[ 15th May 2024 by allam ahmed 0 Comments ]

Multiple knowledges and the Sustainable Development Goals: why we need the Agenda Knowledge for Development

Bruce Boyes
Editor, Lead Writer and Director, RealKM Magazine
Co-Leader, Knowledge Management for Development (KM4Dev)
Professor Andreas Brandner
Managing Director, Knowledge for Development Partnership
Co-Leader, Knowledge Management for Development (KM4Dev)
Dr Sarah Cummings
Senior Research Fellow, Wageningen University & Research
Editor-in-Chief, Knowledge Management for Development Journal
Co-Leader, Knowledge Management for Development (KM4Dev)
Gladys Kemboi
PhD candidate, University of Illinois
Co-Leader, Knowledge Management for Development (KM4Dev)
Maureen Kenga
Librarian, State Department of Planning, Kenya
Co-Leader, Knowledge Management for Development (KM4Dev)
Rocio Sanz
Senior KM Consultant to the UN
Co-Leader, Knowledge Management for Development (KM4Dev)


Agenda 2030 and the SDGs serve as a universally-agreed road map to bridge economic and geopolitical divides, rebuild trust, and restore solidarity in the international community. According to the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, unless there is action now, the 2030 Agenda will become ‘an epitaph for a world that could have been’ (United Nations, 2023, p. 2). The upcoming Summit of the Future: Multilateral Solutions for a Better Tomorrow, scheduled for 22-23 September 2024 in New York, will see the international community recommit to the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs. The draft outcome document of the summit, Pact for the Future, proposed by the governments of Germany and Namibia (2024), seeks to accelerate existing commitments and respond to emerging challenges. The Pact of the Future emphasizes action on social protection, decent jobs, education, gender inequality, and digital inclusion. However, addressing a fundamental flaw in the SDGs is crucial for the 2024 Summit's success. This flaw lies in the failure of world leaders and the SDGs to recognize the pivotal role of multiple and diverse knowledges and their management in sustainable development (Cummings et al, 2018). Our understanding of multiple knowledges is pluralistic and inclusive, encompassing local, tacit, experiential, community, and Indigenous knowledge (Brown, 2007), in addition to the already recognised knowledge created through more formal scientific, academic, governmental and other establishment channels. These pluralistic and inclusive knowledges have been overlooked in the main SDG roadmap (UN, 2015). While not denying the role of science, technology, and innovation in achieving the SDGs, we argue that multiple knowledges in all their rich diversity are necessary to address the complex challenges facing the international community, such as climate change, food insecurity, and poverty. Multiple knowledges not only takes the knowledge of all stakeholders into account, it provides better knowledge for better decisions. This perspective has significant implications for the governance of international development and the food systems transformation agenda, recognizing that local communities and national governments should lead, particularly those in the global South who are bearing the brunt of the collective failure to invest in the SDGs (UN, 2023). Without harnessing the transformational power of multiple knowledges, further efforts toward the ambitious 2030 Agenda will be largely unsuccessful. A simple step to embed and recognize the contributions of multiple knowledge in sustainable development is the formal adoption of the Agenda Knowledge for Development (Brandner & Cummings, 2017). Developed as a response to the neglect of multiple knowledges in the original SDG roadmap, this Agenda of 14 Knowledge Development Goals (KDGs) complements the SDGs and fosters the development of pluralistic, inclusive knowledge societies. We argue that the Agenda Knowledge for Development, launched at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on 3 April 2017, should be adopted as a living document so that it also reflects changing understandings of knowledge related to decolonization, such as epistemic justice, anti-racism, Indigenous and local knowledge, diversity in knowledge management, new knowledge partnerships and new knowledge practices (Boyes et al., 2023).


  1. Brandner, A. & S. Cummings (Eds.) (2017). Agenda knowledge for development: Strengthening Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals. https://www.k4dp.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/k4dp_agenda-knowledge-fordevelopment_3rd.pdf.
  2. Boyes, B., Cummings, S., Habtemariam, F. T., & Kemboi, G. (2023). 'We have a dream': proposing decolonization of knowledge as a sixth generation of knowledge management for sustainable development. Knowledge Management for Development Journal, 17(1/2), 17-41. https://www.km4djournal.org/index.php/km4dj/article/view/548/673.
  3. Brown, V.A. (2010): Multiple knowledges, multiple languages: are the limits of my language the limits of my world?, Knowledge Management for Development Journal, 6(2), 120-131.
  4. Cummings, S., Regeer, B., Haan, L., Zweekhorst, M., & Bunders, J. (2018). Critical discourse analysis of perspectives on knowledge and the knowledge society within the sustainable development goals. Development Policy Review, 36(6), 727–742. https://doi.org/10.1111/dpr.12296.
  5. Germany & Namibia. (2024). Pact for the Future. Zero Draft. https://www.un.org/sites/un2.un.org/files/sotf-co-facilitators-zero-draft_pact-for-thefuture.pdf.
  6. UNESCO. (2023, July 20). Advancing sustainability education through art, expression and culture. UNESCO News and stories. https://www.unesco.org/en/articles/advancing-sustainability-education-through-artexpression-and-culture.
  7. United Nations. (2015). Transforming our world: The 2030 agenda for sustainable development. United Nations General Assembly. https://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/1&Lang=E.
  8. United Nations. (2023). The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2023: Special edition. https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2023/The-Sustainable-DevelopmentGoals-Report-2023.pdf
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