in: e-International Relations, 05.04.2021
Scientific and expert knowledge is central to any sustainable future. Because consensual knowledge establishes the parameters within which decisions can be made despite complexity and uncertainty, it assumes a facilitating function. This can be for example well observed on how national strategies to achieve sustainability are developed, legitimized, implemented, and assessed. Policy-makers consult scientific experts to better understand problem issues and to come up with evidence-based solutions that can be jointly accepted by any political ideology and by the constituents. At the same time, the reliance of policy-making to scientific knowledge increases the demand or need to be critical of the emerging scientific authority or technocracy. In the context of transformation to sustainability (T2S) where the outcomes of bargaining and persuasion games represent new lock-ins, the ability or the inability to influence the definition of these lock-ins through equitable access to knowledge is integral to the legitimacy of T2S.
Knowledge diplomacy (and how it leads up to consensual knowledge) is an important driver of creating visions and narratives on sustainable futures. At the same time, the transformation process towards sustainability creates new norms for example in governance and social relations that have implications to how knowledge diplomacy is conducted. Expanding access to education as a strategy to reduce income inequality is more likely to empower a broader citizen participation in consensual knowledge making and thus in policy-making. Building on the author’s work on Sustainable Development Pathways, this article introduces three possible futures scenarios of how knowledge diplomacy can unfold depending on how access to scientific and expert knowledge translates into convening power: convergent cosmopolitan society (melting pot 1), convergent liberal world (melting pot 2), and divergent glocality (salad bowl).