Category Archives: [SDG16]

Making a sustainable long term perspective and national reports

The Rio +20 outcome document, paragraph 85(k), calls for a Global Sustainable Development Report GSDR, in order to bring together dispersed information and existing assessments and to strengthen the science-policy interface at the High Level Political Forum on sustainable development (HLPF). The United Nations Secretary-General tasked the Division for Sustainable Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs with elaborating a first prototype report. A first prototype report has been published this year. It is a rich and open cluster of approaches and contents, with an open structure, inviting discussion and further elaboration about methods and content. “It focuses on global sustainable development in terms of issues, impacts, institutions and technology. It maps sustainable development assessments and related processes and highlights emerging issues identified by scientists; assesses sustainable development progress; tells the “Stories” of future pathways toward sustainable development based on the literature and discusses investment and technology needs; assesses various approaches to measuring sustainable development progress; identifies lessons learnt from national, regional and global case studies of the climate-land-energy-waterdevelopment nexus; presents illustrative science digests for decision-makers; and suggests a number of issues for consideration.”

Thinking of the forthcoming SDGs, the starting work of the HLPF, the UN-Conferences and Special Programmes on different subjects that are crucial for a global sustainable development as well as of the many national and international efforts to advance it, the usefulness of a GSDR seems quite evident. It would provide a worldwide overview about the state of the process, key issues, key players, best practices, special difficulties and long-term perspectives. So all persons and institutions involved would be in position to acquire useful information, the necessary orientation, and be able to determine more precisely where and how to concentrate their efforts and whom to collaborate with. But as soon as one starts to discuss more precisely the structure, contents, range and methods of such a report, the enormous challenge of composing it becomes obvious: The more generally and globally the perspective chosen, the less it says about the specific situation or development in a determined region or subject. What political or geographical borders should structure the report? Should it be structured by them at all? What range of time should be covered – past, present and the future, and to what degree? How to determine key issues? – Should the seventeen SDG be taken as a basis of the report? Or should they be further reduced to its five roots of assuring basic human needs, basic human rights, good house-holding, good governance and political coherence? It seems to be by far easier to formulate difficult questions than to find good answers.

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A new institution for sustainably shaping our future

The insight that modern democracy, its procedures and decision-making are rather short-term guided, is not new.

When Alexis de Tocqueville travelled through the United States of America in the first half of the 19th century, he made an honest effort to understand what American democracy was and how it worked. He thought American democracy – and democracy as he came to understand it in general – hardly able to deal with long-term issues and to work steadily and effectively for long-term goals. The short time until the next elections, its influence on the behaviour of the elected politicians, the fast changing emotions of the people, the many possibilities to manipulate them and the readiness among influential members of the society to do so for particular interests – all these were and still are good reasons for serious doubt in this matter.

Because of the enormous growth of our economical, technical and organizational possibilities to change the world’s outlook within a few years’ time and the racing speed of the development of our societies, the issue of shorttermism and ways to reform and develop our political decision-making institutionally in order to allow a sustainable, long-term shaping of our future have become more and more urgent. By now, they are crucial for our efforts to guide communities, countries and the whole world away from actual nofuture paths towards sustainable, long-term pathways of development.

The Future Council Foundation, founded in 1997, has since tried to initiate the creation of future councils to complement the work of governments and parliaments systematically and institutionally with a long-term dimension and to make it politically arguable and convincing. Within the last years quite a few institutions of that kind have been created – not very strong ones, but already quite tenacious. By creating the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and by establishing global sustainable development goals, within the United Nations a kind of a World Future Council is being created these months.

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Measuring the SDGs Progress with Data Envelope Analysis

How do you gauge the accomplishments of policy and its failures? While a number of nations are successful in maximizing a socioeconomic welfare function, others are woefully falling short of the optimal frontier. Considering the large number of SDGs and development targets, the accomplishments and failures of nations and their policy performance will always be multidimensional. Once we have agreed on a single measure of such progress, it becomes possible to document numerically how policymakers succeed (or fail) in achieving their goals and communicate them politically.

Data envelopment analysis (DEA), codeveloped by Abraham Charnes and William Cooper in 1978, is ideally suited for the purpose, delivering a metric that evaluates the performance of Decision Making Units DMUs(nations, regions, cities, enterprises, banks, schools, etc.) according to their ability to use inputs, and marshal economic and social policy to attain a spectrum of desired goals. We propose a DEA framework to assess an empirical production function and to serve as an interactive-iterative policy evaluation system for monitoring the multi-dimensional progress various nations make towards
achievement of the SDGs.

