This session focused on the potential of knowledge-based mechanisms to accelerate progress towards the sustainable development goals (SDGs). The session was moderated by Mr Neesham Spitzberg (Senior Program Manager at the International Finance Corporation at the World Bank Group) and opened by Mr Otmar Oduber (Vice Prime Minister of Aruba). Oduber highlighted that people possess a lot of knowledge which should be tapped into and shared for the benefit of the SDGs, and the promotion of a knowledge-driven economy. He explained that Aruba is aligning the SDG targets with policies, but that the use of knowledge for policy-making is often inhibited by the fragmentation of information.
Considering the enormous challenges faced by governments to achieve the SDGs, Mr Zachary Bleicher (International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Representative at the UN) explained that the allocation of funding is only part of the solution, identifying the need to leverage ‘all the knowledge we can find’. Bleicher focused on the role of local knowledge providers in providing local solutions that could be scaled-up to address global challenges. For example, many farmers have intimate knowledge about their products, and their expertise could be combined to influence policies.
Mr Ariel Halpern (Vice President of PROCASUR Corporation) shared a number of lessons learned in supporting governments to engage with local knowledge providers and scale-up bottom-up solutions that enable change. For this to happen, local know-how and its contribution to sustainable development needs to be revalued and the public sector needs to recognise the local population as service providers. This would allow for solutions that produce lasting change and that are not only owned, but created, by the people.
Connecting remotely, Ms Sarah Cummings (Managing Director of the Knowledge for Development Partnership (K4DP)) emphasised the need to build on existing platforms and frameworks, and not to reinvent the wheel. The K4DP has developed the Agenda Knowledge for Development to complement the SDGs, focusing on the development of an inclusive knowledge society that is people-focused and based on partnerships, closes rural-urban linkages, and taps into local knowledge markets. The agenda can be ‘adopted and adapted’ by national governments.
Mr Arno Boersma (Manager of the Aruba Centre of Excellence (COE) for Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS)) focused on both literally and metaphorically ‘bridging islands of knowledge’, promoting knowledge sharing among SIDS, which are often faced with similar challenges. The COE assists policy-makers in SIDS to manage knowledge flows and share best practices through events, case studies, and online tools. Boersma emphasised the need to adopt a demand-driven approach to knowledge management activities, highlighted the potential of leveraging networks that already exist, and added that activities should also be appealing and fun.
Bearing in mind that a lot of initiatives are being taken by individual champions, Mr Laurent Porte (South-South Facility Program Manager at the World Bank) stressed the potential of knowledge exchange between developing countries as an efficient tool to accelerate development policies. The World Bank has facilitated many South-South knowledge exchanges, and Porte shared examples from exchanges between Burundi and Cambodia, as well as between Madagascar and Bangladesh, which both resulted in successful pilot projects. The World Bank provides assistance in both stand-alone and more systematic knowledge exchanges, and has developed a toolkit for knowledge exchange, as well as a more comprehensive organisational knowledge sharing methodology.
Mr Will Amos (Member of Parliament, Canada) identified a ‘positive path towards evidence-based decision-making’ in Canada, especially in its engagement with indigenous peoples. Whereas their knowledge was previously often excluded, there has been an active effort to incorporate their knowledge in policy-making. A better understanding of what is happening ‘on the ground’ and fostering connections at the local level will be valuable for the collection and dissemination of local knowledge.
The panellists’ presentations were followed by a discussion with the participants. The discussion touched on the role of libraries in democratising knowledge and providing a space for collaboration. In addition, the question was raised of how to create a demand for knowledge among policy-makers, considering that ‘knowledge is still power’, which often inhibits knowledge sharing. Finally, the discussion explored the possible mechanisms for matchmaking, both between actors that face similar challenges and between local communities and decision-makers.