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Sustainable development goals and inclusive development

Gupta, Joyeeta, Courtney Vegelin. 2016. Sustainable development goals and inclusive development. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, 16 (3): 433–448.


Achieving sustainable development has been hampered by trade-offs in favour of economic growth over social well-being and ecological viability, which may also affect the sustainable development goals (SDGs) adopted by the member states of the United Nations. In contrast, the concept of inclusive development emphasizes the social, ecological and political dimensions of development. In this context, this paper addresses the question: What does inclusive development mean and to what extent is it taken into account in the framing of the SDGs? It presents inclusive development as having three key dimensions (social, ecological, and relational inclusiveness) with five principles each. This is applied to the 17 SDGs and their targets. The paper concludes that while the text on the SDGs fares quite well on social inclusiveness, it fares less well in respect to ecological and relational inclusiveness. This implies that there is a risk that implementation processes also focus more on social inclusiveness rather than on ecological and relational inclusiveness. Moreover, in order to de facto achieve social inclusiveness in the Anthropocene, it is critical that the latter two are given equal weight in the actual implementation process.

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