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Mobilising Global Voices 2017: AHRC International Development Summit

One of the takeaways from the AHRC International Development Summit on 7 June is that research in the arts and humanities is vital in providing fresh insights and critical thinking to the modern challenges of our time. Research in the arts and humanities is designed to be both provoking and challenging, and is uniquely placed to provide historical, social and cultural context to some of the major questions in international development. Find out more about some of the key takeaways from the day.

In a bid to bring together researchers and development professionals from across the world, the International Development Summit helped to showcase the importance of collaboration within this sphere while demonstrating how art and culture can make a huge difference in addressing international challenges such as human rights and transitions from conflict.

The Summit provided a rare platform for delegates to learn about some of the many research projects which have been funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the Newton Fund. During the past year, the GCRF has supported over 100 new internationally collaborative research projects, working in over 46 different low and middle income countries with many different partners.

There was a unanimous sense that the packed agenda, which featured many breakout workshops and networking opportunities enabled delegates to identify and form new partnerships. Dr Irina Kuznetsova who works in the school of geography at the University of Birmingham, said that one of her highlights was learning ‘some new ideas and ways to collaborate with art organisations’ for her project..

Keynote Speakers

The Summit included keynote speeches from Baroness Valerie Amos, Director of SOAS University of London, whose speech relayed some of her experience as a Former Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the UN, as well as Sir Mark Lowcock, the recently appointed Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Emergency Relief Coordinator at the UN.

There were many other prolific speakers on the day, including Dame Judith Macgregor, the Former British High Commissioner to South Africa who reiterated the need to create more and better research that will help to provide a broader, strategic approach to these global challenges.

The importance of enabling voices to be heard which are normally excluded from the public arena was another key focus, and was demonstrated within projects such as the Sustainable Transport Planning project which has involved collecting different perspectives and knowledge to help generate better policy making.

During the Final Plenary Reflections, Professor Stuart Taberner, Director of International and Interdisciplinary Research at the Research Councils UK, spoke of how he had come away from the sessions feeling hopeful after listening to the various projects and noted that “Despite the global context we can do something about it [development challenges].

Dr Karen Salt made a very valuable point about the contribution of arts and humanities research in the international space: “Unfortunately there are some who think that solutions are about building something or making something… or that you might need somebody with lots of money, but really often what you need are individuals with a lot of critical thinking; the ability to synthesise large amounts of data, knowledge about  histories and cultures and people, and the ability to go into all sorts of environments and start to understand what the problem actually is. A lot of that is the foundation of the arts and humanities; people who question things, who critically analyse things; who work things through…”

The Summit delivered, just as it promised, by bringing together a range of voices to share insights and experience and debate the ways in which arts and humanities research can make an even stronger contribution to international development in the future.

For more information read the full report on the International Development Summit

Map showing impact of AHRC funded research around the world
AHRC funded research is having a significant impact across the world, helping to mobilise global voices to find solutions that meet the challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).