The following outlines a project for the collaborative of joint Southern scholarly activities among key research networks in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The aim of the project is multifaceted and is designed to:
- Restore the culture of structured scholarly networking and collaboration among the leading regional and sub-regional social science research institutions of the South and the academic communities which they represent;
- Improve on the state of knowledge about one another by the countries of the South through direct inter-institutional, cross-regional exchanges that are designed to encourage the joint design and implementation of research and teaching programs;
- Contribute to the production and dissemination of relevant knowledge in the South that is adapted to local circumstances and built on a process of mutual learning;
- Help in the fostering of authoritative Southern voices in international scholarly and policy debates on critical issues that are germane to the advancement of the frontiers of knowledge and the promotion of new policy directions. Of particular interest in this connection are the themes of development and democracy, peace-building, post-conflict reconstruction, and the quest for justice that are at the heart of the human concerns in the 21st century and which are particularly critical both for the countries of the South and the concerned partners in the North.
The project is conceived as a modest start to a process which, by definition, will be a long one given the importance of the collaborative initiative which it seeks to develop and the ambitions that underpin it. It spells out the background to, and rationale for, the initiation of the project and details the intellectual agenda which will inform the collaboration in its first phase that is expected to run over three years, starting in 2005. The proposal also outlines the strategy and activities that will underpin this first phase of the project, the concrete outputs that can be expected and against which progress made can be evaluated, and the resources that will be required. For the purposes of steering the project over the next three years, three institutions ?one each from Africa, Asia and Latin America ?have been selected to exercise the task of coordinating the activities that are to be undertaken. The institutions, namely, the Asian Political and International Studies Association (APISA), the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), and the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO) not only command a widespread respect among sister institutions and colleagues in the North but also have a rich history of -and capacity for- research coordination and facilitation which they will be combining to ensure the success of the proposed South-South collaborative initiative. Their reach covers a very vast swathe of the global South and offers an assurance that the proposed collaborative program will be developed as an inclusive exercise that will draw participation from different regions, geographical zones, cultural-linguistic backgrounds, disciplines, methodologies, genders and generations.
Background and Rationale
Three years of joint reflections and consultations among the leading regional and sub-regional networks of social science researchers in Africa, Asia and Latin America culminated in the second half of 2004 in a decision to formally launch an initiative designed to promote a structured program of South-South research, training, and publishing collaboration. The incentives for the launching of this initiative have their origin in historical and contemporary trends which are considered both propitious and opportune for such an effort. These incentives include:
- The major improvements in South-South communications associated with the on-going ICT revolution which has gone some way to mitigate the obstacles posed by geography and poor intra- and inter-South communication and transportation linkages;
- The significant increase which has occurred over the last three decades in the institutional capacity of Southern regional research networks, which now make it both possible and sensible to seek ways to consciously build on one another’s strength;
- The increasing quest in the North, some of it driven by policy institutions and development agencies, and some of it emanating from the academy itself, for solid partnerships with capable Southern institutions as part of the conscious investment of effort to overcome the historic North-South asymmetries that continue to underpin the international knowledge system and jeopardize the possibilities of effective international cooperation;
- A greater recognition of the important benefits that can flow from a structured framework of South-South cooperation, including the role which such a framework could play in harnessing Southern voices and visibility in an increasingly global world where scale and reach are as important as quality and brand; and
- The growing appetite for Southern perspectives on a variety of international development questions, in the conviction that such perspectives are not only useful in and of themselves, but also more importantly, for shaping global analytic and policy perspectives that stand a chance of being beneficial to the maximum numbers of people across the world.
There is at least one additional reason why the launching of an initiative on South-South research cooperation such as is proposed in this document can be very useful: the severe crisis afflicting the mainstream social sciences, superbly analyzed by a prominent team of scholars led by Yale University professor Immanuel Wallerstein and synthesized in the Gulbenkian Report, and the corresponding opportunity which this crisis opens for a significant renewal of the social sciences, especially in the broad fields of economic development, democratization, peace and international justice. The crisis of the mainstream social sciences has many dimensions to it and some have suggested that a wholesale paradigmatic shift is required to overcome the observed difficulties. Whatever the position which different schools may take on this question, it is certainly true that insofar as the countries of the global South are concerned, a growing mismatch has become apparent between inherited conceptual frames and the changed/changing realities they are meant to capture. Organizing a collective Southern response to this challenge is an opportunity that deserves to be taken and which, if it were successful, could contribute to the development of epistemic social science communities capable of contributing to the articulation of an authoritative Southern voice in international academic and policy arenas through the exploration and construction of alternative scientific and theoretical paradigms. This, obviously, is a long-haul task but one which, nevertheless, must begin and which could have a critical practical influence, especially on present-day discourses related to development, governance and peace-building.
