Africa-Uninet-1  Africa-Uninet-2
WEBINAR, 28 November 2022

Decolonisation and sustainable development:
A critical approach

Date/Time: Monday, 28 Nov 2022, 3.00-4.30 pm (EAT) resp. 1.00-2.30 pm (CET)
Zoom (link expired)

Announcement: Poster (PDF)Two-Pager (PDF)

The webinar is organisedby the Africa-UniNet-Cooperation-Project "Decoloniality of Research and Learning Methods in the Global South: A Transdisciplinary Book Project" (P030_Kenya), carried out together by the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, and the University of Innsbruck.

See also: Call for Book Chapters


Repsonsible for the webinar: assoc. Prof. Dr. Andreas Exenberger, Department of Economic Theory, Policy and History, University of Innsbruck. For more information contact:


Susan Mlangwa, Deputy Country Director for Tanzania at The Clinton Health Access Initiative, and part time lecturer at the St. Augustine University, Graduate School Campus in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Judith Krauss, lecturer at the University of York’s Department of Politics and Interdisciplinary Global Development Centre (IGDC), United Kingdom. 

Marcela Torres Heredia, doctoral researcher (DOC-team) at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology of the University of Vienna, Austria. 

There are growing debates on the decolonisation of knowledge systems in academia, research and policy appraisal through the recognition of and integration of alternative knowledge originating from diverse ontologies and epistemologies. Yet, ‘decolonisation’ has many facets and ideas given its growing literature. On the one hand, it is argued that decoloniality scholarship should go beyond usual critique of epistemology and methodologies and on the other engage with alternative visions around transformation by inclusion, tackling injustices, creating social justice, the dismantling of fossil capitalism and colonial property.

In this webinar, we will take a critical approach towards the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (UN-SDGs) and discuss their degree of (de-)coloniality. In three international inputs from an academic, but also practicioners' perspective, we will set the stage for a discussion also involving the audience.



Especially the development discourse is an extremely powerful long-run process inscribed into social structures and even culture and thus embedded into “Western” resp. “Northern” knowledge production – knowledge, which is not necessarily wrong, but unavoidably biased, especially against approaches from the Global South. Thus, it is of course always necessary to be critical about approaches of “development”, particularly those distinctly aiming at developing “the other”. In this context, the sustainable development goals of the United Nations (UN-SDGs) are a powerful tool of international development policy. Decreed in 2015 and targeted for 2030, they are reshaping the way how development is interpreted. They are often criticized (for diverse reasons) and also misunderstood (sometimes on purpose), and they are partly even self-contradictory. Still, necessary assistance may come with strings, also under the SDG umbrella. Hence, the SDGs are a controversial issue, embodying at the same time a traditional and thus at least partly “colonial” or “imperial” notion of development, while also at least potentially useful for decolonizing the problem. In the end, while they are different from earlier paradigms of development (be it modernization, structural adjustment, or poverty reduction), it remains to be clarified how exactly they are different and how important the difference is for actual processes and outcomes.

 In the webinar, we will have three inputs from different angles setting the stage for a general discussion about the (de-)coloniality of the SDGs. Questions that may be addressed include:

  • What is the basic character of the SDGs: more than old wine in new bottles with a fancy label? And who is framing the debate?
  • Are the SDGs at least a tool for taming predatory capitalism? Or could they also be used for inspiring or even enabling more radical change? What could specifically be the role of the SDGs in the global fight against climate crisis?
  • Generally, how much can the SDGs contribute to decolonizing the development discourse? What could be a larger context with respect to knowledge production in and from the Global South?
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