South-North Partnership: Moving Forward to a Sustainable Future

How can we strengthen our partnerships to meet the needs of the UN 2030 agenda? The theme for this year’s digital SANORD conference was “Vitalizing partnerships – Moving forward to a sustainable future”.

How can we strengthen our partnerships to meet the needs of the UN 2030 agenda? The theme for this year’s digital SANORD conference was “Vitalizing partnerships – Moving forward to a sustainable future”.



This year’s SANORD conference offered fruitful discussions on South-North partnership, as well as rewarding exchanges of ideas and research. The conference highlighted the importance of trans-disciplinary exchange of knowledge, ideas and research between institutions and individuals in Southern Africa and the Nordic region. Here are some of the conference highlights in which also GRIP was involved.

Keynote: Maria Paula Meneses

GRIP’s affiliate Maria Paula Meneses gave one of the keynotes at the conference. The session was moderated by GRIPs executive director Bjørn Enge Bertelsen, with discussant Pamila Gupta. The keynote was titled “Food as knowledge, interconnecting the Global South” and introduced taste, aromas, and food as an important part of the epistemologies of the South.


Maria Paula Meneses is a Principal researcher at the Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra. Her research focuses on the political history and socio-legal complexity of southern Africa, especially in Mozambique, Angola and South Africa. At the heart of her interests are the relations between knowledge, power and societies. Paying special attention to people who experienced the violence of the colonial encounter her academic and activist endeavors seek ways to decolonize knowledge and contribute towards the epistemologies of the South.


In her keynote, Meneses transported us to kitchens filled with aromas, spices and knowledge, highlighting the importance of food epistemology. She asserted the need for an epistemological shift where alternative knowledges are brought forward, asking how can we humanize our knowledge, moving beyond the condition of cognitive injustice in the South?

Maria Paula Meneses during her keynote presentation/ Picture from Zoom event

Meneses offered critical reflections on the contemporary challenges within knowledge production processes, in which the North is perceived as an exceptional center of modernity, thus making the African continent a symbol of periphery and underdevelopment. Knowledge from the North is perceived with a supposedly universal and global value, compared to knowledge from the South which has been limited to local and traditional value. This manifests how the epistemic colonial project continues to function today.

 “We should co-produce knowledge, not produce knowledge of each other”

While doing her fieldwork, Meneses was invited into kitchens around the world and food for her was a way to engage in cultures, traditions and explore networks of knowledge. She explained how kitchens were a space where women could share practical knowledge and experiences. And it is precisely through food that their knowledge, daily life and struggles may be discovered. Meneses contends that through senses, food and social interaction one can rediscover knowledge that has been silenced by oppression and power. Meneses keynote, indeed, invited the audience to rethink their own epistemic assumptions by highlighting how food can be an important arena of knowledge!


Epistemic Parallel Sessions

The conference sub-themes were covered with parallel sessions under six separate tracks: Climate, Education, Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Education, Epistemic, Health and Music & Arts. GRIP was involved in the development of the Epistemic track and Bjørn Enge Bertelsen was the moderator for one of the five epistemic sessions.

The Epistemic track presented different types of partnerships and showcased it as an excellent arena for experimentation. We were introduced to successful collaboration projects, challenges of decolonising epistemology and several opportunities for future partnerships.


SANORD conference highlighted how good, innovative and equal partnerships are important in challenging the problematic epistemic traditions and in building a truly inclusive collaborations. GRIP extends its gratitude to the conference organizers and looks forward to the next SANORD conference.