordingly.
AR: What key lessons have you learned in your role as director general of RIS?
SC: We have to keep expanding our network of experts and institutions to arrive at policy cohesion to promote development cooperation at a global level. This requires not only intensely inter personal communication with stakeholders, but also reaching out to the larger sections by organising policy dialogue, sometimes at very short notice. This calls for mobilising available resources at a fast pace for a successful outcome.
AR: Your organisation works closely with the government and policy makers, what has that experience been like?
SC: We need to keep strengthening mechanisms to provide analytical support and policy research inputs by bringing all stakeholders to a common platform. Sometimes this requires quick response to provide required inputs. Of course, all inputs are to be provided in a non-technical framework for clarity on the issues involved. Of late, the list of issues on which inputs are being provided has expanded to diverse topics.
AR: Can you share a success story?
SC: That is for others to tell. On our part we would like add that there are several milestones, but we cannot rest assured of them as we have a long way to go on our chosen path. The examples of South East Economic Summit process, ASEAN-India, SDGs, IORA, Blue Economy, WTO, South-South Development Cooperation, IBSA, BRICS, BIMSTEC, etc. are the areas where strong RIS presence has been felt.
AR: What is your funding strategy/pattern? How do you manage to raise funds?
SC: RIS receives regular financial support from the Government of India. Apart from that we also undertake research studies sponsored by various international organisations.