By Adrian Ely, Manifesto project convenor
The Science and Democracy World Forum is part of a growing movement responding to the challenges of sustainability and development. At this year’s event in Dakar, there are about 300 participants from 90 organisations across the world, with strong representation from the global South and a large number of African delegates.
The SDWF was started in Belem, Brazil in 2009, and this year came to Dakar in advance of the World Social Forum. Since 2009, numbers at the SDWF have doubled, while attendance at the WSF itself has declined – perhaps a sign of an increasing global (sub-)politics of science technology in the run-up to the Rio+20 summit next May.
The groups represented at the forum are hugely diverse – ranging from those working to improve science education at different levels, to organisations focussing on pro-poor technologies or ‘traditional knowledge’, to advocacy groups campaigning for the democratisation of ‘emerging technologies’. I presented the STEPS Centre project Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto, which talks to many of these concerns.
The issues discussed at the many workshops during the forum included some of those highlighted in the Multimedia Manifesto, in particular the important role of civil society in transforming innovation systems, the need for more strategic and inclusive governance of science, technology and innovation at national and international levels, and demands for increased accountability in policies and investments around science, technology and innovation.
I’m particularly encouraged by the solidarity shown across the broad spectrum of people here. There is a sense of a global movement, gathering momentum, that recognises the contributions of knowledge and innovation of all kinds – not only “scientific” – in addressing challenges of sustainability and development.