Goal- and target-setting have a long history in the field of international education. The Sustainable Development Goal 4 agenda adds thus to an established tradition of global coordination initiatives that, despite having a non-binding character, are expected to impact on the normative cycle and the priorities of the international community. While there has been extensive debate on the effectiveness and implementation difficulties of this kind of overarching frameworks, empirical work on the crafting and negotiation of these global agendas remains limited. In addition, and given the multi-layered and formally inclusive nature of such processes, existing patterns of influence, power asymmetries, and changing interdependencies among key stakeholders constitute particularly elusive topics.
The objective of this research is to inquire into the process of development and negotiation of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4), in order to identify key locus of decision-making and authority – and, more generally, to get a sense of the social structuring of power in the field of education-for-development. The reserch is structured under the form of a PhD thesis by publications, organized along three different research problems corresponding to three independent papers:
This first paper aims at reconstructing the run-up to the World Education Forum 2015 and the final adoption of the Education 2030 Framework for Action in November 2015. At a descriptive level, this paper aims at documenting (a) the constellation of collective and individual actors involved in the process as well as their priorities and motivations; and (b) the most determining meetings, forums and venues. At a more analytical level, the research aims at identifying (c) the varying degrees of influence exerted by different agents; (d) possible cooperation dynamics and affinity groups, and (e) key mechanisms of consensus- building.
The second paper inquires into the effects of SDG4 on the institutional agendas and relationships between the different organizations involved in the conduction of large-scale assessments. The paper explores thus recent changes in the composition and structure of this community of practice as entailed by the quantification needs brought about by SDG4. Such a transformation is explored in relation to four main dimensions of analysis: (a) the development of common principles, norms and beliefs; (b) the articulation of an institutional infrastructure enabling the exchange of ideas; (c) the emergence of shared principles of hierarchization; and (d) the development of contending approaches and fault-lines.
The third paper aims at examining the educational background and professional careers of those individuals more significantly involved in the post-2015 process. While it is conventionally assumed that the construction of educational consensus (including global goals) is partially driven by the rise of international development professionals sharing a series of norms, different scholars have drawn attention to the increasing pluralism and heterogeneity resulting from the growing centrality of non-traditional actors. This paper aims at capturing both homogenization trends and differentiation dynamics by profiling a core group of individuals identified as central to the SDG4-negotiation process.
While this study does not contribute directly to the progress of SDG4 targets, it might allow for a richer understanding of the global governance architecture and decision-making mechanisms that, in turn, might contribute a successful or more effective implementation of SDG4. Given that the effectiveness of global globals ultimately depends on their capacity to trigger off cross-accountability dynamics, an understanding of the interdepencies among transnational and domestic actors might greatly facilitate the identification of those strategies, actions and projects more likely to maximize the transformative capacity of SDG4.
This PhD project is carried out by Clara Fontdevila, under the supervision of Dr. Antoni Verger, with the support of a FPU grant of the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training of the Spanish Government (ref. FPU014/0611).