Tag: Sustainable development

DN Debatt: Four solutions to increase research in Swedish development policy

Cooperation for sustainable development

There is almost consensus on the importance of science and research to solve global challenges, such as the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Despite this, there are major shortcomings in the collaboration between decision-makers and researchers, write the Vice-Chancellor of Uppsala University and the President of Karolinska Institutet together with the Chair, Co-Chair and Director of the Swedish Development Research Network (SweDev), in an op-ed published by Dagens Nyheter.

Today, the world is facing several crises and the work with sustainable development has never been more relevant. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw increases in both inequality and poverty in the world. The effects of global warming are visible globally, for example, through prolonged drought and heavy monsoon rains. Science and research are crucial to solving these challenges.

Research is needed to be able to understand complex processes, the expressions and solutions to poverty, but also to achieve results in Sweden’s development policy. Studies conducted by SweDev show that despite that both decision-makers and researchers say that integrating research-based knowledge is important, interaction between them is poor. Decision-makers say that they do not have time to read and use research and researchers say that they do not have knowledge on what is current in policy-making.

“Changes are needed to increase the use of research in Sweden’s development policy”

Four concrete proposals for measures on how to increase collaboration between researchers and decision-makers in development policymaking are presented in the op-ed written by Anders Hagfeldt, Vice-Chancellor of Uppsala University; Ole Petter Ottersen, President of Karolinska Institutet; Jesper Sundewall, Vice Chair of SweDev and Docent in global health systems at Lund University and the University of KwaZulu-Natal; Fredrik Söderbaum, Chair of SweDev and Professor in peace and development research at Gothenburg University and Janet Vähämäki, Director of SweDev at Stockholm Environment Institute.

Government and government agencies must:

  1. Give research-based knowledge greater weight in decision-making. It is a failure that decision-makers state that they do not have time to use research in their work. That development policy must be based on research and evidence should be given. The new government needs to emphasize the importance of research-based policymaking in both policy documents and appropriation letters to the Swedish Development Cooperation Agency Sida, and other relevant government agencies. The Government Office and government agencies should prioritize research-based decision-making in their work. The authorities need to develop processes for the integration of research-based knowledge in decision-making and give employees time and resources for this. Special programmes are needed to connect researchers and research to the implementation of aid projects and for researchers to be able to serve in international organizations.
  2. Stop the dismantling of the Swedish academic resource base. The Swedish Development Cooperation Agency, Sida, has recently announced the discontinuation of programs for competence development within the academy such as Minor Field Studies, the Linnaeus-Palme program and the global school. Programmes for knowledge development and partnerships with Swedish researchers (for example through SweDev) have also been denied funding. The decisions go against the needs for increased competence in sustainable development. Without broad Swedish expertise on development issues, the quality of development cooperation will be undermined. The government must therefore stop the dismantling of the Swedish resource base and instead make it clear that continued investment in Swedish research competence with relevance to the 2030 Agenda is needed.
  3. Institutionalize long-term collaboration platforms for development and sustainability issues. Knowledge-sharing, co-creation of knowledge and exploring new research areas are fundamental to increasing innovation in development issues and for the 2030 Agenda. Programmes such as the Swedish Institute for Global Health Transformation (SIGHT) and SweDev have both contributed to building broad systematic platforms where decision makers can collaborate with researchers, including actors in business and civil society. The government needs to ensure that these types of arenas are given the conditions to be institutionalized and developed.
  4. Researchers and the research community must place greater emphasis on how research findings can be used in decision-making. Researchers’ collaboration with society is one of the main tasks of academia but needs to be given higher priority. Researchers need to be given opportunities to increase their knowledge of decision-making conditions and how research findings can be used by decision-makers.

Sweden has a strong tradition of conducting research and building knowledge relevant to development and sustainability issues. Therefore, Sweden should also take responsibility for the research findings being used to solve challenges such as the global sustainability goals.

