Norwegian development research on the offensive

Relevance, a broad thematic scope and the utility of the research results in terms of informing policy formulation are key considerations for the Research Council’s major development program, Norway – A Global Partner (NORGLOBAL). A recent NORGLOBAL seminar attended by researchers, public administrators and program staff, confirmed that the research is on the right track.

In the wake of the publication of Report No. 30 to the Storting (2008-2009), Climate for Research, greater attention than ever is being focused on development research and Norway’s role in dealing with global challenges.

Difficult and important challenges

The NORGLOBAL program seeks to strengthen Norwegian research on and in cooperation with countries in the South. The program has incorporated the former research program Poverty and Peace Research (POVPEACE) and also includes several other activities. There are currently more than 50 ongoing projects under the program.

Some 70 people from the research community and the public administration attended the seminar on March 9 to discuss project results and strategies for future development research.

Broad thematic scope

One of the featured speakers at the seminar, Professor Uma Kothari from the University of Manchester, was impressed with the program’s success in achieving thematic and geographic breadth. The projects presented at the seminar focused on areas ranging from ethics and human rights to conflicts in post-war zones, and included local studies conducted in close to 40 countries.

Professor Kothari pointed out that when project funds are allocated funding bodies often favor certain countries. This had not been the case under the NORGLOBAL program. She also commented on the fact that the projects closely reflect the overall needs of policymakers.

Critical research essential

Crises, development economics and poverty were among the themes addressed by keynote speaker Jomo Kwame Sundaram, whose lecture discussed, among other themes, how the definition of poverty can affect the designation of policy. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, or Jomo K.S. as he is more widely known, is Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development in the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of development economics.

“Different economic definitions lead to different figures as to the number and distribution of poor people in the world and can give a misleading picture of the way the trend is going,” explained Jomo K.S. He also presented a number of indicators showing that global inequality has grown.

Jomo K.S. emphasized the importance of giving support to research that is critical to, and not just used to legitimize, policy. “We need resources to develop research that leads to genuine development,” he concluded. This view was shared by Professor Kothari, who noted that the research funded under the NORGLOBAL program could be more critical and could be directed towards challenging traditional ways of thinking to a greater extent.

Results must be applied

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) are major users of research findings generated under the NORGLOBAL program. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs spends more than NOK 1 billion on research every year. Only a minor proportion of this is channelled through the Research Council.

The need to promote the systematic application of research results and to enhance cooperation with researchers was emphasized by all. Asbjørn Løvbræk, Senior Adviser at Norad, took up Jomo Kwame Sundaram’s thread and stressed the importance of generating results that not only endorse current policy, but also refute it.

Key projects

Participants at the seminar were given insight into more than 20 projects with a wide range of topics including farmers’ rights and the management of diversity of species in agriculture, the connection between poverty and sustainable small-scale fisheries in developing countries, and conflicts that arise in post-war situations.

Source: Research Council of Norway

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