Wednesday, 6 February 2008

STEPS SEMINAR: THE SUSSEX MANIFESTO

By JULIA DAY, STEPS Centre member

Listen to the podcast
Read Geoff Oldham's presentation
To read the 1970 Sussex Manifesto: Science and Technology to Developing Countries during the Second Development Decade see the STEPS Seminar page
See the photos on Flickr

We're delighted that Geoff Oldham has joined us today for a look at both the past and the future of science and technology collaboration for development. Geoff is a former SPRU director and former chairman of the United Nations Advisory Committee on Science and Technology for Development, and UK Delegate to the UN Commission. He is here to give a STEPS Centre seminar on IDS/SPRU Collaboration in the Early Days: ‘The Sussex Manifesto and its Aftermath’.

Geoff is going to review the early collaborations between SPRU and the IDS which lead to the preparation in 1970 of what became known as the Sussex Manifesto, of which he was an author. The Manifesto was originally commissioned by the UN as the introductory chapter to the UN World Plan of Action on S&T for Development. The talk will discuss the impact of the report and speculate on what new issues might have been included if it had been written today. And so, over to Geoff.

When he got in touch with Geoff, Adrian Ely, who is chairing this session, was keen for Geoff to tell the story of the Manifesto and talk about how different the report would be if he were writing it today, rather than in 1969 (it was published in 1970). And to be clear, Geoff says this seminar will be based purely on his reflections.

The podcast of the seminar, and a video, will be posted on the STEPS website tomorrow.

We start at the beginning, with Geoff talking about how IDS and SPRU began working together after both institutions began in1966. Half of one post at IDS would go to science and technology, it was decided, which as a “small victory” at the time. But the caveat was that SPRU should find the other half of the post, and had to find the money – which came eventually from the Ford Foundation for five years. So there was a joint Fellow Charles Cooper, on science, technology and development. Martin Bell undertook a project in Thailand with some of the Ford money too.

One of the first IDS workshops was a joint one with SPRU on science and technology with about 80 people from government and business to get their views on the field of science and development. As a result ODA funding came for a project in India, which was carried out by SPRU and Norman Clark joined the team.

The joint IDS/SPRU study seminar – three week seminars – were one of the most important and exciting innovations at the time and Geoff says he still gets letters of thanks from one participant, the president of the bank of Buenos Aires.

When Hans Singer then arrived at IDS the time was ripe to to put together a joint IDS/SPRU team, with Hans as chair. The groups was given a very specific task from office of S&T at the UN for this report, the Manifesto. It was to be an overview of the issues with what diagnostics of the problems of S&T and development with some effort at solutions. And the UN advisory committee was going to use the report as part of the ‘second development decade’, the 1970s.

So we were given the opportunity of looking forward 10 years, and the group made some radical suggestions, for the time at least.

But all kinds of difficulties arose when the UN decided they didn’t want the report to be published and they weren’t going to use it. So the IDS/SPRU group challenged the UN to sue them, because they believed it was very important. So after quite a lot of mayhem, the UN decided they would write an introductory chapter.

Geoff said he hadn’t thought too much about the Manifesto until Adrian, Andy Stirling and Melissa Leach got in touch. But he read that in Richard Jolly’s obituary to Hans Singer, Hans said it was one of the most important reports he’d ever worked on.

So, after that run-through of the background to the Manifesto Geoff asks: “what did we do well?” It demonstrated the need for a systems approach for S&T for development; it focussed mainly on S&T economic development, because that’s what the UN asked them to do. Showing the need to consider demand for S&T as well as supply, and that the supply side must include STS as well as R&D, and development targets were included. “We identified need to consider what was happening in private and education sector,” he adds.

“But what didn’t we do so well? We should have given more prominence to social and environmental issues,” Geoff begins. Making no mention of innovations and ignoring implicit S&T policy in governments’ economic and fiscal policies were two other failing, he believes. Ethical issues and the gender dimension were also ignored, in hindsight we should have recognised them “but we didn’t do them justice”, says Geoff.

