SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Sustainability Hub in Latin America

The STEPS Centre, jointly run by SPRU and the Institute of Development Studies, is establishing a global consortium to link research on sustainability across a series of worldwide hubs.

STEPS América Latina is the latest regional hub of the Pathways to Sustainability global consortium to be launched.

Launched on 5-6 November in Buenos Aires the event ‘Opening up the development agenda’ brought together diverse perspectives from Latin America and beyond on how pathways to sustainability can be researched, debated and fostered.

A key theme was how to make sure that science and development include vulnerable and marginalised people. This was addressed through panels on ‘inclusive innovation’ and ‘open science’.

Speakers included Adrian Ely, from SPRU on nurturing local and rural innovation, Uruguayan academic Judith Sutz, discussing ‘undone science’, Argentinean architect and researcher Paula Peyloubet on knowledge and inclusion, Benito Juarez, on digital fabrication for Latin America, and Anabel Marin of STEPS América Latina on natural resource dilemmas.

Many countries in Latin America face a big dilemma, as Anabel Martin pointed out, their economies’ dependence on natural resources has grown in recent years. But they are also seeing negative environmental and social impacts of the exploitation of these resources – for example, by extractive industries and intensive agriculture.

Some are in denial about this dilemma. Others seek to solve it by putting their faith in technology. The discussion at the launch showed that too often, perspectives and experiences from the grassroots and civil society are unfairly overlooked.

Opening up research and innovation to more diverse groups, and allowing them to define different questions and priorities, is not easy. It means recognising the correspondence between knowledge and power. It also means finding ways to open the door to more democratic debate around intertwined social, environmental and economic questions.

Despite these challenges, the discussion at the STEPS América Latina showed the enthusiasm among participants to explore ways of doing this through citizen science, research, activism and policy processes, in order to seek pathways to sustainability for Latin America.

STEPS América Latina aims to renew and open up debates on innovation and sustainability in the region. It is based at the Centro de Investigaciones para la Transformación (CENIT) at the Universidad de Tres de Febrero (UNTREF). Since 2008, CENIT has been working with the STEPS Centre on issues linking the social study of science, technology and innovation with the challenges of environmentally sustainable and socially just development.

About the Pathways to Sustainability global consortium

As the Sustainable Development Goals establish a new era for development, north and south, solid research evidence and critical engagement in policy and action is essential.

Established by the STEPS Centre, the Pathways to Sustainability global consortium links up researchers at the Institute of Development Studies and SPRU to other academic institutes across Africa, South Asia, China, Europe, Latin and North America.

The 6 global ‘hubs’ are working together on research and engagement with policy and society, combining natural and social scientific understandings of the challenges involved in pursuing sustainable development.

A longer version of this article first appeared on the STEPS Centre website.

Visit the STEPS América Latina website

Sustainability Hub in China

Pathways to Sustainability Global Consortium (STEPS website)