EDITION – 1                     


  • In September 2015, the member states of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly ratified the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a transformational agenda to address the problems facing the global community, including poverty, gender inequality, and climate change (UN, 2015). The UN and its members states ‘are committed to achieving sustainable development in its three dimensions— economic, social and environmental — in a balanced and integrated manner’ (UN, 2015, 6). For the SDGs, sustainable development involves the eradication of poverty, combating inequality, preserving the planet, and creating ‘sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth’ (UN, 2015: 8).
  • We recognise that the SDGs set the framework of the international development agenda up to the year 2030 (UN, 2015) and will have an enormous influence on development policy and practice in the coming years. For the first time, global development efforts in the economic, social and environmental spheres for both developed and developing countries are being integrated. This represents a great step forward, reducing the fragmentation of efforts to address global problems.
  • This Agenda for Knowledge Development is designed to complement the SDGs by providing an integrated approach to knowledge-related challenges that directly influence the achievement of the SDGs. It presents a vision of the societal and economic value of knowledge in which the transformational power of knowledge can be harnessed for the development of inclusive, pluralistic knowledge societies. We consider that knowledge is indispensable to individuals, communities, enterprises, governments and the global community, and is thus an intrinsic part of sustainable development.
  • The Agenda has been developed by an international coalition of civil society organisations, enterprises and academics, initiated and led by Knowledge Management Austria, which have developed a common vision on how knowledge can contribute to and underpin the ambitions of the SDG. This current version is work in progress. It was initially based on 50 statements, written by individuals with different societal and regional backgrounds. They have demonstrated the diversity of aspects involved. Any reader of this “Version 50.0” is invited to contribute by additional statements and comments. Any reflected step forward is expected to improve the design of this Agenda. Agenda Knowledge for Development 1 st edition Knowledge for Development


Our Vision

  • We recognize that knowledge and its application is the catalyst for any development and progress. The Agenda Knowledge for Development is an indispensable component of an agenda for sustainable development.
  • We consider that SDGs of the United Nations are directly associated with knowledge – defined as a human activity creating its own future, rather than to be a physical asset. Neither peace nor poverty reduction, good health or clean water can be achieved without a systematic and integrated approach to knowledge – including all elements that form the complex knowledge ecosystems, as are: access to knowledge, sharing, co-creating, innovating, applying, utilizing, reflecting, renewing, maintaining and preserving it. Respecting the diversity of knowledge cultures, perspectives and ambitions, the Agenda Knowledge for Development is aimed at providing a universal knowledge framework offering guiding principles, nurturing the dialogue on knowledge, strengthening the global knowledge ecosystems, and, ultimately, contributing to better success in achieving the SDGs.
  • We argue that knowledge embodies cognitive as well as emotional, spiritual and vital elements. Any kind of expression on knowledge – including artistic and religious instantiations – will contribute to a better comprehensive and holistic understanding of knowledge societies supporting not only to become an active but also a happy human being.
  • The Agenda Knowledge for Development is striving for advanced knowledge societies built on human rights, centring the human being with all his and her intellectual, emotional and vital qualities and needs, respecting freedom and trusting in responsibility, competent to contribute to the achievement of the sustainable development goals in their respective spheres, able to create their own future, and collaborating in global knowledge partnerships.
  • This Agenda is addressing individuals, families, communities, organisations and companies as well as public bodies on local, national, regional and global levels. All these bodies are needed to contribute to the advancement of knowledge societies. Responsibility for the knowledge agenda cannot be delegated. Like the SDGs themselves, this vision is as relevant for developed countries as for developing ones.



Goal 1: Pluralistic, diverse and inclusive knowledge societies

1.1 The characteristics of our knowledge societies should be inclusiveness, fairness, freedom, responsibility, accountability, transparency. These would directly determine the characteristics of our societies, since no society is in a position to provide equal opportunities without equal access to knowledge.

1.2 We advocate for a knowledge ecosystems approach which aims to connect people, organisations and institutions through their diverse knowledge’s. We emphasize the need to bridge all divides, including the digital and knowledge divide, especially for girls and women, but also for minorities, disabled and other vulnerable populations.

