Sustainable development requires 8 major shifts

Research forum calls for transformation to tackle global challenges

Richard Lee's picture


Strategic communications for WWF

March 14th, 2013

A new international alliance of research institutes has identified eight major shifts that must take place for humanity to achieve sustainable development in the face of widespread poverty, hunger and inequality coupled with the growing global population and the impact of climate change.

The recommendations come in a paper published today by the Independent Research Forum on a Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda, whose members include the (IIED) and other think tanks in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, North America and South America.

The research institutes - which include the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) - joined forces to provide expert analysis to inform the on-going international policy processes that will shape both the Sustainable Development Goals (which nations agreed to create at the Rio+20 Summit last year) and the ‘post-2015’ development agenda, which is set to replace the Millennium Development Goals.

The new paper says that sustainable development can only be achieved if four foundations exist:

  • Economic progress;
  • Equitable prosperity and opportunity;
  • Healthy and productive ecosystems; and
  • Stakeholder engagement and collaboration.

But first, says the Independent Research Forum, eight shifts will be essential from:

  • 'Development assistance’ to a universal global compact;
  • Top-down to multi-stakeholder decision-making processes;
  • Economic models that increase inequalities and risks to ones that reduce them;
  • Business models based on shareholder value to those based on stakeholder value;
  • Meeting ‘easy’ development targets to tackling systemic barriers to progress;
  • Damage control to investing in resilience;
  • Concepts and testing to scaled up interventions; and
  • Multiple discrete actions to cross-scale coordination.

The paper describes each of these shifts in more detail and then outlines the Independent Research Forum’s recommendation for how policymakers should set the goals and targets that will make up the post-2015 development agenda.

"This has been a joint effort by 12 think tanks from around the world, and we are very happy with the result," says Dr Tom Bigg of IIED. "We believe this framework will be useful for all those charged with agreeing a coherent set of goals that meet the challenges the world is facing."

"The framework paper provides a constructive, cutting edge and forward looking input into the post 2015 debates and highlights key issues for the coming decades with a relevant development agenda for countries at different stages of development," says Masego Madzwamuse, OSISA's Economic Justice Programme Manager. "Thus it presents an development agenda where all countries need to make changes rather than one that only speaks to a narrow development aid agenda. The framework is underpinned by a set of minimum principles on integration, interaction between the scale and scope of development, equity, human rights, justice and good governance and the need for systemic transformation and a common vision that takes into account differentiated development pathways." 

"The Independent Research Forum will continue to engage with the post-2015 process over the next two years. As a first step we plan to release a series of more focused papers which apply our framework to particular policy contexts," says Bigg. "These will demonstrate its value as a means of organising thinking and action across the range of issues relevant to the post-2015 discourse."

Future papers will focus on specific sectors – such as water, agriculture, energy and urbanisation.

The Independent Research Forum's current members are the  (West Indies),  (Chile),  (Senegal),  (india), (Japan), IIED (UK), OSISA (Southern Africa),  (UK),  (China),   (Indonesia),  (Sweden), and the  (USA).



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