International Conference on Research for Development in Bern

Press release, 8 September 2017

From 5 to 8 September 2017, the University of Bern hosted the 4th International Conference on Research for Development (ICRD 2017). Under the umbrella theme of “Evidence. Engagement. Policies”, some 300 participants from around the world discussed opportunities and challenges of global sustainable development and explored ways of solving sustainability problems. ICRD 2017 was designed to facilitate exchange between research, policy, and practice, with the aim of better integrating scientific knowledge into policymaking processes and supporting implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Conference was organized by the Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development (r4d programme) of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Swiss National Science Foundation, together with the University of Bern’s Centre for Development and Environment.

Promoting dialogue between science, policy, society, and business

The 2030 Agenda, which Switzerland was heavily involved in developing, underscores in its Sustainable Development Goal 17 (“revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development”) that the successful implementation of the Agenda is only possible through partnerships between policy, science, civil society, and business. “Researchers have to work together with all affected actors to jointly develop implementation pathways,” said Esther Mwangi, a Kenyan researcher at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), in her speech at ICRD 2017. Esther Turnhout, Professor of Forest and Nature Conservation Policy at the University of Wageningen, warned that science risks losing touch with the reality it seeks to improve: “Science should not only be more engaged, but also more politically aware.” Research questions should therefore undergo a process of critical reflection and be more focused towards societal needs.

Mobilizing financial means

Successful implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals requires comprehensive and continuous funding. The means provided by official development assistance are not enough to reach the CHF 5 to 7 billion needed annually to implement the 2030 Agenda. “A stronger involvement of the private sector and the promotion of joint private and public financing models is essential,” emphasized Michael Gerber, Ambassador and Special Envoy for Global Sustainable Development at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Dina Pomeranz, Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Zurich, added that many developing countries had made great progress on taxation issues. She observed that many countries had successfully increased revenues from taxation and were clamping down on evasion, thereby increasing their resources to finance development efforts.

Building research partnerships across borders

The 2030 Agenda must now be defined and implemented at the country level. Dealing with the complex challenges that arise in the implementation of the Agenda requires new ways of thinking and working. Science can make a great contribution to developing them. “Investing in long-term research partnerships with developing countries is essential to providing knowledge for negotiation, learning, and decision-making processes,” says Thomas Breu, conference organizer and Director of the Centre for Development and Environment at the University of Bern. “The UK, for example, has recognized this, and is investing about CHF 2 billion over the next five years in research capacity on global challenges. In Switzerland, research for sustainable development should be strengthened in the next Federal Dispatch on Education, Research, and Innovation, as well as the Dispatch on International Cooperation.”

Contact: Thomas Breu, Director, Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern, Tel: +41 31 631 30 58,

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