The benefits that flow from networking and collaboration among Southern scholars are numerous. For most researchers in the South, there is a basic problem of fragmentation and dispersal against which they constantly need to struggle and for which any networking is useful. The proposed network of Southern institutions built on concrete programs of collaboration will, therefore, come as a welcomed boost. Also, the possibility to be part of a professionally-based, transnational reference community constitutes another important benefit that the proposed South-South collaboration is expected to confer on participants. This is especially so as there is a widely shared concern in the South that many research communities, unable for one reason or the other to network with the broader international scientific community, are becoming boxed into narrow “national?corners with detrimental consequences for their scientific outlook and the quality of their work. Therefore, Southern scholarly collaboration has a unique potentiality to promote a truly global/globalizing approach to knowledge production through the mobilization of diverse methodological and experiential perspectives that articulate relevant regional developmental needs.
To speak of the important benefits that can accrue from South-South cooperation is one thing. To give content and meaning to these benefits is quite another thing altogether and this is where attention must be paid to the range of constraints that could stand in the way of effective collaboration if only to factor them in a realistic manner into the planning of the proposed collaboration and convert them into sources around which new strengths and capacities can be built. Of the numerous constraints that limit successful South-South collaboration, some of the most common include the problems of dissemination and distribution of the knowledge produced in the South; limited capacities to make the research outputs of Southern researchers visible at the international level; weak multilingual communication and dissemination infrastructures; and the absence of appropriate incentives and methodologies for comparative research. It is partly as a result of these constraints that Southern scholars continue to suffer a unidirectional dependence on Northern perspectives, methodological orientations and resources. The adverse implications of this situation on the prospects for the development of an autonomous Southern research agenda are too well known to bear repeating. Yet, there is much less awareness of the negative consequences that this situation produces for the North too: the lack of a genuine international exchange and debate between Northern and Southern scholars is one of the factors that has compounded the much-lamented theoretical and paradigmatic crisis of the social sciences in the North and, also, one of the key factors explaining the relative inefficacy of diverse programs of international cooperation.
The constraints identified are, however, not fatalistic and properly managed could actually begin to lead to the constitution of new sources of strength built on a realistic vision of collective solidarity. Fortunately in this regard, the need to reorient theoretical and methodological frameworks and to improve the organization of Southern research infrastructures is now well recognized by scholars of the South themselves and they are also able to draw on the understanding of their various international research partners. A program of systematic scholarly collaboration within the South has the potential to redress observed intellectual and institutional weaknesses, while enhancing learning within the South and fostering the evolution of new and alternative intellectual perspectives for the social sciences which will carry universal benefits. But in order for this potential be realized, the initial steps have to be consciously and carefully focused on the kinds of research issues and themes that are of critical importance and this point has been taken fully into account in the consultations that have occurred over the last three years preceding the elaboration of this proposal. It is also planned that the collaboration that is to be undertaken will be multilingual in character insofar as English, French, Portuguese and Spanish will be used as languages of communication among the researchers to be mobilized and for the dissemination of the results of their work.