A great responsibility lies on the researchers. At the same time, politics must create opportunities for better collaboration between decision-makers and researchers. This requires strategic investments to integrate research into decision-making, and to maintain and renew the Swedish resource base.

Transcript of the op-ed written by Ylva Rylander, Communications Officer for SweDev at Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). Edited by Janet Vähämäki, Director of SweDev and Team Lead for Development and Aid Policy at SEI.

Research Associate for bioeconomy at SEI

book, man, leather bag

Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) Latin America is recruiting for a Research Associate to support the centre’s work related to the bioeconomy in pursuit of a more sustainable future for human communities and natural ecosystems, contributing to the management and implementation of research, policy engagement and capacity development activities.

Deadline

21 September 2022.

Employment

Fixed-term employment, full time, in Bogotá, Colombia.

Main responsibilities

  • Conduct market studies and analysis for bioproducts and services derived from agricultural commodities and/or natural biodiversity and propose competitive strategies to improve economic, social and environmental performance.
  • Generate sustainable business plans for bioproducts or bioresources within the bioeconomy.
  • Conduct value chain and value web analysis to identify opportunities for improved sustainability and competitiveness related to bioproducts or bioresources within the bioeconomy. Provide recommendations to businesses, trade associations and allied institutions to realize these opportunities.
  • Evaluate impacts and performance on income and employment generation for bioeconomy plans, programs, projects and businesses.
  • Prepare written material to disseminate project results, including reports, scientific publications, guides, manuals and presentations.
  • Supervise the work of technical staff and external consultants related to project activities.
  • Support fundraising and the development of new proposals relevant to the bioeconomy line of research.
  • Promote collaboration with other research lines within SEI Latin America through joint work and proposal development.

About SEI

Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) is an independent international research institute founded in 1989. Its mission is to support decision-making and induce change towards sustainable development around the world by providing integrative knowledge that bridges science and policy in the field of environment and development. SEI ranked second among the most influential environment think tanks in the world in the 2020 Global Go To Think Tank Report compiled by the University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program.

SEI has around 300 employees working at research centres in seven countries around the world. SEI’s headquarters are located in Stockholm, Sweden, with other centres in Estonia (SEI Tallinn), Kenya (SEI Africa), Thailand (SEI Asia), the UK (SEI Oxford and SEI York) and the US (SEI US).

Robbing mothers of their joy and pride -extortion by the health fraternity

Mother and her child. Photo: Photo: Oyemike Princewill / Unsplash.

In my country, Ghana, children are the joy of their mothers and the pride of their fathers. The birth of a child is a special moment not just for the couple but the entire family. In many societies, particularly in Africa, childbirth is celebrated across the entire community, and rightly so.

Children are precious and looking into their eyes is like looking into happiness and peace itself. The soothing, warmth, and relaxed feeling of holding a baby the first time, their smell and smile just takes all my worries away.

I understand why many parents seem to forget their troubles when their baby is born. Mothers especially know this; once the cry of the baby is heard, feelings of pain, frustration, and fear vanish as if they were never felt. This precious moment of tranquil existence could be for every mother. Or at least that is what I thought until my friend and his wife were burdened with paying a hospital bill after their daughter was born. Bills that they are never supposed to pay in a country that claims to have a policy of Free Maternal and Child Health Care. Our joy turned to fury when we uncovered that unbeknown to us, it was a routine hospital practice to charge insurance beneficiaries fees for deliveries even though delivery services are covered by the insurance.

The hefty hospital bills that many mothers and their partners are made to pay after delivery in Ghana has the potential of preventing the country from meeting the Sustainable Development Goal 3 targets to reduce maternal mortality and neonatal mortality rates and advance towards universal health coverage including financial protection. According to the WHO (2017), preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth claim the lives of about 810 women daily with many deaths occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa. Severe haemorrhage, sepsis, pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, delivery complications, and unsafe termination of pregnancy result in about 3/4th of all maternal deaths. The maternal mortality rate and neonatal mortality rate in Ghana are more than 4.5 times and 2.3 times their targets respectively UNICEF 2015 report revealed.

