The Network of Excellence on Land Governance in Africa (NELGA) held a panel discussion at the just concluded GIZ LandHub 2020 Meeting to highlight evidence-based best practices on how research can influence policy development and reforms.
The 90minute online panel discussion on December 15, 2020, demonstrated the crucial relationship between research and good policy advice in the land sector. The lively discussion, with panelists from Landportal, World Bank, GIZ, GIGA, policymakers, and the land governance community, discussed the theme: Research-Policy Linkages: How to improve Evidence-based Policy Advise in the Land Sector.
For those who could not make it, find a summary of the discussion below.
Researchers and Policymakers Collaboration Benefits the Land Governance Space
Land Commissions consisting of policymakers, researchers, private sectors, and CSOs can identify important research areas and integrate data and research results into decision making – Willi Zimmermann
A point that cuts across all panelists was the call for increased collaboration between policymakers and researchers as this benefits everyone involved in the policy reform landscape. There should be a deliberate way for researchers, decision-makers, and policy writers to collaborate. The promotion of strategy, policy ownership, and transparency within governmental institutions are equally important. Researchers need to get policymakers involved in research work as it is vital for promoting the research findings in policy recommendations.
If policymakers collaborate with researchers, it will be easier for governments to make evidence-based policy advice. This starts with formulating relevant research questions together. Researchers need to understand the different timeframes and logic that is available to the policymaker to make decisions. Both sides, the researcher and policymaker, should listen to one another and collaborate in solving identified problems. The policymaker should be open enough to listen to what the science (data and research) say.
Research policy forums could be useful means of discussing opportunities offered by both researchers and policymakers – Desire Tchigankong
Regardless of this inclusive collaboration, the policymakers should remain objective and encourage freedom of research as this helps produce the desired data for evidence-based decision making. Furthermore, encouraging private sectors and CSO’s involvement can provide innovative ways to promote a high level of advocacy, useful to back up policies with science.
The discussion acknowledged how the COVID situation gave an excellent lesson to politicians and policymakers worldwide. It was said the pandemic enhanced the importance of collaborations between policymakers and researchers not only in the health sector but also in other sectors such as agriculture and land tenure.
The Need for More Capacity Building
This leads to another point raised by both the policymakers and participants on capacity building as both groups agreed that research and training are inseparable, especially for young people. Capacity building for young researchers, academics, land experts, and potential policymakers goes a long way to create the future we want to see in the land governance space. There is a need to enhance researchers’ capacities in producing policy briefs and opinion pieces as the researcher should have the ability to make these. Policymakers should build their capacity to learn and truly understand the change that research could bring in the policy sector.
Presenting and Communicating Data is Crucial
Though data can be powerful to shape decisions, unfortunately, availability and access to land data remain low as ranked by the open data barometer. Data needs to remain accessible and available to a wide range of stakeholders. These stakeholders leverage this data to present evidence-based agile approaches that respond to policymakers’ circumstances. For instance, the coronavirus pandemic showed how vital data and information are to policymaking. The rise in digital platforms played a crucial role in data sharing inclusively during the health crisis. Such inclusive communication ensures an increased understanding of the policymakers, bringing them into the discussion space and presenting data in a simple format for ease of understanding and action. The academia must turn lengthy evidence-based research into a call for action, policy briefs, opinion pieces, and cooperate with international organizations for increased synergy, dissemination and implementation.
Discussions like these are of high relevance because they conduct a reality check to see if we are on the right track and what else we need. Both the scientific community and policymakers should work on their perceptions towards evidence-based decision making and learn to truly understand the change that research could bring in the policy sector. Under the directive of ALPC, NELGA participated in the meeting by the support of GIZ’s Strengthening Advisory Capacities for Land Governance in Africa program.