Stefan Bächtold, Laurent Goetschel; swisspeace, Switzerland
Extensive data collection has become one of the hallmarks of efforts to reduce poverty, address fragility and conflict, or to make development processes more sustainable. Most of those efforts are underpinned by the idea that more or better knowledge, drawing on scientific data collection, should lead to better policy and practice in developing contexts. Often, collecting data or producing evidence is understood as a technical endeavour, that is first and foremost concerned with the validity or rigor of the data collected and the methods used, in order to produce a sound foundation for policy and practice.
Nonetheless, such endeavours of data collection are sometimes met with strong opposition by actors who reject the technical understanding of such projects, and clearly understand them in highly political terms – especially in politically contested contexts. Also in the academic realm, critical scholars have recently given more attention to the political dimensions and power relations of the processes aiming to produce ‘evidence for development’.
The tension between technical and political understandings of data collection or the production of evidence provides the backdrop for this session. How are specific projects successful or failing to take into account technical and political dimensions? Can technical terms be used strategically to foster debate among actors in highly contested contexts? Can political dimensions of such projects be ‘managed’, and if yes, how? And can we use evidence to make partnerships more transformative?
This session provides the space to present specific experiences from projects that are collecting and using data and evidence in contested contexts, but also seeks critical or conceptual contributions on the increasing use and production of evidence in development and peacebuilding policy and practice.