Clus­­­ter 1: Par­t­­­nership in de­­­ve­­­lop­­­ment co­ope­ra­­­ti­on: ac­cess, ac­­­coun­­­­­ta­­­bi­­­li­­­ty, and de­ep par­­­ti­ci­pa­­­ti­on

Critical research on development cooperation has concluded that despite its commitment to partnership (manifest already before SDG 17 in the principles of the Paris Declaration of 2005 and in earlier concepts) it suffers from at least three problems: 1) Its benefits are distributed unevenly and seldom reach marginalised groups (in particular women and indigenous people) (Kabeer 1994, Townsend 1995, Young 1995, Visvanathan et al. 2011, Radcliffe 2015). 2) It sometimes has problematic or even catastrophic side-effects (e.g. development-induced displacement) on its supposed beneficiaries or other project-affected people who can do little about it because of asymmetrical relations of power (Seabrook 1993, Ferguson 1994, Fox/Brown 1998, Clark et al. 2003, de Wet 2006, Easterly 2013). 3) Its mechanisms of participation are confined by the structures of the development apparatus (Cooke/Kothari 2001, Hickey/Mohan 2004, Mosse 2005, Li 2007).

Therefore, the GPN will focus on:

  • Access to development cooperation for marginalised groups (women, indigenous people, ethnic minorities, LGBTIQ persons, handicapped people)
  • Accountability of development organisations towards beneficiaries or project-affected persons. Out of a concern for equal partnerships and a high level of ownership, our research also focuses on transdisciplinary outreach (Fam et al. 2017) and on a transfer of research results. We, therefore, refer to debates on co-creation and co-production of knowledge (Mauser et al. 2013) for instance with regard to creating partnerships, project design, and implementation, and transformation knowledge.
  • Together with civil society development organisations we will explore possibilities for and restrictions of “deep” participation which does not only include project implementation but also project design and even the definition of the problem to be solved by the project. This multi-level form of participation will increase the experience of ownership and therefore contribute to the durability and sustainability of projects. Focusing on these three fields will significantly increase the level of partnership in development cooperation.

Clus­­­ter 2: Par­t­­­nership in the glo­bal eco­­­no­­­my: agri­­­cu­l­­­tu­­­re, fi­­­nan­ce, and en­­­er­gy

A serious pursuit of the SDGs requires partnerships in the global economy: The principle of policy coherence (also officially endorsed since the Paris Declaration and central to SDG 17 target 13 and 14) maintains that successful poverty reduction must not be confined to development cooperation, but has to go ‘beyond aid’ (Browne 1999) and include coherent global governance in the different fields of the global economy, preventing a situation where measures of development policy are thwarted by foreign economic policies of donor states (Ashoff 2005, Messner 2005, Ziai 2007, s. also BMZ 2017). Therefore global economic structures have to be taken into account when talking about a global partnership for sustainable development. The GPN will concentrate on three policy fields with particular significance for the SDGs, whose problem constellations and challenges highlight the importance of strong partnerships: agriculture, finance, and energy. For these fields it will provide policy recommendations for policy coherence and successful partnerships in the global economy, in particular regarding the following aspects:

  • Agriculture: Partnerships for transformation towards fair trade and organic agriculture (Raynolds 2000, Wienold 2012) and the abolition of forced labour (Gold/Trautrims/Trodd 2015). This field is particularly relevant for SDG 2 ("End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture“), 15 ("Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems“) and 8 ("Decent work for all“).

  • Finance: debt relief initiatives and stakeholder networks (Browne 1999 ch. 5, Caliari 2014, Vaggi/ Prizzon 2014), blended finance networks and investment partnerships (Pereira 2017, Mawdsley 2018, Attridge 2018, Clark et al. 2018) and microfinance initiatives (Aslanbeigui et al. 2010, Mader 2013, Duflo et al. 2013). This field is particularly relevant for SDG 8 ("Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth“) and 10 ("Reduce inequality within and among countries“).

  • Renewable energy: energy transition processes and local adaption of energy technologies in postcolonial contexts (Parthan 2010, Müller 2017, Barthel 2019). This field is particularly relevant for SDG 7 ("Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all“) and 13 ("Take urgent action to combat climate change and its Impacts“).

In all three areas, the GPN will investigate practical examples of partnerships and explore the reasons for success and failure, providing analysis and policy recommendations for policy coherence and partnerships in the global economy. This complements cluster 1 by including policy fields beyond development cooperation which are crucial to realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.

Clus­­­ter 3: Par­t­­­nership in kno­w­­­ledge pro­­­­­duc­­­ti­on: Eu­­­ro­­­cen­­­trism and al­­­ter­­­na­­­ti­­­ve kno­w­­­ledge

Knowledge sharing between partners is also a part of SDG 17 (targets 6 and 16), but whose knowledge is envisioned to be shared? The Post-Development critique (Sachs 2010, Escobar 2012, Rahnema 1997, Rist 2014) has pointed out the Eurocentrism prevalent in development knowledge: Eurocentric ontologies assume a linear scale of social evolution, at the top of which we find the ‘developed’ (i.e. industrialised, secular, capitalist, democratic) European societies (including the European settler colonies in North America and Australia). This assumption, implying e.g. that knowledge about progressive social change which helps the global South to advance along this universal scale can be found in the North and that development experts possess this knowledge (Nandy 1988, Apffel-Marglin/Marglin 1990 and 1996, Mitchell 2002, Eriksson Baaz 2005, Ziai 2016), has been challenged by postcolonial theorists stressing mutual learning; alternative, local, non- Western (to be precise: non-hegemonic, because they can also be found in the West) knowledges; and pluriversal epistemologies (Connell 2007, Comaroff and Comaroff 2015, Santos 2007 and 2014, Bhambra 2014, Ndlovu 2014, Reiter 2018, Kothari et al. 2019) and alternative, participatory and decolonised pathways to knowledge production and co-construction (Smith 2013, Bendix et al. 2019).

The GPN will investigate these alternative knowledge, their generation, diffusion and translation, and the possibilities they provide for progressive social change from the bottom up. Through providing fora and encouraging inter-cultural dialogue including marginalised peoples, it will contribute to mutual learning and foster partnerships in knowledge production. In this way, cluster 3 can also cross-fertilise and enhance the partnerships in development cooperation and global economic structures.