The spread of information technologies is engendering a wholesale transformation of citizen (or participative or contributory) sciences. This involves the inclusion of voluntary, non-scientific actors in the process of producing scientific knowledge: their collaboration is enlisted for creating inventories, observing, counting, measuring, and field monitoring (fauna and flora). The technologies are cheap and simple to use, which makes for an increase in the number of projects, the area over which they extend, and the sectors involved. Smartphones with GPS, geographic information systems (GIS) and open access software are the tools now used by NGOs in countries of the South to produce the basic documents needed in providing assistance in emergency situations, in development projects, and in environmental. Whether it involves monitoring the evolution of biodiversity, water, the state of the soil, seismology or the cartography of breeders’ routes, unsurveyed rural community land, or peripheral urban spaces, the involvement of the population, particularly young people, has led to the production of quality documents which public administrations, both regional and local, did not have available. In addition to the wealth of information gathered in databases that no research program nor any administration of a Southern country has the means to collect, the contributions of this shared effort are of prime importance in terms of levers for development. This bridging of the digital divide in a communal endeavor of identification, protection, and development of common goods constitutes a digital, scientific, technical, and innovative civil education. The involvement of the inhabitants introduces local knowledge into a collective heritage; it also develops their abilities, creates awareness that the environment and public space are to be shared and protected, specifies needs, enables mediation, informs demands, and ensures greater transparency.
- A geographic information system combines a database, software, hardware and human skills in order to gather, analyze, manage and represent georeferenced information and data (in other words, having latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates). GIS are used both by public actors to manage a territory or network and by private actors to optimize their activities (marketing).
- Use of this expression became more widespread following its inclusion in Article 71 of the United Nations Charter. NGOs do not have an international legal status and the acronym is used in different contexts to refer to very different kinds of actors. It generally designates associations formed by individuals over the long term in relation to not-for-profit goals, often linked to values and beliefs (ideological, humanist, ecological, religious, etc.) rather than financial interests. Active on a wide range of issues at both the local and global levels, NGOs now number tens of thousands, but vary greatly in the scale of their budgets, staff and development.
- Definitions of development and its opposite – underdevelopment – have varied considerably according to the political objectives and ideological positions of those using these words. In the 1970s, Walt Whitman Rostow conceived of it as an almost mechanical process involving successive stages of economic growth and social improvement, whereas Samir Amin analyzed the relationships between center and peripheries, seeing the development of the former as founded on the exploitation of the latter. In Latin America, the dependency theory condemned the ethnocentrism of the universal view that the “periphery” of underdeveloped states could simply catch up through modernization. Talking of poor or developing “countries” masks the inequalities that also exist within societies (in both Northern and Southern hemispheres) and individuals’ connections to globalization processes.
- In broad terms, the environment is understood as the biosphere in which living species cohabit, while ecology studies the relations between these organisms and their environment. The environment encompasses very diverse natural areas from undisturbed virgin forests to artificialized environments planned and exploited by humans. In a more limited definition of the term, “environmental” issues are those relating to natural resources (their management, use and degradation) and biological biodiversity (fauna and flora). As a cross-cutting public concern, the environment encompasses issues of societal organization (production models, transport, infrastructure, etc.) and their impacts on the health of humans and ecosystems.
- This notion originated during the preparatory work for the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. It describes the diversity of the living world in the strictest sense, emphasizing the unity of all life, and the interdependency connecting the three elements of biological diversity: genes, species, and ecosystems. The concept takes the living world out of the restricted field of natural sciences and places it at the center of international debate. Today, biodiversity is a global heritage to be protected and a source of potential revenue that is hotly disputed between states, multinational companies, and local communities.
- common goods
- Goods considered as the common property of humanity, for which each of us is responsible for the survival of all. This notion comes from two philosophical traditions: the ancient concept of community, taken over by the Catholic Church, and the liberal and utilitarian idea of individual responsibility. It enables the general interest of societies, such as the protection of common goods, to be defined. On the global scale (global commons), the concept invites indivisible control of humanity’s common heritage, both material (health, environment) and immaterial (peace, human rights, transcultural values). Some goods are therefore beyond the limits state jurisdiction (the high seas, space) or beyond sovereign claims (Antarctica).
- public space
- Concept defined by the philosopher Jürgen Habermas (1978), who saw politics as a subject of debate, of publicity and therefore subject to the influence of national public opinion, which in turn places substantial limits on absolutism. Transposed to international level, we can see the development of this kind of sphere in the fact that actors other than nation-states engage with questions that were formerly the preserve of national sovereignty.
- Peaceful mode of resolving disputes involving the use of an intermediary, the mediator, to help the conflicting parties find an outcome negotiated through mutual concessions. Mediators are expected to operate impartially and with complete independence. Regulated internationally by the Hague Convention of 1907, mediation was used by the League of Nations (LoN) and has since been deployed, in particular, by the UN. Mediation is also practiced within democratic states in order to resolve minor disputes (i.e. family mediation, judicial mediation, etc.). Cultural mediation is used, for instance, in providing support to migrants.