Think-tank alliance identifies eight shifts needed for sustainability

A new international alliance of research institutes has identified eight major shifts that must take place for humanity to achieve sustainable development.

News, 12 March 2013
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The recommendations come in a paper published today by the Independent Research Forum on a Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda, whose members include IIED and other think tanks in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, North America and South America.

The research institutes 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
  • Stakeholder engagement and collaboration

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

  • From ‘development assistance’ to a universal global compact.
  • From top-down to multi-stakeholder decision-making processes.
  • From economic models that increase inequalities and risks to ones that reduce them.
  • From business models based on shareholder value to those based on stakeholder value.
  • From meeting ‘easy’ development targets to tackling systemic barriers to progress.
  • From damage control to investing in resilience.
  • From concepts and testing to scaled up interventions.
  • From 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 to all those charged with agreeing a coherent set of goals that meet the challenges the world is facing."

"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.

Download a copy of the report