During the 1970s and 1980s, a few and at times ad hoc initiatives to fill the lacuna in Southern research networking and global knowledge production were pursued by research networks such as the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO) and the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA). These efforts produced limited results in part because of some of the constraints referred to in the preceding paragraphs. But more importantly, they also did not rise to the expectations which motivated them because of the extremely difficult context of economic crises which Africa, Latin America and parts of Asia faced in the 1980s, crises which took a huge toll on the higher education system and generated a string of highly destabilizing conflicts that affected the academy. The lessons of the earlier experiences were borne in mind in the launching of a fresh effort at promoting South-South scientific collaboration and, fortunately in this regard, the overall political climate in different regions of the developing world has improved to one extent or the other. Thus, starting in the year 2000, a new round of consultations and efforts to ensure the revival of an effective program of collaboration among scholars in the South was launched through loose mechanisms that included preparatory workshops and the convening of South/South panels at major regional conferences. In particular, five important meetings were held to identify, test and nurture the interest of some of the key research networks of the South in making a fresh start at collaboration and building appropriate constituencies. In late 2002, there was a Conference in Uppsala, Sweden, involving research networks in the South, and at which the prospects for collaboration were discussed; in September 2002, CLACSO organized a South-South Conference in Buenos Aires on “New Challenges in Peace and Conflict Studies: What Role for the Third World? and a South-South collaborative planning process was built into it; in June 2003, the African Association of Political Science (AAPS) Congress in Durban, South Africa on “New Visions for Development in Africa?involved the participation of scholars from across the South and was followed-up with discussions on the collaboration; in October 2003, at CLACSO’s General Assembly, in Havana, Cuba, a special retreat was organized to outline the collaborative principles that could be adopted, and South-South conference panels made presentations on various themes; some of the issues arising from Havana were followed up in December 2003 in Dakar within the framework of the 30th anniversary grand finale conference and celebration of CODESRIA.
The consultative process which has been followed thus far has been anchored on the leading social sciences research networks in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and it has involved the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO), the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), the African Association of Political Science (AAPS), the Organization for Social Sciences Research in East Africa (OSSREA), the Asian Political and International Studies Association (APISA), and the Southeast Asian Conflict Studies Network (SEACSN). This inter-organizational framework has the advantage of being organically connected to numerous researchers and research institutions within and across different regions of the South, and seeking to build on the institutional processes and structures of existing networks with a respectable history and a proven track record of academic outreach activities. The commitment, however, on which this quest for South-South collaboration is being carried forward is the continuous identification and inclusion of new and additional researchers and research resources with an orientation that is appropriate to the ideals of enhanced Southern research networking.
The consensus emerging from the various consultative and preparatory meetings is that researchers in the South are already developing an epistemic community that can create, if it is given a chance, an authoritative Southern intellectual voice. To have meaning and make impact, the Southern collaboration that is called for should proceed and develop on multiple fronts, viz. : (a) a concrete thematic research agenda, which has already been identified, and which offers special incentives for the development of new theoretical and methodological perspectives; (b) a program of exchanges to be constituted through South-South conference panels designed to strengthen the process of construction of a common theoretical discourse; (c) and a rigorous planning process likely to yield a feasible and sustainable collaborative program capable of producing the expected impact in the social sciences and in the policy-making areas.
Some important results have already been achieved in this preliminary collaborative process, including: an agreement on the broad principles of managing the collaboration; a set of valuable intellectual exchanges mediated through the five major congresses and workshops referred to earlier; the dissemination of a sizeable number of scholarly papers; the receipt of some funding from Sida for planning and preparatory activities; the building contacts among Southern researchers and research institutions so that they can get to know one another better; and the establishment of a loose coordination mechanism. This proposal is the result of all these experiences and processes, and in many respects it consolidates them as a foundation for the future. That future is envisaged in longitudinal terms and it is consciously being fashioned to represent a clean break from the tentative, ad hoc character of previous efforts at building partnerships across the South. It is in the long-term perspective that underpins the thinking that informs the development of this proposal that part of its uniqueness and prospects for success stand.
Within the framework of the objectives and benefits of a South-South scientific cooperation effort as set out in the preceding sections of this document, the overall purpose of this project is to support the existing and future work of the key social sciences research networks in the South in order to:
- Enhance the production of knowledge suitable for fostering the development of alternative paradigms regarding development, democratic governance and peace building.
- Build a Southern-networked perspective on these critical issues, with the aim of feeding these into global debates in the social sciences.
The specific objectives of the collaborative program developed in the proposal include:
- Promoting a more effective generation and utilization of social science knowledge and information through the improved interaction and collaboration of scholars, research networks and institutions in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
- Facilitating a collective effort to harness thinking in the South on the challenges of development and doing this in a manner which contributes in a structured, meaningful way to the global quest for new paradigms for better understanding the problems and prospects of development.
