Context, Conceptual Framework and Sustainability Indicators | 5

Table 1-1. Differences between a review and an assessment.

Scientific Reviews Assessment
Audience Undertaken for scientists Undertaken for decision-makers from a specified authorizing environment
Conducted by One or a few scientists A larger and varied group based on relevant geographic and disciplinary representation
Issues/Topics Often deal with a single topic Generally a broader and complex issue
Identifies gaps in Research issues generally driven by scientific curiosity Knowledge for implementation of outcomes; problem-driven
Uncertainty statements Not always required Essential
Judgment Hidden; a more objective analysis Required and clearly flagged
Synthesis Not required, but sometimes important Essential to reduce complexity
Coverage Exhaustive, historical Sufficient to deal with main range of uncertainty associated with the identified issues

Source: Watson and Gitay, 2004.

poverty, improve rural livelihoods, and facilitate equitable, environmentally, socially and economically sustainable development through the generation of, access to, and use of AKST?" Three questions recur throughout the global and sub-global assessments of IAASTD. They concern:

  1. Social disparities: How have changing markets and changing access to markets affected development and sustainability goals, and how has this been influenced by AKST? How and by what have cultural values, traditions and social equity (including gender equity) been influenced? What are projected implications of market changes in the future, and how can AKST contribute to informed decision-making?
  2. Ecology: How has availability of, access to and management of natural resources (particularly water and soil resources, as well as plant, animal, genetic and other resources) affected the development and sustainability goals of IAASTD? How can AKST enhance knowledge of natural resource management?
  3. AKST: What have been, and what are projected to be, the implications of institutional and policy changes and funding (e.g., private versus public investment; intellectual property rights [IPR]; legislative frameworks) on access to AKST, on innovation systems and on ownership of knowledge? How will AKST influence social, environmental and economic outcomes of agricultural and food systems?

Other central issues relating to hunger, nutrition, human health, poverty, livelihoods and the economy, as well as productivity and technologies are part of the sustainability goals and thus further emphasized in the document.

Diversity of views and value systems represented in the IAASTD

AKST is not an entity; it is a diverse field of knowledge and values. Achieving development and sustainability goals requires probing and experimentation, negotiation, and learning among diverse voices and interpretations, as well


as taking into account place-based and context-relevant factors and voices to address the multiple functions of agriculture. The IAASTD has made clear how contested AKST are among the hundreds of professionals involved, especially formal AKST. Conflicting perspectives on AKST have led to different options for policy-making, and understanding the competing interpretations of AKST does not guarantee a consensual outcome. IAASTD focuses on AKST issues most relevant to development and sustainability goals.

1.1.2 Agriculture and its global context

Importance of agriculture. Agriculture as the source of human food, animal feed, fiber and fuel plays a key role in efforts to achieve global sustainable development. It is a major occupational sector in developing countries, with the poorest countries being those with predominantly agricultural economies and societies (FAO, 2000). Approximately 2.6 billion people-men, women and children -rely on agricultural production systems, be it farming, livestock production, forestry or fishery. Food security for a growing world population is positioned to remain a challenge in the next few decades. Most food is produced in Asia and other densely populated poor regions, and most of that food is consumed domestically. Because of the high diversity of agricultural systems across the world IAASTD decided to carry out five sub-global assessments in addition to the global one, in order to adequately address issues in the major agricultural regions of the world. These regions have developed to their current state for a variety of reasons, and a more specific reorientation of AKST is likely to be more effective if it addresses region-specific issues in agriculture, development and sustainability. The IAASTD has put particular emphasis on addressing issues relevant to tackling poverty reduction, which is central to the Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015, though these issues are also expected to remain important long beyond that date.

     In parallel with the spread and growth of human population, particularly during the last 300 years, but at a particularly impressive rate since 1950, the transformation of