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Swiss North-South Collaboration in research and education: A sustainable model for the future

SUDAC Annual Conference 2022

The SUDAC program has officially entered its second phase in 2021. For 2021-2024, the network will focus on the development of regional Clusters of Cooperation (CLOCs) in the Global South. The annual conference offered the opportunity to present the current state of these projects and discuss their strategies for the next years. At the same time, SUDAC engaged in a dialogue with other national stakeholders on the future of Swiss North-South collaboration in Research and Education. The conference was organised by swissuniversities with support from the KFPE (Commission for Research Partnerships with developing countries).

As part of the annual international conference we hosted a series of digital workshops before and after the event, in collaboration with the r4d programme. Please read the workshop descriptions below for further information.

Conference Programme

Conference & Workshop Registration

Conference Date: June 3rd 2022

Conference Venue: Eventforum Bern, Fabrikstrasse 12, Bern


Workshop Series

Knowledge to action for SDGs: Examples in the South Asian context

May 16 09.00 - 10.30

by Taenaz Shakir, Coordinator of the K2A Cluster of Cooperation

The workshop will demonstrate how academic knowledge can be converted to formats that are useful for SDG actors to promote SDGs in South Asia in the domain of ecological sustainability and social well-being. The K2A (Knowledge to Action) network funded by SUDAC aims to bridge the gap between scientific researchers and on the ground SDG actors such as policy makers, community workers, activists, journalists and educators. One of the flagship programs of the K2A network is to provide small grants to researchers and teams that would like to convert available research results into formats that supports awareness, advocacy and transformation, such as: Policy briefs, teaching material, seed-money to develop social business models, prototypes, workshops or blending research into popular media formats like websites, comics and documentary films. In the workshop, previous K2A small grant winners will be sharing their experience and rationale of converting the academic research results and present the final outputs. The workshop is especially relevant since SDGs must be interpreted locally in the geographies considered to incorporate historical and social contexts and practices that are reflected in the chosen formats of conversion and will contribute to give concrete examples of what ‘action’ to promote SDGs mean.



Global Pandemic and Global North South Divide : Issues and Policy Alternatives

May 16 13.00-14.00

by Luke Amadi

This workshop seeks to explore current and emerging trends in global North/ South divide in the era of global pandemic. The workshop offers some conceptual ideas and practical lessons on how to engage with more inclusive voices and perspectives in understanding and addressing the impacts of the pandemic. It brings together key themes, and insights on gaps and inequalities arising from the global pandemic among the global North and South. The workshop pays particular attention to the centrality of inequality in the era of global pandemic. It also explores potential ideas and approaches for advancing research and practices on a more equitable and inclusive order. It aims to identify on- the- ground evidence and addresses the question regarding how the pandemic has exacerbated global divide among the North and the South and proffers possible alternative approaches to overcome such asymmetries. It does this with an understanding of the various ways the pandemic has exacerbated vulnerability, exclusion and marginalization of the poor countries of the south, which have been in the margins of research in post pandemic recovery in the global South. We seek to understand how research could help unravel global North/South divide and in particular, deepen the understanding of these constraints for policy response. We argue that while the pandemic is still frequently characterized as a health crisis, it is in fact multi-dimensional. The workshop is situated around case examples, experiences recently shared by groups in local and international dialogues on the pandemic that include social workers, health based NGOs working in development contexts; engagement and dialogue with community and faith -based organizations. The findings suggest increasing gaps, which is of interest to researchers and policy makers interested in bridging such development gaps. In the alternative, it discusses the importance of bridging development gaps in an emerging pandemic for inclusive development. Further offers some implications on how researchers can help bridge global North/South gaps for sustainable development, suggesting possible ways that could be more inclusive.