- Developing the creative capacities of young Southern scholars.
- Enabling Southern scholars to become more visible and effective in the international quest for the promotion of new global social science knowledge, and the development of an advocacy agenda.
- Improving the outreach and dissemination of research results through multilingual publications and electronic exchanges.
- Supporting the valorization and efficient use of existing research resources and infrastructures through their use for the shared production and dissemination of knowledge.
- Enhancing the organizational capacities of partner institutions that support research through experience-sharing and other learning processes.
These objectives will be achieved through the implementation of an intellectual agenda that has been jointly defined by the collaborating institutions and which is elaborated in the section that follows.
Intellectual and Research Themes
The intellectual agenda and scientific framework of the South-South collaborative project will be organized for the next three years around reflections on a host of theoretical and empirical issues broadly pertaining to democracy, development and international politics. The agenda is designed to enable scholars from across the South to engage in a joint reflection on three broad issues that are central to the making of politics, economy and society across the developing world. The issues of democracy, development and international geopolitics offer an opportunity for researchers from the South to contribute to the re-thinking that is underway on the conceptual-philosophical foundations of economic, political and social governance at the local and international levels. This re-thinking, fuelled by the major shifts that have occurred over the last twenty years in the post-War “balance?of power and of ideas that hitherto prevailed, carry consequences for livelihoods in the South that make a concentrated Southern reflection on them to have as much of a policy relevance as an academic one. Basic questions which arise such as the relevance and/or adaptability of the emerging new perspectives on democracy, development and hegemony to the historical contexts and circumstances of the countries of the South require to be answered and this project will strive to do so, building comparative perspectives that draw from the different regions of the South in a manner that could contribute to theory-building and policy-making. Although no single, regionally undifferentiated “Southern?perspective exists, the profound intellectual meaning of this project is to pull together and synthesize the diverse, “culturally?grounded, perspectives and experiences that abound in the South, so as to develop insights and perspectives that are relevant to the concerns of the countries that comprise that region of the world. At every turn in this project, efforts will be made to apply an holistic approach able to capture the political, economic, social and cultural components of the different issues that are covered, and doing so with attention to history and context.
The need to reflect on the current international system and dominant geopolitical strategies that are emerging is made more urgent and critical by the context of persistent underdevelopment, unstable democracies, and the widespread growth of intra-state and interstate conflicts that are prevalent in the South and which derive, in part, from the growing, world-wide deficits in development and democratization. The immediate intellectual challenge that is posed is to re-visit the dominant theoretical and empirical discourses that inform current practice and think through alternatives that are capable of giving rise to innovative and dynamic systemic changes in the economy, politics and society of the countries of the South. The collaborating social science networks in the Africa/Asia/Latin America Scholarly Collaborative Program propose to meet this challenge through a three-pronged research focus that is grounded on three compelling issues in contemporary social sciences. These are:
- Democracy, Social Movements and Governance in the South;
- A Rethinking of Development at the National, Regional and Global levels;
- International Hegemony and the Countries of the South.
These three broad set of problems, thought inter-connected, have at the same time specific areas of emphasis and thematic concentration.
Project Strategy, Activities and Management
The main outcome of the project will be the building of a solid body of knowledge, information and methodologies on alternative paradigms on development and political process that are based on, and derived from, Southern perspectives, and to articulate and disseminate them in the South and in the North in order to promote change. The strategy that will be used to achieve this is to mobilize existing and new scholarships and intellectual resources in the South, through a networking process led by already established research facilitation capabilities in Africa, Asia and Latin America. A limited capacity to coordinate this transcontinental effort will be established to augment the existing networking capacities so as to expand their reach, bring coherence and focus to Southern perspectives, and increase their effectiveness in managing the essential scholarly activities required to achieve the expected outcome.
As noted earlier, the paramount goal of this program is to facilitate and support research and intellectual dialogue activities capable of adding new value to existing knowledge in the South and of developing new epistemological directions for social science research. During the first phase of this effort, the three-year project will develop common research questions and sponsor renewed attempts at promoting new paradigms and development alternatives based upon the research agenda outlined above. This research agenda will aim at taking stock of the existing research in the three thematic areas in order to assess its theoretical, methodological, and empirical value. This will lead to proposals on how to re-think existing research on these three issues and how to devise a new common research framework likely to stimulate new epistemological directions. To achieve all this requires a well-designed coordination and facilitation mechanism, the definition of concrete and achievable scholarly activities and outputs, and the setting of realistic output targets.