Reducing maternal deaths

In Ghana, the Free Maternal and Child Health Care policy within the National Health Insurance Scheme supposedly provides fee-free antenatal care, normal or assisted deliveries, caesarean section, and post-natal care. The insurance’s establishment in 2003 was intended to replace the infamous “Cash and Carry” system, fee-paying, and provide access to healthcare to all Ghanaians. It has reduced maternal deaths and one study showed increased hospital delivery by 5-fold and even extremely high fold increases for antenatal and postnatal care visits for maternal beneficiaries. Through the policy, Ghana has made strides to reduce maternal deaths with a high impact rapid delivery programme in health facilities by midwives, through items such as skilled attendant deliveries.

But as my story above revealed, things are far from perfect. Many have complained of paying non-refundable deposits to various health care facilities with a regional minister expressing great sadness about the extortion of monies from insurance beneficiaries. A documentary with the dramatic name  “Pay or Die” in 2021 highlighted the involvement of the hospital management team, medical officers, and midwives in extorting money from mothers after delivery with total disregard for their professional roles. They exploited mothers financially. These practices can hinder progress in reducing maternal and neonatal deaths, and reverse the trust placed in the healthcare system as many poor mothers would choose to deliver at home where skilled birth attendants are lacking, and the expertise and equipment needed to manage complications during and after delivery are non-existent.

Some argue that the extortion reported in delivery wards occurs as a result of factors such as poor financing, mismanagement, lack of transparency and corruption of the scheme that leads to delay or non-payment of claims to hospitals leaving hospitals in debt; many of whom may stop providing services. Regardless of explanations there is no way to justify this extortion. Though the scheme has condemned extortion and urged beneficiaries to read the scheme handbook to know their benefits, report attempted extortion and set up a committee to tackle corrupt practices, measures taken are inadequate.

“There is a need for a collaborative effort”

I argue that there is the need for a collaborative and consented effort of the insurance managers, health care providers, and other stakeholders such as the Ministry of Health, health regulatory agencies, civil society, interest groups, beneficiaries, the media, and the public to find solutions. This will include investigating and bringing extortionists to book publicly, and empowering mothers to assert their benefits. While doing these, the scheme must also ensure prompt payments of claims to health care providers. These measures are important to build public trust and social capital to help achieve the outcomes intended, one of which is to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality. Only when mothers can freely access the free maternal and child health care policy will they enjoy and reminisce on the joy and pride of the birth of their baby.


Written by Prince Attah Obeng, Master Student in Public Health at the Faculty of Medicine at Lund University. Edited by Jesper Sundewall, associate professor of health economics at HEARD at University of KwaZulu-Natal and of Global Health Systems at the Social Medicine and Global Health division at Lund University.

What is development studies?

Our partners EADI recently published a paper titled What is Development Studies? The paper argues that development studies is, despite some understanding of its meaning, also contains different approaches. The paper seeks to highlight these differentiations and to understand both commonalities and differences. Read a blog post by author Andy Sumner, Professor of Development Studies at King’s College London, below.

“Development Studies is an established area of scholarly enquiry, which implies some consensus over what the study of development entails. Does such a consensus exist?”

The Debate Revisited

“Although there is some common understanding on Development Studies being about ‘development’ and inter-disciplinary as well as normative in orientation, there is a set of quite different approaches to Development Studies is or what Development Studies should be. 

There are several waves of literature since the end of the Cold War on the question of the identity of Development Studies.”

So what?

“Yet, there is more unpacking to do. Each approach has been outlined in crude aggregate. Furthermore, each approach encompasses various sub-approaches; and different disciplines, methodologies, and ways of knowing are dominant in each. There is also a need to lay bare the uneven power bases and outlets in which any conversations might happen. In short, to fully understand the different approaches to Development Studies, there is a need to comprehend the institutional basis of each in departments and journals. Both the latter are typically based in the North, albeit with increasing diversity on editorial teams and boards. 

