News Archive

posted 06/09/03

Engaging the Disenfranchised in International Policy-making
Earth Institute researcher wants to hear more voices in the sustainability debate

Participants in Engaging the Disenfranchised in International Policy-making, a June 5 roundtable organized by Earth Institute Sociologist Dana R. Fisher (fourth from left) to promote effective participation of civil society and developing countries in international governance, particularly with regard to sustainability issues.

Dana R. Fisher believes that efforts to put the Earth on a path toward sustainable development require including the voices of groups currently left out of international governance. On June 5, Dr. Fisher hosted a round table discussion called Engaging the Disenfranchised in International Policy-making to explore this problem.

The purpose of the round table was to bring together academics and policy practitioners to discuss the disenfranchisement of civil society and developing countries in international sustainability discussions, and to promote effective participation of civil society and developing countries in international governance.

“It is impossible to address the problems of sustainable development when representatives from developing nations and civil society struggle to participate meaningfully,” says Fisher.

The meeting, sponsored by the Center for Global Partnership in collaboration with the Tokyo-based United Nations University, is part of an effort to establish an analytical framework for future study on issues of disenfranchisement. A parallel meeting, co-organized by Dr. Norichika Kanie of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, will be held on 20 June in Tokyo.

The projects of Dr. Fisher, an assistant professor in the department of sociology, are affiliated with the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction (IRI) and the Institute of Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP), and often focus on how people get and use information related to governance and sustainability. Another study she is currently undertaking at the IRI examines ways that the media in several countries that are affected by El Niño presented information about climate variability and climate change during this past year’s El Niño event.

Adds Fisher, “Within the context of sustainable development, progress requires an understanding of the ways civil society actors and developing countries can truly engage in international governance. Of similar importance is an awareness of how climate variability and climate change information is being diffused to citizens and policy-makers in the developing world through the media. Without political parity between the North and the South, and formal inclusion of civil society actors, sustainability is not possible.”

The core mission of the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy is to catalyze and produce pioneering social science research and to shape public policy by integrating knowledge and methods across the social science disciplines. For further information or materials about the Engaging the Disenfranchised project or its roundtables, please contact Derk Segaar, Research Assistant at djs2003@columbia.edu.

The Earth Institute at Columbia University is among the world’s leading academic centers for the integrated study of Earth, its environment, and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines—earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences—and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through its research, training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world’s poor.