An overview of CCAFS work around science and policy in Latin America from the last two years.

The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) actively pushes efforts to bring science and policy together to create solutions for climate change impacts in agriculture and food security. These efforts focus on research that looks to strengthen the science-policy dialogue and develop strategies that open opportunities for science to help shape policies that yield better results. However, this is not an easy task. The complex relationship between climate change and rural development includes controversies among different stakeholders, which result in challenging decision-making processes that influence the entire policy cycle. For this reason, the scope of science-policy interaction strategies needs to reach scientists, policymakers, and other decision-makers at different levels.

Considering this context, part of CCAFS’ efforts in 2020 and 2021 focused on research about science-policy interactions in Latin America. Climate change impacts in the region include vulnerable rural communities and risks to food security. Thus, it is necessary to strengthen the role of science to consolidate policies that address three major challenges for agriculture and food systems in the region: (1) guarantee food security, while adapting to climate change (2) and contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions (3).

The results

As a result of these efforts, the program issued a research report, an Info Note and organized an online seminar to open the discussion about science-policy interactions with researchers and practitioners from different countries in the region. All of these activities and products served the purpose of collecting information and different contributions to building a toolbox with the goal of providing scientists, policymakers and practitioners with the tools to promote and strengthen the science-policy dialogue. 

The research report Interacción Ciencia-Política en el Ámbito de las Políticas de Mitigación y Adaptación al Cambio Climático Experiencias y Lecciones de América Latina” presents a literature review of the different conceptual frameworks and models that look to explain science-policy interactions and their different variables. It also presents the results of the systematization of different science-policy interaction experiences within the region. The results of the study show that, in the political and institutional contexts of Latin America, science-policy interactions develop through collaborative arrangements between different stakeholders. However, these arrangements are most effective when participatory and capacity-building processes are implemented and articulated, by science-policy interfaces and communication strategies that translate and adapt information, in order to mobilize different kinds of knowledge into decision-making processes.On the other hand, the results of the study also show that in the context of each case studied, these interactions are not sustainable. Institutional and governing structures affect efforts to establish collaboration arrangements that can address the dynamics of climate change. All of the study results are summarized and presented in the Info Note Science-Policy Interactions in Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change: Lessons from Latin America”. 

With this understanding of science-policy interactions in Latin America, CCAFS and the Network on Public Policies and Rural Development in Latin America (PP-AL) organized the online seminar “Interacción Ciencia-Política Pública frente a los Desafíos del Cambio Climático: Experiencias y Lecciones Aprendidas para Sistemas Alimentarios Sostenibles en América Latina[Science-Policy Interactions and Climate Change: Experiences and Lessons Learned for Sustainable Food Systems in Latin America]. This event brought together climate change experts from Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay to discuss challenges and opportunities for science-policy interactions. As a result of this discussion, challenges raised major concerns among experts. These include the limited technical abilities of different stakeholders to use scientific knowledge; the inadequate institutional capacity and lack of political will; and knowledge not being relevant or adequate for decision-making. However, during the seminar, it was suggested that these challenges can be overcome by approaching science-policy interactions through participatory methods that strive to involve strategic stakeholders in climate policy and ensure the relevance, legitimacy, and credibility of knowledge to develop climate actions.

By bringing together the inputs of both the study and the online seminar, CCFAS created the toolbox “Mitigación y Adaptación al Cambio Climático en América Latina: Herramientas para desarrollar interacciones ciencia-política frente a los desafíos climáticos en el ámbito de los Sistemas Alimentarios” [Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change in Latin America: Tools for Science – Policy Interactions Facing Climate Challenges for Sustainable Food Systems]. The main goal of this toolbox is to offer science and policy actors the tools to foster better science-policy collaborations in the battle against climate change. With this purpose the toolbox is made up of 4 sections that offer 1) context analysis methodologies that help identify science-policy collaboration pathways; 2) methods and instruments to establish communications and coordinate relations among stakeholders in these collaborations; 3) tools to develop strategies that foster sustainable science-policy interactions; and 4) an approach to evaluation methods that assess two important aspects: i) the contribution of science-policy interactions in improving the role of science in policy and ii) the impact of science in policy results.

The way forward

Looking ahead, evaluation and impact assessments of science-policy interactions present the major challenge in this field. The difficulty to establish causal relations between these interactions and science uptake in policy decisions is persistent and cripples efforts to fund and sustain these collaborations. Thus, new research initiatives are needed to improve evaluation methods in the field. On its part, this toolbox is only a starting point to discovering ways to promote and strengthen science-policy interactions. Looking and establishing new partnerships to improve this document can be the next move for CGIAR to advance science-policy collaborations.

Paola Andrea Daza Aragón and Jean-Francois Le Coq work for the CCAFS Latin America regional program.