The inequality of knowledge


By Clare Gorman*

As global crises persist deep into 2012, more attention is finally being given to how the growing number of inequalities faced by poor people and developing countries might be addressed. From initiatives such as the Beyond 2015 campaign, the Inequality Network and the new UN committee commissioned to look at the future of the millennium development goals , individuals and organizations are seeking renewed efforts to tackle inequality as first set out in the Millennium Declaration.

But in all this talk, whose is the knowledge that counts? How can these problems be addressed if their solutions don’t contain answers from those directly affected? And how prepared are initiatives such as these and others like them prepared to act on their advice?

In their Poverty Matters blog, Fit for the Future Lysa Jogn and Stephen Hale emphasize the importance of bringing the perspective of southern countries and citizens to the front of conversations concerning the MDGs and what happens next.  “Where are the voices of the poor in this process?” they ask. “The conversation at present is overwhelmingly between northern governments and think tanks.”

So where to start? The recent ‘Academic Spring’ led by Northern academics calling for open access to scientific knowledge has helped highlight some of the inequities involved in accessing research – but if you they think they’ve got it bad, spare a thought for their Southern counterparts. As a programme dedicated to promoting and sharing knowledge from and for the Global South, GDNet has long been aware of the barriers that Southern researchers experience to having their knowledge influence global debates on development. Most striking is GDNet’s own survey data that points to the dominance of northern academic practices making it harder for southern research to be seen on an equal footing.

In an attempt to address this inequality of whose knowledge matters, GDNet is launching a new campaign to encourage members of the development research and policy communities to adopt a more inclusive approach to southern research. The Connect South campaign calls on people and organisations working in development to pledge their support by asking them to sign up to a Charter of Commitment which outlines how they will help southern researchers to communicate their work better and more widely.  For example, Organizations might promise to host events that raise the issues facing southern researchers while individuals might promise to contribute to blogs and online discussions to raise debate on the issue.

The need is greater than ever for knowledge and experience from the South to inform responses to global inequality and what happens after 2015. The Connect South campaign is a way to focus attention on the value of southern research and the distinctive contribution the southern perspective can make to the knowledge and understanding of complex issues. To find out more  or make a pledge yourself, visit

Watch the Connect South Presentation:

*An Independent Communications Consultant, previously worked at The Institute of Development Studies for Communication as a Communications Officer, PR and Marketing Officer at UK Youth Program coordinator at UNICEF UK.