Specifically, there is a set of questions to probe further to understand the politics of knowledge generation in Development Studies, such as: Where is each approach anchored in terms of countries, research institutes/university departments, and research funders? Where do researchers in each approach publish in terms of journals, working paper series, and books? Lastly, are those publications in Development Studies or in the researchers’ ‘home’ disciplines? 

Exploring these further would be a useful next step to developing a conversation.”

This text was first published by Andy Sumner at EADI blog.

SweDev presents awarded grants from the Swedish Research Council 

Library

The Swedish Research Council recently announced the awarded grants within development research applied for in 2021. Out of 248 applications, 59 were approved grants, distributed across several research centres, Swedish universities, and various thematic areas.   

In this SweDev’s article series, we interview awarded researchers to learn more about their research contributing to the 2030 Agenda.

Raine Isaksson, Senior Lecturer (Docent) at Uppsala University will study affordable and low carbon building in Sub Saharan Africa.

Raine Isaksson, Uppsala University.

Q: Briefly describe your research project. Why do you think the Swedish Research Council picked your project to be funded?

A: The project “Low-cost construction with a low carbon footprint in sub-Saharan Africa” follows my 10 years working background in Africa and my expertise developed within cement manufacturing and in low-cost building material production. The project is related to several issues of sustainable development and concerns both climate and poverty aspects.

Q: Why are the research contributions you hope to make important?   
A: Hopefully, the research results will be put into practice within a reasonable period of time to lower the prices of building materials and reduce the environmental footprint.  

Q: SweDev aims to increase the interaction between development researchers and practitioners. How can practitioners working with sustainable development use the outcomes of your research?   

A: It’s hard to say. For those working in the field, the results may be an indication that research is needed in technology-poor areas that can help poor people. In general, the project also exemplifies Action Research and Innovation Action Research.

 

At the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), SweDev Steering Committee member and Researcher Linda Engström explores how cancelled land deals affect smallholder farmers’ land access and livelihoods in Eastern Africa.


Written by Alessandro Giacardi, Communication and Research Intern at Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) for the Development and Aid Policy Team and SweDev.

New Research School on sustainable development and poverty reduction

Women collecting fire wood for cooking.

A new Research School on sustainable development and poverty reduction has been granted funds from the Swedish Research Council. The school is a collaboration between strong development research environments at Lund University, the University of Ghana, University of Gothenburg, and Uppsala University, and builds on SweDev’s network.  

The three Swedish partners are members of SweDev. SweDev supports the school as collaborators, and the emerging Swedish Development Research Doctoral Network (SweDocNet), currently being established as part of SweDev, will be particularly important. 

”This is a fantastic opportunity to strengthen doctoral training related to sustainable development. I expect the Research School to generate innovative and creative thinking, not only in terms of training but also in regard to collaboration and knowledge production.”  

Kristina Jönsson, coordinator and Associate Professor at Lund University

The Research School on sustainable development and poverty reduction has two overarching objectives: to offer novel, boundary-crossing, high-quality doctoral training; and to strengthen research collaboration and networks between the four universities as well as between individual doctoral students within and beyond these universities. In so doing, the school seeks to foster a new generation of doctoral students that are better equipped to meet current and future challenges related to achieving sustainable development. 

Applications will be open to doctoral students from the four partners but also from other universities and from any discipline. The work program is structured in five activities: (a) jointly developed interdisciplinary doctoral courses, (b) a monthly research seminar, (c) policy dialogues with invited guests intended to bridge the gap between research and policy, (e) a mobility program, and (e) other capacity-building and skills training activities.  

The Research School will run during four years (2022-2025), coordination and administration will be managed by Lund University. A programme committee and an international advisory board will oversee its work. 

The intention is to continue beyond the project ending, with the ambition to create a Swedish national research school on sustainable development and poverty reduction.