1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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Bridging the Gap: Conference to Explore Links Between Knowledge and Policy Making

4 Mar 2004

UNRISD Conference “Knowledge and International Policy Making: Exploring the Linkages”


April 20-21 2004, Geneva

A question often asked of United Nations organizations is whether their research on social development issues is useful for international policy making. Implicit in this question are concerns about the relevance, quality, dissemination and impact of research.

· Are researchers addressing the sorts of issues and questions of concern to policy makers?

· Do research findings reach policy makers and inform policy making both internationally and at the country level?

· Who conducts UN research, and how does research commissioned by international and bilateral agencies interact with researchers in developing countries and impact their research agenda?

· Is UN research sufficiently independent and critical?

· Can UN research add anything to that being undertaken within academic institutions and NGOs?

Also implicit in this question is the assumption that knowledge and policy stand in a direct relation to each other. To understand how research impacts policy it is necessary, however, to examine how the relationship is mediated by politics, discourse, subjectivity and learning. It is also important to understand the implications of new institutional developments associated with networking, partnerships, “knowledge agencies”, organizational learning and multistakeholder dialogues and other initiatives.

To address these issues, UNRISD is organizing a two-day conference, to be held in Geneva in April 2004, to assess the intellectual contribution of United Nations research; its impact on policy making; technical aspects related to the relevancy, co-ordination and dissemination of research; the nature of relations between international development research and the academic and activist communities, particularly in developing countries; and the current and future status of independent and critical research within the UN system. A total of 32 speakers and panellists will address these issues.

The event will also provide an occasion to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of UNRISD and to present to an international audience the report Research for Social Change, which reviews and synthesizes the findings from 40 years of UNRISD research. It will also be part of a series of activities associated with the UNRISD project “Improving Knowledge in the United Nations System”, which periodically brings together senior UN officials in a dialogue on key development issues (under this project, which is co-ordinated by UNRISD, senior UN officials meet approximately every 18 months in order to (a) examine new knowledge related to key global issues of direct relevance to their work, and (b) reflect on the construction of a coherent and progressive “UN” position on certain issues. The first two meetings of this group, held in 2000 and 2002, were attended by officials from the ILO, UNDP, UNCTAD, UNHCHR, WHO, UNESCO, UNDESA, UNIFEM, and the UN regional commissions).

This conference is expected to produce nine published documents, including:

a) eight papers to be published (subject to peer review) either as UNRISD Programme Papers or in an edited volume;

b) a report that summarizes the conference discussions. The Conference Report will be translated into French and Spanish.