Wednesday, 23 May 2012

KNOTS blogger

KNOTS blogger

After the honeymoon: what would a happy marriage between Brazil and Africa look like?

Posted: 23 May 2012 03:30 AM PDT


Experts and practitioners from Africa, Brazil, China, Argentina and Europe met in the capital of Brazil last week to discuss South-South cooperation for agricultural development in Africa. The diversity of stakeholders represented and the policy-research nexus that framed the debate made it a pioneering gathering on the topic.

Brazil emerged from the discussions with a powerful image of an international development actor: its domestic policy success stories are compelling, its bureaucracy is articulate and accessible and its civil society is emphatic. There is a good deal of optimism on the role of Brazilian cooperation in Africa and Brazil's flamboyant manners seem to have great appeal across the Atlantic.

The rise and establishment of Brazil as a development actor in Africa are indeed good news. It brings salutary competition into the aid system, enlarging the recipients' room for manoeuvre. Perhaps more importantly, the country has much to offer in tropical agriculture science and technology, as well as first-hand experience on agriculture growth, smallholder farmer development and poverty reduction. Notwithstanding the potential benefits, last week's seminar was also a healthy warning about some of the myths and challenges underlying the glitter of the Brazil-Africa honeymoon.


Posted: 22 May 2012 08:44 AM PDT

Ilse Oosterlaken, one of the participants in our summer school, has blogged about some of the lectures and discussions that have happened so far.

One of Ilse's blog posts reflects on a lecture by Andy Dobson on the ethics of "nudging" people towards sustainable behaviour - in other words, subtly influencing them to behave differently without them being aware of that influence.

Quote: "...One should distinguish between two levels of ethical deliberation. One is on that of the individual who has to decide whether to recycle an empty glass bottle and so on. The idea of nudging, as I understand it, is indeed that you get people to do the 'right' thing without them having to do too much thinking about it. But that does not automatically mean that ethical deliberation will disappear and/or become redundant at the societal level.

On the contrary, I think that nudging requires and presents opportunities for lots of such deliberation. What behavior is morally superior, which options do we leave out of the 'choice architecture', what are permissible ways of nudging people, where is the border between merely nudging and forcing people, when does government intervene too much in people's behavior? All such questions can and should, it seem to me, be part and parcel of public debate about sustainability..."

You can read more of this post on the 3TU.Centre blog.

Ilse has also written two other blog posts reflecting on ethical relativism and the dangers of a technocratic, managerial approach to sustainability.

Ilse works on the project "Technology & Human Development - A Capability Approach" at the 3TU.Centre for Ethics and Technology in the Netherlands. She's also a visiting fellow at the STEPS Centre.