21 May 2020

Practical Approaches for Achieving Sustainable Development

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development highlights the role of academia in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and considers universities and colleges as valuable stakeholders. Along these lines, the Federal University of Lavras, a UNAI member institution in Brazil, is currently conducting a research project entitled “2030 Agenda and Dilemmas for Achieving Sustainable Development” under the coordination of Professor Pedro Ivo.

The project aims to address the feasibility of the 2030 Agenda and the different ways to make it operational. The research team seeks to explore the many obstacles that could hinder the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, including how we define sustainable development and the role of international law in enforcing such concepts, as well as the need for an integrated approach that combines social, environmental and economic concerns.

The researchers have found that attempts to achieve the integration of these pillars lack effectiveness and coherence. When these dimensions diverge, social values are given priority, followed by environmental considerations, both imposing themselves on strictly economic interests. The latter are only justified insofar as they result in significant social gains.

Social issues and policies that form the basis for ensuring people can live in dignity often overlap with environmental concerns. However, if the achievement of conditions for a dignified life is only possible through an irreparable environmental cost, we will have already failed in the objective of sustainable development.

The proposed approach is a holistic one that looks at the intersection of social, environmental and economic concerns, all of which much must be addressed to mitigate challenges to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

This research work proposes discussions about the understanding of sustainable development, its normative character and obstacles to its realization. The project seeks in particular to study how this nuance: (a) constitutes a framework to assess whether the obligation to promote sustainable development is being observed; (b) decreases the degree of conceptual uncertainty; (c) deconstructs the juxtaposition between the economic and social dimensions; (d) forces the adaptation of the prevailing economic models to new formats; (e) reaffirms the need to restructure sustainable development indicators; and (f) recognizes the centrality of issues related to poverty and inequality.

The research team is composed of Federal University of Lavras faculty members as well as college seniors, including Anna Carolina Kahler, a law student. “Being part of the project is something paradigmatic for my academic training. The theme, in addition to being very interesting, links to something valuable for me: social justice,” she said. “I can give voice to ideas that have yielded me to great experiences, so this project has contributed to my sense of belonging to the community.”

To learn more about the challenges to the implementing the 2030 Agenda check out the UNDP-UNRISD report Challenges and Opportunities in the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the latest on where with stand with the SDGs indicators.