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Navigating Sustainable Development in the 21st Century

Navigating Sustainable Development in the 21st Century:
Governance “of” and “for” the Post-2015 Development Agenda

At the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+20”), the UN member states decided on developing “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDG). The goal setting and implementation processes, and the development of the goals and their indicators pose a challenge to policy-making and to research.

The Earth System Governance Project, jointly with partner organizations and along other academic and policy initiatives is taking up this challenge.

The research on SDGs is coordinated by the Earth System Governance Tokyo Research Center, which is co-organized by Tokyo Institute of Technology and UNU-IAS, with funding from the S-11 research project entitled Project On Sustainability Transformation beyond 2015 (POST-2015) of the Ministry of Environment, Japan. Project leader is Scientific Steering Committee member Prof. Norichika Kanie.

The aim of this 3-year project is to provide inputs into the policy process on the Post 2015 Development Agenda, with particular focus on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), based on rigorous scientific analysis on the governance of, and governance for, the Post 2015 Development Agenda, which includes longer-term philosophical and normative underpinnings to SDGs.

The project entails an in-depth inquiry based on the research framework of the Earth System Governance Project. It will look into who will be involved in setting these goals (Agency, Accountability), by which decision making mechanisms (Architecture, Adaptiveness), what these goals will be (Allocation and Access), and how to arrive at the framework for formulating the goals as well as an inquiry of how these goals will be translated into outcomes. 

The project will also address the question on how to elaborate the SDGs to facilitate achieving human well-being for all within resource constraints and environmental boundaries of the earth system.  This includes questions like: what is the conceptual framework for the goals, and what goals, targets and indicators need to be developed? In turn, this poses additional questions on enabling institutions and governance because the current institutional framework for sustainable development is insufficient and inappropriate as shown in the assessment by the Earth System Governance Project in the run-up to the Rio+20 Conference.

Therefore, questions related to the Post-2015 development agenda are not solely about SDGs, but are rather fundamental questions on how to achieve sustainability in the 21st century. For this purpose, and considering the comparative advantage of this research group, this project focuses on the governance of, and governance for, the Post 2015 development agenda, involving developed and developing countries.

A first workshop in the framework of this project was held back to back with the Earth System Governance Tokyo Conference on 30 January 2013. A report of that meeting will be available soon.

For further details, please contact the Earth System Governance International Project Office (ipo [at]

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