HLPF 2019: Why inclusion and power matter for sustainability

Round icon with colours representing the Sustainable Development Goals

On 9-18 July the UN’s High-Level Political Forum meets to discuss progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This meeting takes the theme of Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality. The theme particularly addresses goals around education, growth and employment, inequality, climate change, peace, justice and inclusion, and partnerships.

The theme is a crucial one for the SDGs. Empowerment and inclusion are more than just buzzwords. People cannot be excluded or disempowered from decision-making and action, if sustainability is to be achieved. This means paying attention to who is left out and which perspectives are marginalised. It also means a thoughtful approach to ’empowerment’ which recognises the many subtle ways that power and control can be exercised – even when people appear to be ’empowered’ or ‘included’ in decisions.

Addressing the climate, economic growth, education and justice is not straightforward. Decisions and goals will come up against powerful actors and agendas, but also complex livelihoods and environments, where many choices are possible, the ways forward are not obvious, and negotiation is required. To achieve inclusion and equality, the SDGs will need to provide a space for these political questions and for power to be challenged.

Watch: The SDGs – A new politics of transformation

In a Sussex Development Lecture on 28 March, STEPS co-director Ian Scoones explored these political aspects of transformation, exploring how people in very different contexts can learn from each other to provoke deep and lasting change.

In this lecture on 28 March 2019, Ian Scoones explores the political aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs potentially offer an inclusive, integrated approach to development, centred on social justice, for all of humanity. But how are they being implemented in practice? Too often a piece-meal, sectoral approach is adopted, rooted in modernist assumptions of linear transition and control.

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Related resources

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STEPS Working Paper 104
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T-Labs: A Practical Guide
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