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Disaster Risk Governance: The essential linkage between DRR and SDGs

The issue of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is intimately linked to Governance model used by states to implement a comprehensive strategy to manage such risks and undertake integrated management. Depending on the chosen Governance model, the DRR circle can be either virtuous or vicious. At this moment when decennial appraisal of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) is taking place and looking for better strategies, the first results are mixed about the effectiveness of selected governance. Fortunately, as we shall see below, interesting and successful examples exist.

The Governance concept has undergone some trends in the last years and knows some nuances according to different authors. However, a more comprehensive approach of this concept can be stated. For the Canadian Institute on Governance (IOG), “Governance is a straightforward process, akin to a steersman in a boat. (…) Governance is complicated by the fact that it involves multiple actors, not a single helmsman. These multiple actors are the organization’s stakeholders (…) Decision makers are then accountable to those same stakeholders for the organization’s output and the process of producing it.” (IOG, 20151)

The same philosophy is included within the UNDP definition, which states “Governance is the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority in the management of a country’s affairs at all levels. It comprises mechanisms, processes and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences.
Governance encompasses, but also transcends, government. It encompasses all relevant groups, including the private sector and civil society organizations.” (UNDP, 2010)

This more comprehensive approach to governance is found particularly in the field of Disaster Risk Governance.

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Monitoring disaster risk reduction targets: the example of INFORM

Disaster risk consists of three elements: hazard, exposure and vulnerability. Risk can be reduced by controlling the frequency and intensity of hazards (e.g. flood protection, slope stabilization), reducing or limiting exposure (e.g. urban planning, urbanization policy, room for rivers to flood in unexposed areas) and reducing vulnerability (e.g. early warning, seismic building codes, contingency and response plans, evacuation). Further, to avoid disasters, society must build resilience to recover quickly after a hazard, mainly through effective response, reduced poverty, risk financing (public or private) and other coping mechanisms.

Accurate measurement of a complex phenomenon as risk is a non-trivial task. Because of its many dimensions, different stakeholders can perceive risk differently. One person’s loss can be another ones gain. Some communities express risk in terms of loss of life and others in financial numbers. Besides this conceptual uncertainty, the various components are not easy to quantify and involve scientific disciplines ranging from natural sciences to social sciences. Due to their nature, some risks can’t be compared on the same scale (e.g. earthquake risk versus droughts).

Nevertheless, there is a need to create multi-hazard risk metrics based on scientific evidence to inform disaster risk reduction policy. One tool that has been used to integrate information from different disciplines and communities is a composite indicator.

This note discusses the opportunities, challenges and strengths of composite indicators to measure progress in disaster risk reduction, and in particular the experience of a recently developed Index for Risk Management – INFORM.

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Adaptation and resilience in the face of climate change: protecting the conditions of emergence through good governance

Super wicked problems such as global climate change (Levin et al. 2012) and the extensive subsequent changes to the environment, biodiversity and human economies cannot be tackled with the usual disciplinary approaches that have long been the basis for policy making. Problems in social and environmental planning tend to become wicked because their causes are complex and subject to different interpretations according cultural values and beliefs. Consequently there are no objectively definable solutions to wicked problems and disagreement on what might be done to address a problem may be profound. In the case of climate change, the problem is super wicked because of the urgent need for solutions, lack of a central decisionmaking authority, and those responsible for solving the problem are also creating it.

The concept of resilience in complex adaptive social-ecological systems (SES) provides a relatively novel way of thinking about change at all scale levels from the local to the global. It enables people to develop strategies that either enhances the resilience of an existing system, so that it can absorb and recover from disturbance like fire, floods and disease outbreaks, or deliberately transforms the system into a new state that is better able to meet long term human needs. A SES resilience perspective recognizes that change in all biological systems (including all forms of human organization) begin with the very small and grows upwards.

This brief describes resilience concepts and argues that they provide a foundation for the development of adaptation policies based on a relatively simple model of the drivers and feedbacks that define the change process at work in a system. It also makes some suggestions on how national policies might support the growth of resilience and adaptive capacity for coping with climate change.

