Due to the variegated backgrounds and worldviews of stakeholders, they probably hold inconsistent understandings of ‘the’ problem (e.g. its characteristics, causes, relevant actors, consequences, etc.) and appropriate and acceptable solutions to these. A fortiori, conflicting or contradictory processes and objectives can be present in the envisioned context of the Science Diplomacy activity (cf. Sensitivity). Not making these inconsistent understandings explicit, may lead to solving the wrong challenge (Dunn 2018) or not addressing any grand challenges at all. Science Diplomacy practices that intend to approach these frictions head-on need to turn the continual discussion of (a) issues, interests and worldviews at stake, (b) conditions enabling effective science diplomacy and (c) arenas, domains, institutions involved into a routine. In other words, inter-actor reflection requires the iteration of critical evaluation processes.

This leads to the following principle:

Science diplomatic activities should encourage mutual understanding of actors’ perspectives and needs as well as of the problem definition, the disciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledge required (incl. probing for other relevant scientific disciplines) and common narratives for the support of science diplomacy processes.

To ensure this principle is considered, ask yourself: What multiplicity of perspectives is involved in the activity in general and due to participating stakeholders?

  • What does such a diversity of perspectives mean to the participants and how should it be addressed?
  • What are your and your peer’s core values?
  • To what extent are some values (non-)negotiables?
  • Which opportunities for consensual perspectives exist for all parties involved and under which conditions can consensus be achieved?
Fictive Case

Eliška Černovská (Charles University)

During a sequence of international negotiations, several representatives of international institutions (policymakers, NGOs, experts) discuss how to tackle water-related challenges on the global level. The negotiations are initially fruitless because most participants‘ perspectives of what the water problem at hand is differ. Having shared and discussed each others‘ viewpoints, two major framings or definitions of the water-related issues dominate the debates: water quality and water security. Often a problem framing is complex and refers to different regions, requires distinct instruments and knowledge, and hence incorporates diverse stakeholders. Since a challenge consists of many attributes, agreeing on a problem definition is only possible based on mutual understanding and the will to reach a consensus. On the one hand, water quality includes, for example, establishing quality indicators, modernizing water pipes and purifiers requiring both engineering and technical knowledge. This approach also includes the private sector and applies to all areas that ascertain the water quality as deficient. On the other hand, water security applies to regions with water scarcity or surplus reigned by hostile diplomatic relations that require mediation and negotiation instruments. For this problem, social sciences experts are mobilized to provide negotiators with a contextual understanding of the situation of involved parties.

Other relevant principles involved: Transparency, Capabilities.

Relation to S4D4C Transversal Case Study Analysis: This principle is derived from the ‘Values’ Matter. Read more on the matter and on all other matters by clicking on the images below.