1.3 Knowledge is subject to any human being and any organised body of our societies. Therefore, the Agenda requires reflecting on and balance the various aspirations and needs of different parts of societies and care for the inclusion and participation in the knowledge societies. Freedom of knowledge and expression includes the responsibility for its use.

1.4 In this still globalizing world, cultures come and work together as partners, not only on a political level but also in everyone´s daily life. Migration is a natural part of this process and the migrant´s knowledge is relevant for global collaboration. When balancing the benefits and strains of migration in general, the respect of the migrant’s individual dignity is elementary. Beyond that, appreciation of his or her knowledge potential shall be considered as source for the development. Migrants shall have full support to develop and leverage on their knowledge within the immigration country.

Goal 2: People-focused knowledge societies

2.1 The individual knowledge of any world citizen – both female and male – should be in the centre of all considerations for a global knowledge agenda. Knowledge is a source to determining one’s own life and future, caring for one’s own health, availing oneself of national and human rights, developing one’s potential, delivering decent work, creating a fair income, dealing with unexpected new situations and foreign cultures, consuming responsibly, competently protecting wildlife and environment, and fully contributing to the social and economic development of their societies.

2.2 High quality education for all, freedom of expression, universal access to information and knowledge, as well as respect for cultural and linguistic diversity, are essential.

Goal 3: Strong local knowledge ecosystems

3.1 The still increasing inequality of knowledge development in the world leads to increased domination of advanced knowledge societies and dependence of less advanced. Strong local knowledge identities, cultures, policies, strategies, institutions, partnerships and processes will help any country to determine and create its own future for sustainable development in partnership with the world and to avoid dependence on fragmented knowledge transfer from more advanced knowledge societies. Local/urban knowledge partnerships shall care for the inclusion of local citizens and stakeholders and facilitate local knowledge processes.

3.2 Healthy knowledge ecosystems are built on communication and collaboration, on common visions and shared targets. They are rather competence-focused, providing society competence to master the challenges and opportunities, instead of sector-focused, where Agenda Knowledge for Development 1 st edition Knowledge for Development academia, business, governments, and citizens only follow their system-inherent objectives. Knowledge ecosystems facilitate the transdisciplinary dialogue, mutual information and knowledge sharing and participative societal development.

3.3 There needs to be a recognition that local knowledge and local realities are at the start of all development efforts. Although scientific and technical knowledge is very important to development efforts, it should not be assumed that it always offers the only and most superior solutions. An approach of multiple knowledges should be taken which recognises the importance of individual, community, specialist and holistic knowledge, and the role played by languages.

Goals 4: Strong Knowledge Partnerships

4.1 Thematic knowledge partnerships are essential in any field to make use of the plethora of knowledge and creative potential in the world, and highly effective linkages between different thematic knowledge partnerships, based on common principles and shared visions, are needed. Knowledge partnerships include all kind of knowledge processes like knowledge sharing, peer-learning, co-creation and innovation, application, preservation and more.

4.2 Urban/regional knowledge partnerships, such as city and community knowledge partnerships are vital to the validation and localization of global knowledge resources and approaches. Strong local knowledge partnerships will help knowledge transfer to be realistic, pragmatic, and anchored in the local knowledge ecosystems (institutions, markets, cultures).

4.3 The cooperation of both private and public knowledge service providers in developed and developing countries provides a rich spectrum of opportunities. Through governmental support and organisational courage, new sources of knowledge and markets can be opened up. Platforms can support specifically small and medium enterprises/academic institutions/NGOs to collaborate and to provide physical and digital knowledge services abroad.

Goal 5: Strong Knowledge Cities

5.1 Cities play a significant role in the advancement of knowledge societies, being natural hubs for the wider knowledge ecosystems. This opposes naturally a high responsibility of cities to nurture the rural areas with knowledge needed to compete with all kind of societal challenges. The connectivity of mega-cities, small and medium cities, villages and the rural area significantly determines the quality of life in both urban and rural areas.

