The presence of the United Nations and its sub-agencies plays a crucial role in the challenges Africa is facing. The purpose of this panel is to help the understanding of the dynamics unfolding among UN institutions, national states and local communities in the contemporary African scenario.
If the UN and its agencies are an important force of present-day globalisation, it is also true that their universalist goals are conceived and delivered through a Western epistemological order and language. How are this language and policies met, adapted and accommodated to local needs and expectations? What kind of ambiguities or contradictions emerge in the relationship with national and local systems of knowledge and power management? In order to better understand the impacts of the many projects pursued under the UN umbrella, we need to pay attention to the interplay between several aspects - on both institutional and local scale -, the details of which are often little known. On the one side, action plans, guidelines for each country and funds' allocation influence the planning of interventions, together with other external factors (e.g. initiatives such as the Millennium Development Goals). Which instruments are implemented by UN Programmes (peer education, mentorship, in-job trainings, etc.)? Which kind of local participation they actually foster, behind the theory of "participatory development"? How are results and sustainability evaluated over time? How are potential unwanted effects in the field dealt with? On the other side, at a national and regional level, how are UN Programmes accommodated, resisted or criticised? How is their idea of development locally perceived, interpreted and evaluated? Is there, according to different contexts, a dynamic of change and mutual adaptation over time? The panel welcomes ethnographic contributions about UN policies and local arenas of implementation: "succesfull" and "unsuccesfull" case-studies, examples of good practices along with critical analysis and interpretations are all welcome.