Regional Challenges in North-South Research Partnerships

20 May 12.00 - 14.00

By Rahul Mehrotra, Graduate Institute Geneva

The goal of this workshop is to identify regional challenges in North-South partnerships and, on that basis, have an informed debate about evaluating the quality and impact of such collaborations. research projects conduct cutting-edge research by research consortiums from multiple disciplines in a North-South partnership. Local academic, civil society and policy environments influence the direction, implementation and impacts of this research. This workshop will present results from an internal survey to identify such regional challenges, focusing on Ghana, Laos and Switzerland. The findings will be discussed by an expert panel in a public event hosted at the Graduate Institute, Geneva.
Participation at the event is possible in person at Auditorium A2, Maison de la Paix in Geneva or online. Please register for the event to participate in person or online.


Doing research in conflict and authoritarian contexts

23 May 12.15 - 13.45

By Ursina Bentele, swisspeace

Doing research in conflict contexts is crucial in order to contribute to peace and sustainable development. However, researchers face particular challenges in conflict-affected and authoritarian contexts. Regardless of subject matter and methodology, research is always part of the context in which it takes place. Conflict sensitive research helps to understand the interaction of research with multiple layers of overt or latent conflicts. The interaction of research and conflict context effects what is being researched, how research is carried out, and the knowledge that is thus produced. The conflict sensitivity approach to research (see, informed by researchers and peacebuilding practitioners and developed by swisspeace and KFPE, indicates strategies to navigate sensitive questions, ethical dilemmas and security issues.
In this workshop, we provide insights into the methodology of conflict sensitive research, how it can be used to operationalize research ethics and provide space to exchange experiences and challenges when producing knowledge in conflict-affected contexts. This workshop is targeted to everyone working on knowledge production: researchers, practitioners and donors.
Would you like to present a spotlight on your research, how you navigated challenges related conflict? Then, please get in touch with Ursina Bentele,

Flood governance beyond the floodplain: the role of sectoral policies, economic interests and local perceptions

24 May 13.00 -14.30

By Jenia Mukherjee (IIT-Kharagpur), Samiya Selim (University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh), Antoine Brochet (INRAE Strasbourg), Alexis Metzger (UNIL), Raphaël Morera (EHESS Paris), René Véron (UNIL)

Floods are an area of concern at the intersection of sustainability and wellbeing. Linked to climate action, research and international policies have recently started to pay more attention to flood hazards. This digital workshop brings together researchers on flood governance in India, Bangladesh, Switzerland and France. The cross-cultural investigations will shed light on distinct yet comparable spatial-political settings that can be beneficial as a heuristic tool informing each case study. The panel will document an array of existing situated adaptive practices that enable communities to cope with floods. We believe that ‘interactive fluid governance’ – through a detailed mapping of the plural risks and resilience scenarios in floodplains – opens possibilities for action and policy. This workshop is co-sponsored by the CLOC Knowledge2Action South Asia.

North-South collaboration for research capacity building: learnings and best practices

25 May 14.00 - 16.00

By Marion Bétizeau, Velux Stiftung

Capacity building is a key factor in sustainably establishing research in the global South. How can North-South collaborations foster this process?
We understand research capacity building as sustainably developing people and institutions to perform excellent and locally relevant research. Research capacity building should also foster collaborations across disciplines and sectors, build soft and hard supporting infrastructure. This includes developing a strong enabling environment including research coordination and management where research and research actors can thrive.
In this workshop we will learn from several concrete and successful examples of research capacity building projects in partnership between institutions in the North and the global South. Exchanges between participants in smaller groups will enable to decipher some learnings and best practices to:
- identify opportunities, set up and start such collaborations
- carry them out
- how to evaluate success, and ensure the sustainability of the collaboration and its outputs
We aim to have the inputs and views from a diverse audience based both in the North and the global South; from researchers at different career stages, project coordinators, university representatives, practitioners from development cooperation and business as well as research funders.
If you would like to present an additional example of a research capacity project, please get in touch with Marion Bétizeau,, before May 11. Please not that not all proposed examples can be considered.

