Frans Bieckmann

Independent researcher and advisor

Recognizing the importance of knowledge in its full plurality is essential for an inclusive development agenda. Knowledge takes many different forms and is expressed in many different ways. It can be explicit or tacit, instrumental or value-driven, spatially bounded or universal. The plurality of knowledge encompasses the different types of knowledge, their ‘producers’ (or ‘possessors’), and those who require access to knowledge to shape and execute the development agenda. Only when this plurality is fully recognized can knowledge be properly used to legitimize development policies. Otherwise, when science and expert knowledge are misused by political elites or economic interests (or ideologically driven), the importance of knowledge creation and sharing is undermined and faith in political and scientific institutions will be lost. Particularly in times when knowledge has been democratized in our information society, policymakers are urged to acknowledge and use the full diversity of the knowledge out there. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to have a clear understanding of the role of knowledge in Agenda 2030. Hence, the research development agenda should not only focus on stimulating the production of knowledge and quality education, but also the sharing and uptake of knowledge by all relevant stakeholders.

The Agenda Knowledge for Development should have a clear eye on the bias within current knowledge production for development towards the agendas of multilateral organizations, market ideologies, and political and economic interests. From Rio+20 until the launch of the SDGs in 2015, which was covered by The Broker, more stakeholders in the international political arena were invited to share their viewpoints than ever before. In the first rounds of the Open Working Group, stakeholders representing various groups in civil society delivered statements on the focus areas of their expertise. This opportunity, and the range of stakeholders invited, represents some progress in the recognition of all types of knowledge. Yet, even in the Open Working Group negotiations, knowledge from developed countries was favoured over that of developing countries. Moreover, throughout the process of formulating the SDGs, these stakeholders’ share in the decision-making process decreased. This illustrates that for the SDGs to really take shape, inclusiveness and plurality must be ensured in the Agenda Knowledge for Development. Furthermore, the uptake of knowledge by policymakers should be much more transparent to avoid political bias during the translation of knowledge into policies.