Project Management and Coordination
The basic activities of the South/South/South collaboration program will be coordinated mainly through the existing secretariat structures of the network partners. These include systems and capacities suitable for the following: (a) the adequate handling of research activities involving social scientists in the various countries of the three regions; (b) the organization of international conferences, workshops and summer institutes; (c) the publication of books and papers, and the translation of the resulting body of literature into languages relevant to the scientific and policy communities in the various regions. An additional capacity to coordinate and manage the trans-continental aspects of the collaboration has been set-up. Such a capacity is necessary to enhance project outreach and ownership, ensure that the program is well linked to a broad base of high-level intellectual networks and resources at the international level, North and South, and guarantee that an effective and representative project management system is put in place.
Three simple and low-cost structures have been agreed to, as follows:
First, a Project Steering Committee, comprising the representatives of each of the institutions involved in the launching of this initiative and drawn from the three regions of the South involved in the program. This Committee will be responsible for ensuring both accountability and the quality of project management processes and outputs. More specifically, the committee will monitor and review program activities in line with procedures and decisions agreed upon by institutions in the network. It will also help to mobilize resources and promote the overall development of the network and the associated institutional linkages. The Steering Committee will meet once a year to give direction to the project, review progress, and oversee the work of the Project Management Committee through the regular revision of bi-annual reports using a system of electronic correspondence. One partner will host the annual meeting of the Steering Committee and this hosting duty/right will be exercised on a rotational basis.
The Project Management Committee, which in an initial period will comprise three of the partners (CLACSO, CODESRIA and APISA), will be responsible for day-to-day activities of program management and accounting. Each of these three will lead the intellectual activities developed around one of the three research themes adopted during the first three-year phase of the project. As lead institutions, they will raise funds together, recruit scholars for the intellectual work, ensure quality control and organize the conferences, publishing and translation activities, according to agreed on and tested standards and norms. They will also involve other institutions of the South in the process of program implementation as part of a conscious effort to be inclusive. The Committee will report bi-annually to the Steering Committee and it will work under the guidance of intellectual reference groups, which will function as a scientific committee to guide the intellectual aspects of their work. For the program that has been developed for the first three years of the collaborative initiative, the three-member Project Management Committee has decided that CLACSO will exercise the function of signing all contracts with funding partners on the basis of the joint research proposal that has been developed. CLACSO will, in turn, sign sub-contracts with the other lead institutions (APISA and CODESRIA) involved in the day-to-day implementation of the agenda of collaboration for the specific activity cluster that they are to lead. CLACSO will also be responsible for submitting narrative and financial reports to funding partners for this first phase of the program, doing so on the basis of reports submitted to it by the sub-contracted institutions to which the report of the activities which it managed itself will be added, and after vetting and approval by the Project Steering Committee.
A third coordination and networking structure which has been established is an Inter-continental Advisory Group of eminent scholars, intellectuals and practitioners who are concerned with promoting Southern perspectives on meaningful development, democracy and international cooperation. Three persons representing each continent (Africa, Asia and Latin America) will be appointed by the Steering Committee, to be honorary members of the South collaborative project. Such persons, who lead crucial international organizations that are a part of the United Nations system and important social movements that have carved an important presence for themselves, will bring critical intellectual influence, contacts and experience on an advisory and supportive basis to the project. Through this group and the networks of scholars involved in the project, efforts will be made to ensure that a wider range of institutions interested in developing Southern intellectual perspectives on alternatives for the South will be incorporated in the project.