Geoff goes on now to talk about S&T indicators and targets for the Second Development Decade. You can have a look at his presentation for all of the facts and figures.

And on the impact of the Manifesto. It did raise the awareness of S&T in UN circle, at a time when there was hostility to any increase in expenditure to S&T, says Geoff. But probably the biggest impact was on the Sussex group itself “my own horizons were widened a great deal by hearing Hans and Chris and others,” he adds. It also had an impact on the design of IDRC and the report was used of teaching course in universities in both the north and south.

But it also had a negative impact, “and this is something I want you all to reflect on,” says Geoff. It wasn’t considered appropriate for an academic group to put forward targets, and they rejected the whole effort because of that fact. “The danger of setting targets has been something I’ve been very wary of in my career ever since,”.

“If we were writing the report today, what issues would we write about?” The first five issues Geoff kicks off with are: globalisation; poverty; market economies; the growth of S&T capabilities in emerging economies; and the impact of new technologies – IT, biotechnology and nanotechnology.

And swiftly on to his conclusions. Geoff says he believes reports have the greatest impact when the audience can do something about it when they receive it – like the Manifesto had the opportunity to influence the planning for the Second Development Decade.

Building an esprit de corps among the group members was, and is, very important, building on strengths of members and their institutions. It is also important to be optimistic about the future (see Chris Freeman’s Economics of Hope); to plan and budget for dissemination; but be aware of potential conflict between academic analysis and advocacy.
And with that Geoff wraps up the formal presentation part of his seminar, which was both interesting – especially to us at the STEPS Centre, which is a present-day IDS/SPRU collaboration – and inspiring.

Well I hope you've enjoyed joining us this lunchtime. We’re on to the Q&A session now. Do check out the website for links to the video and podcast of this seminar, presentation and Flickr photos. They will be live tomorrow.


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Friday, 1 February 2008

ASBESTOS WORKERS LOBBY PARLIAMENT

By LINDA WALDMAN STEPS Centre member

‘Disgraceful’, ’a class decision’ and ‘an outright injustice’ were just some of the angry phrases heard as people from all over the country joined forces to express outrage at the House of Lords’ decision that pleural plaques can no longer be compensated in English law.

Asbestos victim support groups from as far afield as Glasgow and as near to Westminster as London’s East End were joined by the GMB and UCATT trade unions and others – including lawyers, doctors, psychiatrists, journalists and researchers such as myself – to lobby against the Lords’ decision, made on the 17 October 2007.

For more than 20 years, asbestos sufferers in the UK have claimed damages for pleural plaques, but the Law Lords decreed that pleural plaque was ‘innocuous’ and was not a precursor to other more severe asbestos-related diseases. Pleural plaque sufferers, they said, have ‘sustained damage but not been harmed’.

On 29 January I saw politics in action. The mood in the Atlee Room was thick with emotion and solidarity as we heard about asbestos-related diseases and how it ‘squeezed the life out of sufferers’ and about current sufferers’ experiences.

Various experts spoke about pleural plaques, detailing the anxiety, concern, depression and frustration of sufferers. Lawyers spoke of the historical precedent in British law and of the fact that Scotland was already considering a bill to define pleural plaques as actionable and compensatable damages.

As a social anthropologist, I described the detrimental effects of pleural plaques on men’s identity, on their ability to earn money and support their families, arguing that they experienced a form of social disintegration.

Throughout the lobby, MPs entered the room and listened to these persuasive arguments. Some of these MPs expressed their own outrage and committed themselves to raising this in parliamentary sessions.

I hope this action will result in policy being made. Describing the situation and expressing outrage is not, in itself, enough. Trade unions spoke about the steps needed to pressure MPs to address these issues, about their poster campaign to lobby the Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw to ‘put right’ the House of Lords Ruling. Thermal insulation engineers (or laggers), maintenance workers, plumbers, carpenters and others exposed to asbestos through the activities of companies such as Cape plc, Turner and Newall etc. will be challenging their MPs to address these issues.

I am asking my MP, who represents my small village in East Sussex, what he is doing about this issue and how he is representing me. Perhaps, after reading this, you would like to do the same?
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