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Strengthening democratic legitimacy in intergovernmental policy-making on sustainable development: the contribution of web-based civil society consultations

One of the main dilemmas facing global sustainable development governance today is the growing democratic deficit of the intergovernmental policy-making system (Scholte, 2002). The lack of responsiveness of intergovernmental norms and policies to collective concerns, as well as the lack of accountability of intergovernmental organisations and member states, are generating a crisis of legitimacy (Castells, 2001; Keohane, 2003; Haas, 2004). Resolving this crisis is a difficult task that requires among other things the creation of institutional mechanisms that allow citizens to participate in a meaningful way
in the creation and implementation of global norms (Castells, 2005). In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro institutionalised participatory governance with the creation of nine overarching categories called the major groups, through which “all concerned citizens” could participate in the United Nations’ (UN) activities on achieving sustainable development, as stipulated in principle 10 of the Rio Declaration. Twenty years later, this representative-based system of participation raises serious issues about its capacity to offer all concerned citizens direct access to processes of global norm production.

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Weak Sustainability versus Strong Sustainability

The fundamental debate regarding sustainable development is whether we choose to adopt a strong or a weak conception of sustainability. Weak sustainability postulates the full substitutability of natural capital whereas the strong conception demonstrates that this substitutability should be severely seriously limited due to the existence of critical elements that natural capital provides for human existence and well-being. The following science digest provides an overview of scientific findings to support informed debate among decision-makers regarding the need to adopt a strong sustainability position for the discussion and implementation of the post-2015 sustainable development policies.

Strengthening the international regulation of offshore oil and gas activities

Recent decades have seen a marked increase in the development of offshore oil and gas activities. Due to increasing energy demand and technological innovations, drilling activities extended and moved into deep and ultra-deep water areas (Dragani and Kotonev, 2013). As of today, almost a third of the oil and a quarter of the natural gas consumed in the world come from underwater areas. This rush to offshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation is not about to end: forecasts show a continuing growth of production in traditional offshore regions (e.g. Western Africa, Gulf of Mexico) (PCF Energy, 2011) and significant development in new areas (Pike, 2013), such as Eastern Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Drilling more and deeper means increased threats to the environment, depletion of natural resources, and potential negative consequences for the human activities dependent upon these ecosystems. Recent accidents on offshore platforms have demonstrated that the environmental risks of offshore drilling activities concern all regions of the world and all types of companies. These transboundary nature of the impacts from these accidents have reinvigorated discussions regarding the suitability of the current international regulatory framework for offshore oil and gas activities (Rochette et al., 2014). In this regard, it is clear that there are regulatory gaps, both in terms of safety of offshore drilling activities and liability and compensation in case of accidents.

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How New Metrics for Sustainable Agriculture Can Align the Roles of Government and Business

In three decades the potential for the private sector to make a positive difference in development has garnered increasing credence and support (Schmidheiny 1992; Porter, Ketels,
& Delgado 2007). This aligns with increasing acceptance that being sustainability-oriented can also benefit a firm’s market performance (Eccles et al. 2011). It is clear that the private sector will have to be an important part of any effort to attain the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). It has likewise become clear that for agricultural producers merely participating in markets or trade is not sufficient to ensure poverty reduction and increase sustainability (Hopkins 2007; Jaffee et al. 2011).

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El debate sobre el desarrollo ha cobrado nueva vigencia y significados en América Latina, impulsado por un momento histórico caracterizado por un buen desempeño de las economías de la región (aunque actualmente con signos de ralentización) y un mayor protagonismo de la misma en un mundo de configuración multipolar; a la vez que los países centrales tienen dificultades para continuar siendo referentes del modo de desarrollo occidental, producto de la crisis económica, social e institucional que enfrentan.

Monitoring the Performance of Agriculture and Food Systems

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), targets,and indicators will define global, national, and local aspirations for improving human well-being. Without clear metrics to measure progress and accurate, consistent, and continuous data collection across both time and space, sustainable development will remain an amorphous goal. Metrics are needed to set baselines against which to measure progress; track and predict socioeconomic, nutritional, and ecological change; understand constraints to sustainable development; work successfully with public, private, and NGO partners; and identify appropriate policy measures.

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Anthropogenic Drivers of Emerging Infectious Diseases

The Ebola crisis in West Africa highlighted critical deficiencies in global health infrastructure, as well as the impact of disease outbreaks to developing economies. The recent emergence of other diseases, including SARS, H7N9 and Marburg virus, has been linked to human practices, many which also correlate with the leading drivers of biodiversity loss. The following science brief provides an overview of findings to support a more proactive, integrated and preventive approaches to disease emergence, which emphasize the need for a more coherent set of sustainable development goals and targets that better reflect the interconnected nature of the tripartite health, conservation and development challenges that we face.