Audiovisual power for SDG16+: Expanding research partnerships and transformations beyond professional repertoires

31 May 17.00 - 18.30

By Amina Ahmed, Christelle Rigual, Jeanine Reutemann, Claudia Zingerli

This contribution reflects on the power of filmmaking to build bridges across disciplines, geographies, science, policy and practice. The application of audiovisual media in a scientific context constitutes a boundary crossing.
The research documentary “Inequality and Conflict - Beyond us and them” emerged from a synthesis process across three international research partnership projects. It portrays activists, local leaders, researchers and policy-makers in five countries on four continents marked by diverse experiences with inequality and structural violence. One year after its premiere in November 2019, we collected testimonies - with both the target audiences and within the participating researchers and protagonists. “Inequality and Conflict – Beyond us and them” has transformed us beyond our expectations and repertoires.
This workshop is an invitation for debate and reflection about expanding research partnerships for SDG16+. The short video “BEYOND” will be accessible via a link. On this platform, participants can engage in a “social video dialogue” with comments, questions and discussions. We invite for debate and share ideas on how researchers, filmmakers, policy makers and activists across the globe can collaborate more creatively and effectively towards peace, equality and justice in a turbulent world. We emphasise the high degree of open and adaptive management that is necessary when working under conditions of high uncertainty, the instrumental role of enablers in fragmented knowledge systems and structures.

Mega-Infrastructure Projects (MIPs): Grabbed Commons and Disenchanted Modernities

June 8 12.15 - 13.45

By Tobias Haller, Institute for Social Anthropology, University of Bern

Global development trends have led to an increased connectivity, boosting Mega-Infrastructure (MIP) Projects (roads, rails, pipelines, ports and related extensive raw material extraction and agro-industrial production). The aim is to provide access to and transportation of goods and raw materials. In this way, MIPs are criss-crossing large areas between and within continents as the Belt and Road initiative illustrates. In addition, green economy policies and energy demand have increased this trend, legitimating MIP extensions as a means to increase sustainable production (biofuel production, solar and wind parks, railway extensions etc.) and to reduce emissions causing climate change. Furthermore, geo-strategic motivations increase competition and accelerate the planning of MIPs.
Officially, MIPs are legitimated by implementing states and the private sector as bringing development and represent a modernity enchantment discourse. But this hides that there are many losers in this process: Local resource users often cannot profit from MIPs, while at the same time see their land and land related common-pool resources being encroached. These were previously governed by local common property regimes later transformed into state property during colonial and privatized during postcolonial periods. With increased areas used for MIPs also increased commons grabbing processes and hence local disenchantment unfolds.
During the workshop, we present and discuss findings from an interdisciplinary and international research on these issues. If you are a researcher working in this filed and would like to present your work in this workshop, please contact Prof. Dr. Tobias Haller,

Brilliant Failures of Research Partnerships: Events, Emotions and Unanticipated Potential for change

8 June 14.00-16.00

By Pia Hollenbach

We do not like to admit failures. But why not? Why not understanding failures as something productive, something that helps us and our partners to flourish and grow?
The workshop will present the outcome of a SNSF r4d funded synthesis project that brings together stories, conversations, and thoughts on ‘brilliant failures’ as part of r4d partnership processes, and beyond. Looking at ‘brilliant failures’ of research partnerships - Events and Emotions- will help to understand multiple social- cultural and institutional components of partnerships and their potential for change and transformation. Failures are undesirable, but we want to reveal that a new culture towards failure will provide the ground for true learning opportunities as an option to serve as an impetus for improvement and change. To accept failures as an inevitable and valuable aspect of life in general and innovation, will improve the way we work, negotiate and succeed in partnerships.
The workshop will provide space for exchange and insightful conversations on experiences with ‘brilliant failures’ in research partnerships.
We will trigger conversations through showing animated learning videos that are the outcome of the above-mentioned research project and will have in-depth and insightful conversations and exchanges to learn about and through experiences of the workshop participants. It will be a co-creative and active workshops design integrating participants in the process through partner/group work and open panel discussions.
There will be no opportunity to have a presentation(s) in the classical form.