Goal 6: Enabling knowledge strategies in development organisations

6.1 High awareness and sensitivity of knowledge-related issues and competence to manage knowledge for development is urgently needed within development organisations from multilateral organisations to local non-governmental organisations. Strengthening the competencies in knowledge work, knowledge management and knowledge politics within the UN System and the full spectrum of stakeholders in development cooperation is a prerequisite for competent delivery of development work.

6.2 Development organisations should be aware that their tremendous financial means and knowledge resources make them part of the problem. Any development practitioner and organisation has the responsibility to critically reflect on its practices, its success and its wider impact on development – including the growth of knowledge and independence in the developing countries, being willing to share the knowledge and lessons learned, instead of Agenda Knowledge for Development 1 st edition Knowledge for Development using it as an instrument of power, willing to limiting oneself in the application of knowledge to the benefit of enabling others to gain and apply knowledge.

6.3 The mobilization of tremendous financial resources for developing countries is intended to support their development, but includes the potential to hamper the development of independent and self-determined knowledge ecosystems and societies. Any sort of development support, specifically if substantial financial resources are involved, should be examined on their impact on the knowledge ecosystem and knowledge markets.

6.4 Development organisations should work with each other to find a complementary role in the knowledge ecosystem, rather than duplicating each other’s efforts. For example, the many platforms and portals in different themes need to take an ecosystem approach to work with others.

6.5 Development organisations need to respond to local knowledge development strategies and strengthen the local knowledge ecosystems and support the diversity of local knowledge services.

Goal 7: Capture, preservation and democratization of knowledge

7.1 Libraries, museums, archives and other institutions capturing, preserving and making available knowledge to future generations, are indispensable for the advancement of knowledge societies.

7.2 The long-term preservation of fluid digital media and the digitization of physical knowledge assets (e.g. books) are among the current challenges of today.

7.3 The protection and maintenance of intellectual heritage is also subject to scientific, cultural and other private institutions that maintain specific techniques that don´t find their market. The capturing of knowledge is also subject to any professional and private individual, who can share his/her experience with others who need it.

Goal 8: Fair and dynamic knowledge markets

8.1 Advanced knowledge societies create their economic growth significantly through private knowledge services. Business means to transform knowledge into wealth. Knowledge services (like consulting, training, teaching, researching, innovating, developing, communicating, engineering and more) make a fast growing share in the knowledge economy. The development of fair and dynamic knowledge markets is essential for the development of knowledge societies.

8.2 Any kind of development support should strengthen local knowledge markets and knowledge entrepreneurship instead of hampering them – eg through donated “fly-in-fly-out” knowledge services from abroad.

8.3 Whenever the production of data, information and knowledge is financed by public means, it should be freely accessible to the public.

8.4 Private knowledge services as a source of income and wealth-creation need to be protected and promoted. High standards of competition law must be applied to the delivery of knowledge services to developing countries. Clear preference should be given to strengthening of local knowledge service providers.

Goal 9: Safety, security, sustainability and the law 

9.1 Any knowledge created serves for improving life conditions, but often includes uncertainties, especially if associated with new technologies, the mid- and long-term effects of which cannot be foreseen. Considering undesired effects to individuals, societies and the environment must be part of any global and local knowledge policy. Legal frameworks have to protect citizens and societies from misuse of newly generated knowledge and shall promote the responsible application of knowledge for the benefit of human development.

9.2 The responsible use of knowledge also requires the evolution and maintenance of competence in the use of – specifically safety-sensitive – technologies. The application of standards in the use and maintenance of knowledge – adequate to the dynamics of knowledge in the respective context – is a must for any activity that can affect the safety, security or sustainability in society.

Goal 10: Legal knowledge

10.1 The law is one of the cornerstones of civilization and a basic condition for community life. Making good laws presupposes good knowledge of the sphere of human life to be regulated and adequate evaluation of the social and economic impact of any proposed new law. This requires a transdisciplinary knowledge that transcends by far the limits of the legal profession.

