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The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and local knowledge for development: challenges and opportunities


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Local knowledge is often marginalised in many different ways as can be seen from the example of local academic knowledge in the field of development studies. Unfortunately, the SDGs do not correct this and also marginalise local knowledge. Without recognition of the role of local knowledge, the SDGs probably cannot be successful.

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The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and local knowledge for development: challenges and opportunities

  1. 1. The SDGs and local knowledge for development Challenges and opportunities Sarah Cummings, Knowledge Ecologist Eldis 20th Anniversary Workshop 15 September 2016
  2. 2.  EADI IMWG, IKM Emergent, KM4Dev and Dgroups  Results from two papers  Research at Athena Institute of the VU University which focuses on transdisciplinary research  Local knowledge and social capital for sustainable development Background
  3. 3.  Traditional/modern, local/global, indigenous/non- indigenous  Links to sustainability because of environmental knowledge  Local knowledge is marginalized  Example of ‘local’ academic knowledge  The field of development studies Systemic challenges facing local knowledge
  4. 4. Dahdouh-Gubas et al (2003)  2798 articles from the Current Contents database  Research carried out in the 48 least developed countries.  70% articles did not have co-authors from the developing country  Life Sciences having a much higher rate of collaboration (65%) than Basic and Applied Sciences (27%) and Social and Human Sciences (5%)  Explanations: lack of confidence, ignorance, negligence, or neo-colonial science? Marginalisation of academics from developing countries
  5. 5.  10 journals, including EJDR  Web of Science interface for authors  Journal websites for Editorial Board (backed up with individual searches to identify gender)  329 editorial board members  2112 articles  Period 2012-2014 Data collection
  6. 6.  Authors located in developing countries on average 14% of all affiliations  Authors in UK and USA dominating with 41.1% 0f all affiliations  Other 45% from other developed countries  9% of editorial board members from developing countries  Dominance of key institutions in editorial boards  Women roughly 30% of editorial boards Conclusions from the data
  7. 7. Links between the top 11 institutions and the editorial boards of the 10 journals
  8. 8. Development is, most of all, the result of the synergy among millions of innovative initiatives people take every day in their local societies, generating new and more effective ways of producing, trading, and managing their resources and their institutions. The work of policy makers and development agencies may contribute greatly to the success of those initiatives, may shape them, or may undermine those efforts. (Ferreira, 2009, p.99) Development is endogenous
  9. 9.  New paradigm for sustainable development for all countries  First universal, unified agenda ‘The spread of information and communications technology and global interconnectedness has great potential to accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divide and to develop knowledge societies, as does scientific and technological innovation across areas as diverse as medicine and energy’ (UN, 2015: 9). Do the SDGs redress the balance in favour of local knowledge?
  10. 10.  ‘the overriding mentality is still that developing countries are vessels to be filled with knowledge and ideas’ (Ramalingam, 2015)  the lack of reference to local knowledge (International Council for Science/International Social Science Council, 2015)  failure to recognise that development needs to be based on developing countries’ experiences and realities (Leach, 2013) Knowledge in the SDGs?
  11. 11.  Critical discourse analysis  Adapted methodology to take into account sub- discourses and the history of past discourses  Technical-scientific-economic discourse  Pluralist-participatory discourse Analysis of knowledge and knowledge societies in the SDGs
  12. 12. Techno-scientific-economic discourse Pluralist-participatory discourse Main proponents Policies of, for example, USA, Japan, EU, Singapore, Slovenia UNESCO, Mansell, Stehr, Castells National governments International organisations, academics, development practitioners Conceptual provenance Symbolic value Symbolic power of socio-economic development based on knowledge Universal access to knowledge Knowledge societies as a source of development Transformational value of knowledge Approach to problem solving Linear approach to technical problems Non-linear, emergent approach to complex problems Emphasis on scientific knowledge Combination of practical experimentation with scientific knowledge Need for collective thinking Multiple knowledge are needed to solve complex problems Hierarchy of knowledge Primacy of scientific and technological knowledge Pluralism Lack of cultural and linguistic diversity Cultural and linguistic diversity Failure to recognise the value of local knowledge Recognising the value of local knowledge Approach to development Exogenous development Endogenous development Ownership of knowledge Role of technology
  13. 13.  knowledge and knowledge societies are very marginal to the SDGs  Only one reference to local knowledge as ‘traditional knowledge’ in Goal 2: End hunger  techno-scientific-economic discourse is the dominant discourse at the level of implementation and goals  Some evidence to pluralist-participatory discourse at the level of vision and strategy  Vision and strategy are transformational  Implementation, goals and targets appear to represent business as usual Do the SDGs redress the balance in favour of local knowledge?
  14. 14.  Marginalisation of developing country-based authors in scientific publishing  A view of development which focuses on exogenous knowledge, also evident in the field of development studies although there are signs of change (Oldekop et al 2016)  Marginalisation of local knowledge within the SDGs  Emphasis on technical-scientific-economic discourse of knowledge in the SDGs ‘business as usual’  The pluralist-participatory approach – which values local knowledge is virtually absent Overview of the challenges
  15. 15.  ‘…reflection upon knowledge societies and how to build them makes it possible to rethink development itself’ (UNESCO 2015)  The Knowledge Development Goals to be developed in Vienna in October are an opportunity to redress the balance in favour of knowledge for development – statements are requested, follow KM4Dev for news  New models of development publishing: guidelines and new journal business models (such as the ‘Knowledge Management for Development Journal’)  Critical discourse analysis emphasises need to create new discourses through new alternative narratives  Possibility to work on a Brighton Declaration tomorrow – as a new discourse - in which we could outline some possible solutions to the challenges identified at this meeting Opportunities and possibilities
  16. 16. Thank you for your attention!