Enhancing evidence-informed decision making at the UN General Assembly

Supported by  Hewlett Foundation,
This project is a collaboration between the University of Bristol, OTT and four African think tanks. We aim to produce national evidence-use case studies to inform research to enhance evidence-informed decision making at the UN General Assembly.

About the project

This project, led by the School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol in collaboration with OTT, brings together researchers from the UK and across Sub-Saharan Africa. Working closely with international policymakers in the UN system, the team aims to respond to the confusion and ambiguities in evidence-informed policy and practice by gathering insights from textual analysis and country-case studies to inspire and inform procedural changes at the international level.

Think tanks in Benin, South Africa, South Sudan, and Tanzania are developing national case studies on evidence use within specific policy sectors. Think tanks are well placed to understand the evidence/policy interface, and these case studies offer valuable insights into the contextual factors influencing evidence use in each country. They also delve into the roles played by various stakeholders, including universities and think tanks, in shaping national policy.

The Benin case study examines evidence-informed policymaking in the food security and nutrition sector. In South Africa, the focus is on policymaking within the context of the professionalisation of the public service. Meanwhile, the South Sudan case study explores the role of evidence-informed policymaking in the national budgeting process. Lastly, the Tanzania case study reflects on the experiences of the Tanzanian Urbanization Laboratory.


In a world affected by pandemics, global warming, environmental degradation, and socio-economic shifts, the demand for evidence-based policy is unprecedented. President Biden’s memo and the UN Secretary-General’s 2021 report both emphasise the importance of grounding policies in science and expertise.

However, as of 2023/24, major global governance forums lack permanent, institutionalised structures for incorporating scientific evidence, as noted in Espey’s 2023 study on the role of evidence in the UNGA.

This shortfall comes at a time when international cooperation against complex challenges is crucial, necessitating formalized expert input mechanisms. Yet, promoting evidence use in policymaking faces challenges, including disagreements on what constitutes valid evidence, the design of effective evidence-to-policy mechanisms, and the adaptation of national policies to the international level, reflecting the complexities of aligning scientific insights with global policymaking processes.


National experts and case study authors:

Learning partners:

  • Emily Hayter, OTT
  • Marcela Morales, OTT


Phase 1 Case Studies

Key findings from four case studies on evidence-informed policymaking in Africa

Strengthening Science Advisory Processes within the UN General Assembly

Democracy, power and evidence-informed policy-making. The case of public service reform in South Africa

Linking evidence and climate resilient national urban policy in Tanzania amid unfavourable political conditions: Reflections on the Tanzanian Urbanisation Laboratory, 2017–2020

Evidence-informed policymaking in Benin’s agriculture, food security and nutrition ecosystem

Institutionalising evidence use in the South Sudan national budget process: lessons from the Open Budget Survey Research in South Sudan

Discussion sessions

Strengthening science policy interfaces for sustainable development: STI Forum virtual side event

Learning lessons from nationally evidentiary processes to inform international deliberation: Panel discussion at the African Evidence Network Conference 2023


Phase I: March – September 2023