10.2 A law is only as good as its application in practice. The respect for individual or collective rights assumes that those rights are known and relied upon. Knowledge about the law thus means that the addressees of legal norms are aware of their rights and able to invoke them. A great deal still needs to be done, through the development of institutional links or supporting networks of learning organisations, to ensure that legal knowledge reaches beyond court benches and law schools, and that, conversely, knowledge from the fields of social and natural sciences find their way into law making and legal thinking. There is no development without law, but also no law without knowledge.

Goal 11: Improved knowledge competencies and knowledge work

11.1 The future of all knowledge societies not only depends on the availability of knowledge (specifically if delivered from outside), but the ability to self-determine, manage, renew and sustain its own knowledge ecosystem. Therefore disciplines, like knowledge work, knowledge management and knowledge politics become essential to any individual, organisation, community and international body. Strengthening these subjects in all educational bodies and programmes is supportive.

11.2 Any individual can and has to contribute to the advancement of knowledge societies. No matter if politician, entrepreneur, employee or any kind of citizen, everyone should have the opportunity to cultivate his/her knowledge through learning, reflecting, reviewing, sharing, connecting, creating, inventing, applying, preserving, and through the improvement of skills that help to work globally – like language skills and intercultural competence. By avoiding prejudice and ignorance, by opening up for the new, by sharing our knowledge with others who need it, we will not only create a better world, but we will also grow as human beings. We cannot delegate this responsibility to the governments. The Agenda Knowledge will be realized through many small and responsible steps by many, with boldness in the projection and patience in the implementation. Agenda Knowledge for Development 1 st edition Knowledge for Development

11.3 Special attention should be given on the competence of knowledge service professionals. Not only the professional knowledge of his/her domain, but also the competence to add real value to societies based on high ethical standards are to be developed at the highest possible level.

11.4 Knowledge work is increasingly dominating the economic value creation processes. Knowledge workers, people who train, teach, educate, research, explore, innovate, consult, advise, communicate, publish, engineer, capture, preserve, etc. need to receive the right and sufficient resources for their specific knowledge work. This includes time, financial resources, space and other resources to maintain and develop their knowledge and their practice.

11.5 Those organisations that have the ability to leverage on the knowledge potential of their organisation and of external partners will be most successful. Companies and societies who provide the individuals opportunities to develop their highest potential – eg through diversity in the education system, flexible career models, etc. – will develop better than others.

11.6 Current practices in knowledge work often incur the risk of specific harm to the health of knowledge workers. Individuals and also organisations shall protect against new diseases created through knowledge societies, including diseases linked with intensified computer work or with the growing complexity of work.

Goal 12: Universities to play an active role

12.1 Universities in both North and South have an important role to play in the knowledge ecosystem. As educational institutions, they have to strengthen the wider understanding of our world and the capacity to generate alternative solutions for problems affecting humankind.

12.2 It is imperative that knowledge, created, collected and recovered in universities and institutions of higher education should be used to solve universal problems and not to increase the gaps in power and wealth. One promising methodology to increase the relevance of universities is transdisciplinary research, including many types of participatory research, which responds to real world, persistent problems, involves multiple stakeholders, integrates different forms of knowledge by crossing disciplinary boundaries as well as boundaries between science and society, and integrates the process of knowledge production with societal problem solving.

12.3 We need to strengthen bonds and alliances between educational centres in the North and South in order to develop capacities oriented to face present-day challenges. The willingness to share and the willingness to adopt and learn are essential prerequisites to finally cooperate and co-creation new knowledge as partners. Academic knowledge production has to develop new models which support rather than exclude Southern academics.

Goal 13: Information and communication technologies (ICTs) for all

13.1 ICTs have an important role to play in future knowledge societies, in providing access to the global body of knowledge and in facilitating the communication and dialogue, bringing the world together. Being disconnected from the internet, eg through lack of IT and energy or censorship, is a major barrier for knowledge development. 

