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The politics of global assessments: the case of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD)

Published on 30 October 2009

The IAASTD – the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and
Technology for Development – which ran between 2003 and 2008, involving over
400 scientists worldwide, was an ambitious attempt to encourage local and global
debate on the future of agricultural science and technology. Responding to critiques
of top-down, northern-dominated expert assessments of the past, the IAASTD aimed
to be more inclusive and participatory in both design and process. But to what extent
did it meet these objectives? Did it genuinely allow alternative voices to be heard?
Did it create a new mode of engagement in global arenas? And what were the power
relations involved, creating what processes of inclusion and exclusion? These
questions are probed in an examination of the IAASTD process over five years,
involving a combination of interviews with key participants and review of available
documents. The paper focuses in particular on two areas of controversy – the use of
quantitative scenario modelling and the role of genetically-modified crops in
developing country agriculture. These highlight some of the knowledge contests
involved in the assessment and, in turn, illuminate four questions at the heart of
contemporary democratic theory and practice: how do processes of knowledge
framing occur; how do different practices and methodologies get deployed in crosscultural, global processes; how is ‘representation’ constructed and legitimised; and how, as a result, do collective understandings of global issues emerge? The paper
concludes that, in assessments of this sort, the politics of knowledge needs to be made
more explicit, and negotiations around politics and values, framings and perspectives,
need to be put centre-stage in assessment design.

Cite this publication

Scoones, Ian. "The politics of global assessments: the case of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD)." The Journal of Peasant Studies 36.3 (2009): 547-571.

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Publication details

published by
Taylor and Francis
authors
Scoones, Ian
language
English

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