SDG Bergen 2022
This year’s annual SDG Conference in Bergen had the theme Ways of knowing, modes of living. For the second year running the conference was digital, with 1,440 participants from 110 countries. GRIP Affiliated Senior Researcher Bjørn Enge Bertelsen was part of the programme committee and GRIP, along with NORAD and UNDP Oslo Governance Center, organised the session “Justice and Equity: Diversity and the human wealth in modes of knowing”.
Sustainable human development is faced with uncertainties of enormous proportions stemming from intensified planetary pressures, as well as the widening of the existing fault lines heightening social and economic inequalities. The session “Justice and Equity: Diversity and the human wealth in modes of knowing” at the SDG Conference Bergen was organised exactly to face these uncertainties. A vital easing of such pressures calls for transformational change based on recognizing the diversity of knowledge and its worth for survival and adaptation to a rapidly changing environment.
This panel discussion started from recognizing both the right and worth of assuming differentiated perspectives on knowledge. Not by making rigid distinctions between different modes of knowing but by creating a forum allowing participants to voice their visions of knowledge and its importance for sustainability. We asked:
- Which perspectives are eclipsed by the current format of policy and intervention work on sustainability?
- How can we bridge the epistemic differences to form new alliances between forms of knowledge?
- How can strengthened knowledge help in strengthening the achievement of the 2030 Agenda?
Dr. Godwin R. Murunga, Executive Secretary, Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), initiated the session with a powerful argument on the hierarchy of knowledge and the casting of development as a western hegemonic project. Dr Murunga here identified reciprocal incompleteness as a main challenge for sustainable development. He underlined the importance of listening and engaging with local knowledge consistently, as well as the inherent powerstructure of saying that something is global.
Dr. Luis Fernando Sarango Macas, Rector, Pluriversidad Amawtay Wasi, Ecuador then followed with a presentation of the concept of Pluriversidad/Plurivesrsity.
Knowledge must be sown and nurtured in order to be harvested.
– Dr. Luis Fernando Sarango Macas
This view of the indigenous peoples of Peru again highlights the importance of valuing knowledge from local and indigenous communities. This tied in well with Dr Murungas`s words (as did most of the session); we must not treat local knowledge as merely local viewpoints – but as actual, valuable knowledge.
Likewise, Ms. Andrea Ordóñez, Director of Southern Voice, Ms.Aparna Basnyat, Senior Research and Policy Advisor, UNDP Oslo Governance Centre and Mr. Bård Vegar Solhjell, Director General, Norad all highlighted the importance of acknowledging and working with knowledge from the global south. Ms. Andrea Ordóñez strongly encouraged universities, researchers and organisations from the global north to let researchers from the global south actually “take the driving seat” when collaborating on research projects. In the same vein, Bård Vegar Solhjell brought up the need to build ground capacity in research institutions in the global south.
Knowledge Inequalities matters for what questions are asked, the answers and the context of the answers.
– Bård Vegar Solhjell
The session also enjoyed input from MA student Kayawe Mwewa Chinkumba from the University of Nottingham, Malaysia, who made the important point that we all must feel a sense of ownership to the SDGs for them to be regarded as worthwhile on a global basis.
“Justice and Equity: Diversity and the human wealth in modes of knowing” was particularly successful in creating a global panel and discussion – with participants from countries all over the globe as well as simultaneous translation in several languages for the non-English speaking participants. Sofie Høgestøl moderated the session wonderfully, with curiosity and balance that led to many interesting and important questions, divergences and connections. We are encouraged by the emphasis made by all participants on creating a horizontalness of knowledge, and believe this session gave us all new ideas, perspectives and thoughts to take into account going forward.
We extend a great thank you to the co-organisers of this session, Norad Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation and UNDP Oslo Governance Center (OGC), as well as the University of Bergen as well as the conference Programme Commitee.