13.2 Technology needs to be appropriate and ICTs are not always the solution in all situations. Other media, like books, newspapers, terrestrial tv and radio, and finally face-to-face communication should not be discarded, still playing an important role in the knowledge ecosystem.

Means of implementation and the global partnership

The following list of measures is very initial and meant as an input for the discussion during the K4D-Summit on October 2014:

  •  For the advancement of the current Agenda Knowledge for Development a standing working group needs to be established reflecting the wide spectrum of aspects and interests.
  •  A cross-cutting responsibility within the UN System will be supportive for the advancement of a global knowledge agenda, as no single UN Organisation’s mandate covers all aspects of the advancement of knowledge societies.
  • A global knowledge report can be a useful instrument to provide evidence, actualization and guidance to the global knowledge for development community.
  • Initiate and professionalize knowledge partnerships to be effective in knowledge sharing and developing, based on fair conditions of participating and sharing, trust, confidence and respect.
  • Provide guidance and methodology to assess knowledge divide and provide recommendations for improvement. Regularly implement such assessments for further improvements.
  • Strengthen any kind of collaboration among knowledge service providers (both public and private research and education institutions, consultants, engineers, etc.) to enhance knowledge transfer to where it is most needed.
  • Increase the globally equal access to all forms of web-based knowledge work, like learning, teaching, researching, innovating, sharing, networking, preserving, etc.
  • Create legal framework for advanced global knowledge exchange and the global delivery of knowledge services.
  • Strengthen business cooperation for knowledge transfer, make use of digital knowledge services; create platforms to help SMEs play an active role in the knowledge transfer.
  • Apply high Knowledge Management standards for public administrations, industries and individual firms.
  • Knowledge sharing for development is anchored in the mandates and measurements of public institutions, like governments and public academic institutions as well as in private sectors, like companies and NGOs.
  • Assess and develop knowledge ecosystems systematically and strategically (specifically but not only in developing and emerging countries).
  • Implement communication programmes to foster strong knowledge cultures, increase awareness that knowledge is the source of individual, economic and societal development, and promote passion and enthusiasm to improve lives through Agenda Knowledge for Development 1 st edition Knowledge for Development advancement of knowledge. Knowledge about problems in societies and how they affect the lives of different populations. Media to play an essential role in this regard.
  • Establish a standard for knowledge transfer within development cooperation projects to strengthen local knowledge ecosystem and markets, and to avoid increased dependence of knowledge transfer. Provide time and resources within development programmes to comprehensively transfer knowledge to local knowledge ecosystem and the international community.
  • Support cities to develop comprehensive knowledge city strategies and implementation plans. Establish programmes to form and implement locally tailored appropriate knowledge-based urban and rural development policies.
  • Develop capacities in knowledge work, knowledge management and knowledge politics on all levels of society. Promote, facilitate and support countries, cities, communities in dealing with knowledge in all sectors. Build infrastructures to learn, improve, exchange experiences/lessons learned, ideas, visions, etc. in the mentioned fields.
  • Enhance means to capture, preserve and disseminate knowledge for future generations, protect knowledge as a cultural good.
  • Establish and develop institutional links and supporting networks of learning organisations, to ensure that legal knowledge reaches beyond court benches and law schools, and that, conversely, knowledge from the field of practice and sciences find their way into law making and legal thinking.
  • Increase capacities to access ICT, e-learning, and e-teaching everywhere.
  • Increase access to electricity.

Further measures to be developed.



This version of the Agenda Knowledge for Development is a working document for the discussion and reflection during the Knowledge for Development Summit on 14 October 2016. The results of the discourse during this day, will help to further develop this first version.
An advanced version will be published on the website k4dev.knowledge.city and on other websites as well. Feedback can be given anytime.

A presentation of the advanced version is planned at the international conference “Knowledge Management in the United Nations System” in Geneva, Palais des Nations, from 3-4 April 2017.

Vienna, 10 October 2016
Authors of this version: Andreas Brandner, Sarah Cummings, Petra Herout, Günter Koch,
based on the statements of 50 personalities, accessible on http://k4dev.knowledge.city.