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El derecho a la vivienda es universal y se encuentra plasmado en la Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos de 1948, en su artículo 25.1: "Toda persona tiene derecho a un nivel de vida adecuado que le asegure, así como a su familia, la salud y el bienestar, y en especial la alimentación, el vestido, la vivienda, la asistencia médica y los servicios sociales necesarios; tiene asimismo derecho a los seguros en caso de desempleo, enfermedad, invalidez, viudez, vejez u otros casos de pérdida de sus medios de subsistencia por circunstancias independientes de su voluntad". En 2000, en la Cumbre del Milenio de Naciones Unidas se asumió el alcanzar los 8 objetivos del milenio, uno de ellos es la Meta 11 (7.D) que remite hacia la concepción de una vivienda digna: Se espera que en 2020 se hayan mejorado las condiciones de vida de al menos 100 millones de habitantes de asentamientos precarios.

Water governance: context is crucial

Humanity faces daunting water management challenges, as demand for water hits limits of supply and competition increases between agriculture, industry, cities and the environment. Climate change, too, will affect the availability of water. Worldwide, the focus of conversations about water governance has moved from resource development to resource management. To be effective, water governance needs to directly identify and respond to local problems and needs. It needs to take into account the local institutions, knowledge, socioeconomic, political and environmental conditions.

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This brief was submitted in both English and Portuguese. Click the below link to access the brief and share your comments.,%20GEST%C3%83O%20P%C3%9ABLICA%20E%20GERENCIAMENTO%20DE%20RISCOS.pdf

Social Capital Formation in Community Development and Conservation Interventions: Comparative Research in Indonesia

Concepts of local civic participation, community capacity building and social capital formation are widely asserted to be of importance for democratic good governance, economic development and sustainable resource management (Bebbington et al. 2004; Woolcock 2010; Mansuri and Rao 2013). This brief summarizes the results of comparative investigations into participation and social capital formation through village-level field studies across several of Indonesia’s culturally and ecologically diverse regions.

The research project studied the processes and outcomes of community development and conservation programs aimed at improving participation and building capacity in villages with different social and ecological assets. It assessed the extent to which these approaches have contributed to improved governance and more sustainably managed environments over the decade and a half since Indonesia began its dramatic program of democratisation and decentralisation. This research applied a mixed methods approach in 15 villages across 9 Indonesian provinces where community-based development and conservation interventions had been introduced. It involved detailed random sample surveys, interviews with key figures in local government and non-government organizations, and participant observation. The results are of comparative policy significance beyond the Indonesian case for improved understanding of the practical relationships between capacity building strategies and the community development and conservation goals associated with applications of social capital, participation, and empowerment concepts.

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Planetary Guardrails as Policy Guidance for Sustainable Development

Planetary guardrails are science-based suggestions of limiting human-induced changes in the Earth system in order to avoid intolerable effects on ecosystems and human societies. This brief outlines the guardrail concept as developed by the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU, an independent, scientific advisory body to the German federal government), illuminates its crucial relevance for sustainable development, and explains its importance for policy makers. It draws heavily on a recently published WBGU Policy Paper (WBGU 2014).

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Sacred natural sites provide ecological libraries for landscape restoration and institutional models for biodiversity conservation

In spite of expanding formal protected areas and numerous global agreements to reduce the impacts of human activities on the environment, clearing of the world’s natural forests and the resultant loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services continues at an alarming pace (Watson et al., 2014). The causes of deforestation are diverse and complex, including economic and institutional factors, compounded by climate change. The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity agreed upon at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity emphasized the need for investment in institutions for the protection and management of biodiversity and ecosystems (CBD, 2010), with Rio+20 discussions noting “these institutions must be able to cope with changes in ecosystems, steer away from abrupt change in ecosystem function, and provide a buffer from the most detrimental consequences of unavoidable changes” (Díaz et al., 2012).

But creating institutions for conservation and biodiversity management can be both difficult and costly (McCarthy, 2012). Conservation can be especially challenging in vast human-modified landscapes such as farmland and pasture which comprise much of the 84.6% of the Earth’s land area which remains outside formal protected areas (UNEPWCMC, 2014). One alternative to building new institutions from scratch is supporting and learning from conservation institutions that exist. Sacred natural sites – such as the thousands of Ethiopian Orthodox church forests scattered across Ethiopia’s Northern Highlands (Figure 1) – represent ecologically and institutionally diverse libraries of biodiversity, whose full ecological and institutional values have only begun to be appreciated.

