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ECPR Standing Group on the European Union 10th Biennial Conference LUISS, Rome

Power, Interests and Knowledge Behind New Approaches for Sustainable Development

European Union
International Relations
Public Administration
Public Policy
Ulrike Zeigermann
Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg
Ulrike Zeigermann
Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg

In the context of global debates on sustainable development ‘good governance’ has increasingly been assumed to require Policy Coherence for Development, i.e. synergies across policy fields in order to promote sustainable development and avoid incoherences which are expected to have negative effects not only on domestic policy outcomes but also on the lives of people abroad and in particular on the lives of people in the poorest regions. First debates on Policy Coherence for Development can be traced back to initiatives of experts with a background in the international bureaucracies of the European Union and the OECD which have promoted the idea since the 1990s. Among researchers, however, this notion has been very controversially discussed due to widespread lack of knowledge regarding the theoretic and practical implications of the approach and its effects. This confusion in academic debates on the one hand, and a proliferation in the production of new evaluation tools, policy recommendations and international strategies for Policy Coherence for Development by international bureaucracies on the other hand, inform my research.

This article critically examines the production and circulation of knowledge on Policy Coherence for Development and asks: what are the effects of the new knowledge and tools produced by the OECD and the EU? The first part of the papers focuses on the specific knowledge that was produced and circulated. How was the concept framed in official documents and what form of knowledge was used? Based on the analysis of qualitative expert interviews with key stakeholders and participant observation conducted in EU and OECD meetings between October 2013 and March 2015 the second part of the paper offers new findings on the policy environment, institutional setting and interactions of relevant actors (cf. policy entrepreneurs and idea brokers) which help understanding the international circulation of knowledge on the concept. Through what processes and among who was the idea circulated? Finally, combining the framework of actor centered institutionalism with transfer theory the third part of the paper identifies contributing factors for the dissemination of the concept. Accordingly, findings of this paper contribute to the broader academic debate on the relationship between knowledge, authority, international transfer processes and governance.

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