Alexandria crowds 2013-07-01 23 23 36UNESCO and the ISSC organised an expert group meeting, entitled Global justice, poverty and inequality in the post-2015 development agenda at UNESCO in Paris, France. Distinguished experts from different countries and regions gathered to reflect on how to achieve global justice by using knowledge that is already available and how to empower excluded people to work towards eliminating poverty, inequality and injustice.

The meeting took place in the context of UNESCO’s preparation of inputs into the process of developing the Sustainable Development Goals for the post-2015 development agenda and the ISSC’s preparation of its two flagship programmes: the World Social Science Forum in 2015 and the World Social Science Report in 2016.

The meeting was an opportunity for social scientists to contribute through a renewed narrative on social justice to achieve an enhanced vision of poverty eradication and to promote global equality.

Specific objectives of the meeting included:

  • advancing a systemic framing for our understanding of extreme poverty, inequality and global justice;
  • developing action-oriented messages and recommendations whereby global justice is incorporated into the post-2015 development agenda and its associated monitoring framework;
  • setting an agenda of priority topics and questions that the social sciences now need to address
  • identifying innovative contributions and critical gaps in what the social sciences have done and could be doing in this area of research.

The participants stressed that the lack of justice is a tragedy in many parts of the world and that it is crucial to understand how poverty, inequality and injustice are created and perpetuated for many people around the world.

Lively exchanges took place on several key questions such as:

  • How can we create social change that is compatible with a just world?
  • What type of critical thinking is needed to advance global justice?
  • How can we integrate the crucial role of context-specific phenomena into reflections on global justice?
  • How can we avoid technocratic approaches that harm poor people and often result in them becoming further excluded?

Although responses to those questions revealed a rich diversity of ideas, experts agreed with the basic notion that advances towards global justice involve harnessing and using knowledge that is already available. The main challenge is political: empowering people to transform the mechanisms that produce poverty, inequality and injustice.

Participants agreed that the most important questions are who sets the agenda and who is it for. Ensuring that the voices of the excluded are heard and included is of paramount importance and should be the guiding principle in designing the post-2015 development agenda.

The discussions aimed at providing conceptual clarification and exploring recent theoretical work in the context of sustainable development discourse and associated processes. Existing key contributions from the social sciences were assessed, identifying knowledge gaps, priority areas and questions and new, innovative ideas. The debate focused on connections between normative ideas and public activism on global justice and explored the role and limits of academia in shaping public opinion. Participants considered the question of how to move from reasoned criticism of global injustice to a politically influential discourse on global justice, and the weight of ‘the local’ in shaping public notions of ‘the global’.

The final session explored suggestions from participants in how to strengthen the relevance and importance of global justice and equality in the post-2015 agenda. They also suggested topics and themes for the 2015 World Social Science Forum, in Durban, South Africa next year and the 2016 World Social Science Report.

See original article and UNESCO-MOST webpage