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能源与气候治理研究进展综述 (Review of research on energy and climate governance)

This brief is submitted in the Chinese language. The full brief could be accessed through the below link. Your comments could be in either English or Chinese.

摘 要
在变化的政治、经济、社会环境条件下,人们在探索“资源、环境、人口、发展”相协调的实践历程中不断总结出公 共资源与环境管理的基本规律和运行机制,以实现可持续发展。近年来,学术界在能源与气候变化治理的理论方面取得了显 著的成果和进展;与此同时,我国在能源管理与应对气候变化的实践领域中也开展了积极的探索和尝试,有力的促进了经 济、社会、环境的协调发展。本文梳理总结了近年我国能源与气候变化治理领域的研究进展。

试论生态文明建设要求下的我国环境管理制度创新 (Innovative environmental governance for building ecological civilization)

This brief is submitted in the Chinese language. The full brief could be accessed through the below link. Your comments could be in either English or Chinese.

摘 要
近年来,我国探索了一些行之有效的新的环境管理制度和手段。党的十八大和十八届三中全会提出了将生态文明建设 纳入“五位一体”的总体战略部署,新修改的《环境保护法》也给出了新的制度规定。对比我国环境管理制度的不适应性,需要加强 我国环境管理制度的顶层设计。本文尝试依照环境保护“总量控制、质量控制、风险控制”的思路,对今后我国环境管理制度的创新 思路进行梳理,提出应重点关注的 3 个方面共 11 项创新制度。

县域生态功能区划及其生态红线管理制度研究:以武隆县为例 (County ecological functional divide and its ecological red line management system: the Case of Wulong County)

This brief is submitted in the Chinese language. The full brief could be accessed through the below link. Your comments could be in either English or Chinese.

摘 要
生态功能区划是根据区域生态环境要素、生态环境敏感性与生态服务功能空间分异规律,将区域划分成不同生态功能 区的过程。本文以重庆市武隆县为例,结合定性与定量分析方法,综合森林植被覆盖、自然保护区分布、重要水系分布、土地利用现 状、坡度敏感性分析、农业资源布局、地形地貌特征等方面,研究了武隆县的生态功能区的划分以及各分区的生态保护与生态发展对 策,并探讨了生态红线的管理制度。

水生态文明建设进展与思考(Assessing water sustainability management)

This brief is submitted in the Chinese language. The full brief could be accessed through the below link. Your comments could be in either English or Chinese.

摘 要
作为生态文明的重要组成部分和基础保障,水生态文明建设的重要性与迫切性日益凸显。目前,我国已从流域、省级 和城市三个层面分别开展了水生态文明建设工作,其中不乏共性。本文主要以城市层面为重点,通过系统地梳理总结,从制度建设、 管理体制建设、工程建设、文化建设及保障能力建设五个方面对水生态文明的建设进展进行了阐述,同时针对建设过程中存在的主要 问题给出了相关建议,以明晰建设的重点方向,并为今后相关工作的开展及进一步改进提供借鉴。

浅谈大丰可持续发展实验区建设工作保障机制 (Dafeng Sustainable Development Experimental Zone: safeguard mechanism)

This brief is submitted in the Chinese language. The full brief could be accessed through the below link. Your comments could be in either English or Chinese.

摘 要
国家可持续发展实验区各项工作系统的有效运行, 必须发挥好政府的导向作用,建立完善的组织管理体制与工作机制; 健全的监督与评估机制;不断优化示范区建设环境;加强区域之间合作;增强公众参与意识,明确了政府、职能部门、企 业、社会各个方面的责任、权力和义务,努力使全社会都重视实验区建设、支持实验区建设、参与实验区建设。此外还需从 基础抓起,培养青少年的环保理念。同时要有良好的可持续发展思想政治工作队伍作保障,并建立必要的经费投入机制.,积 极拓宽资金投入渠道.

Thinking a Global Open Genome Sequence Data Framework for Sustainable Development

The cost of genome sequencing has fallen one-million fold in the past several years. The technology is widely accessible and it is now inexpensive to quickly produce genome sequence information for large numbers of individuals. A ‘genomics revolution’ is underway, which is transforming the life sciences, including biomedicine and animal and plant breeding.

The UN Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on post-2015 development goals has recently called for “a New Data Revolution” for sustainable development. However, genomic data does not squarely fit within the narrow statistical focus described by the Panel. Critical gaps concerning the governance of genomics data need to be filled for the promotion of science as a global public good. Main focus of the brief is on plant breeding, but similar cases can be made for animal breeding and (human) biomedicine.

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