Key Activities and Outputs
The research agenda of this collaborative project will be implemented through the three sub-projects discussed above. One convening partner in each continent will lead each of these themes. The conveners will promote the establishment of thematic research networks across the three continents in collaboration with the various partners involved in the initiative. Each sub-project will execute a common set of activities including: structured research work undertaken on the basis of clearly defined terms of reference; the organization of comparative international research conferences; the publication, translation and dissemination of the results of research activities and conferences carried out; the hosting of a summer school based on their thematic focus; the facilitation of general networking and exchange activities; the provision of scientific, financial and administrative accountability for activities undertaken. While the convening institution will mainly lead the research networking activities, the rest of these activities will be implemented jointly in line with the available capacities of the three executing partners.
a) Comparative Research and International Conferences
The research activities will entail, for each year of the project and for each major theme, the commissioning of twelve (12) empirically grounded analytic papers. This will amount to thirty six (36) good quality monographs produced per year. In addition, two experienced scholars will be invited each year to prepare a review paper assessing the results of the monographs and drawing out the key cross-regional comparative theoretical, methodological and empirical issues that arise from the experiences across the South that are reported. Thus, each year there will a production of research papers including the state of the art papers, the research monographs and the review papers. These research monographs will be the products of social investigations undertaken across the South, involving the exchange of relevant data and research materials and the promotion of a dialogue on both theoretical and methodological issues among the scholars involved. The research outputs will hopefully serve as solid foundations for the elaboration of alternative methodologies and for the critical questioning of dominant theoretical structures. The papers will be discussed at three international conferences, one in each continent, related to the three main research themes and focusing on a specific sub-theme selected for that year. These materials will form the basis for the various forms of publications. It is envisaged that the more innovative research findings from these efforts might also constitute the subjects of advanced seminars to be held in strategically selected centers of knowledge in the North as part of a conscious bid to break barriers associated with existing power asymmetries.
b) Summer Institutes
One Summer Institute will be implemented each year to systematically train younger scholars on diverse Southern perspectives and to expose them to varied contexts, thus enabling them to overcome the narrowness of local discourses and scientific practices. The Summer Institutes will function in this way: every year a selected group of twelve young scholars from each region will be invited on the base of an open call for proposals to participate in a four-week special training program in research and theory conducted under the academic leadership of one of the participating networks, in one of the three continents on a rotational basis. The institutes will train the participants on various key issues pertaining to theory and methodology and relevant to the elaboration of alternative development perspectives. In this way, the young scholars will become acquainted with the academic production of the host region, its intellectual atmosphere, and its practical problems, all of which will result in the broadening of their scientific tools and visions and the enrichment of their analytical skills. Resource persons from the three continents will lead seminars and workshops, and serve as tutors for the participants who will have to write their own monographs.
c) Publications and Multi-lingual Dissemination
The Conference proceedings will be published in book form, monographs or special issues of international journals each year beginning in the second year. Electronic dissemination of selected papers will be promoted through tailor-made web-sites. A special selection of the papers resulting from the Summer Institutes is likely to be published as well. Thus, at least three books and several papers will be published each year within the framework of our collaborative project. An important aspect of building a networked Southern perspective will entail the systematic translation and dissemination of the intellectual dialogues, theoretical propositions and empirical studies undertaken within the project and other results in order to broaden the outreach and help to fertilize scholarly discussions in the South. This effort will also have as a goal to make available to international institutions, national and regional social forces and organizations as well as NGOs, the outcomes of this collaborative program and facilitate its use in their advocacy activities. Thus, dissemination will be done in three languages, namely English, French and Spanish. In addition, other dissemination strategies such as participation in book fairs and policy briefs will also be employed.
d) Networking and Exchanges
The participating networks will develop a series of activities in support of this inter-regional intellectual project in relation to their existing challenges. This will require expanded networking capacities and activities to valorize and enhance the visibility of a networked Southern perspective. Such activities will include, among others: providing participation in other workshops arranged by the partners beyond the three identified themes; other additional networking exchanges using electronic communications and newsletters; and other collaborative exchanges such as seminars, workshops and study visits.
e) Project Monitoring and Review
The project performance will be reviewed formally once each year by the Steering Committee. This review will be based on the examination of reports produced on each of the thematic sub-projects and the reports by the overall host/coordinating institution. The scientific content of the reports will also be reviewed on the basis of yearly review reports, this without prejudice to any other reports that might be presented to sub-project reference groups. Conference reports and comments from the Advisory Committee will also be examined. The project will be formally evaluated after two and a half years. Together, these processes will hopefully lead to the design of the proposal for the second phase of this South collaborative initiative.