Decolonising South-North research collaboration

June 10 14.00-16.00

By O. Ravaka Andriamihaja, Jenia Mukherjee, Cajetan Amadi and Pia Hollenbach

Global issues need North-South research collaboration to make intended impacts. In order to continue strengthening South-North research collaboration, persistent challenges related to (de)colonisation for South-North research collaboration need to be identified. This workshop is an opportunity to understand these challenges, define a decolonized North-South research collaboration, and transform relations, power structures, principles, and practices.
Our workshop seeks to identify (de)colonization-related challenges in North-South research collaboration, to work on a common working definition of decolonized North-South research collaboration; and to reflect on opportunities and pathways to decolonization. The workshop includes an informative introduction with panelists, group and plenary discussions. Our panelists will be composed by scholars with experience in South-North research collaboration, “brilliant failures” of research partnerships, multi-national funding schemes, and decolonization. Attendees are encouraged to reflect and share experiences related to their position in research collaboration.
If you would like to present an experience related to your position in research collaboration at the workshop, please get in touch with O. Ravaka Andriamihaja,, before 3 June.

The commons as the great absent in the SDGs

June 13 16.00-17.30

By Tobias Haller, 

17 SDGs are the major initiative of the UN to promote sustainable development implemented by states. But despite including gender and justice issues, a closer look at the goals shows problematic omissions regarding root causes of environmental and development crisis. Especially the question of the commons, once perceived as THE issue regarding sustainability by Elinor Ostrom’s Nobel Prize, is completely left out. Her work was based on solid scientific evidence that local people have always been able to establish institutions for the sustainable management of common-pool resources (pasture, wildlife, fisheries, forestry, water etc). Directly linked to SDG 14 and 15, the commons address all other SDGs (see hunger, energy, consumption, climate change and biodiversity loss). Commoning also relates much to SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) and 17 (participation). Furthermore, two problematic uses regarding SDGs emerge: First, because common
property is not recognized in the SDGs, state elites can continue to legitimate commons grabbing. Second, leaving out the commons reduces local power claiming for participation. Thus, two policy demands crystalize: A) Control that SDGs is not the abbreviation of «Sanctioning Disciplined Grabs» B) Ensuring that local commoners (farmers, fishers and nomads) can develop alternatives during the implementation phases.
During the workshop we discuss the inclusion management of commons in the implementation of the SDGs and how local commoners can develop alternatives during the implementation phase. If you would like to present research related to this issue in the workshop, please contact Prof. Dr. Tobias Haller,

Female postdoc researchers from the Global South – What are the challenges, enablers, and needs?

June 14 14.00 - 15.00

By Dr. Christine Bigler, Dr. Tina Büchler, Dr. Sony KC and Yamila Pita (technical support), Interdisciplinary Centre on Gender Studies (ICFG), University of Bern

It has been observed that researchers formerly supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) funded projects (such as R4D and SPIRIT) drop out of internationally established networks in the post-doctoral phase of their career, lose connections and face increasing difficulties in advancing their scientific and academic careers. This is particularly evident among female postdocs, who face unique challenges due to family responsibilities and societal expectations of their role as well-qualified women. Initial discussions with postdocs in the Global South show that it is not primarily a financial issue, but rather one of access to networks, support, identity formation, soft skills, and exchange of South-South experiences.
Based on the data obtained and the needs assessment carried out during the Postdoc Event Series: Challenges and enablers of female postdoc researchers in the Global South, this workshop aims to present and discuss the results of this exchange, as well as a series of recommendations to support women researchers from the Global south in advancing their scientific and academic careers in the framework of North-South collaboration agreements. Focusing particularly on the challenges and needs reported by the participants of the event series, this workshop aims to be a participatory space in which researchers and other stakeholders can jointly reflect on the steps to be taken to achieve gender equality in international collaborative research.