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Green economy and sustainable development: Bringing back the social. UNRISD submission to the UNCSD

Briefing/policy papers

Social dimensions have consistently received least attention in the triad of issues that define sustainable development. The achievement of the core development goals of poverty reduction, equity and justice require that ecological, economic and social dimensions are rebalanced.
Any transition to a sustainable and equitable green economy will require restructuring patterns of production, consumption and distribution. Social dimensions are critical in driving this transformation.
1. Social dimensions of green economy are not add‐ons, but are central to achieving sustainable development. Bringing social dimensions more centrally into ‘green economy’ requires recognizing the role of:
• Social contestation
• Social impacts and distributional consequences
• Social policy
• Social institutions and governance
• Social action
• Social alternatives
2. Transition to a sustainable and equitable ‘green economy’ will require transforming patterns of inequality, exclusion, knowledge and power, accompanied by policies to protect and compensate those adversely affected.
3. Currently, policies that address social dimensions tend to focus, first, on issues of protection and compensation of those negatively affected by certain processes of change, and second, on attaining co‐benefits between the three spheres of sustainable development.
4. A third set of social dimensions has received less attention. Social processes related to governance, participation, inclusion, empowerment, mobilization, regulation, knowledge and rights—are key determinants and drivers of sustainability. Policies should also address this third level, as this is the catalyst for transformation that must underpin a fair transition towards sustainable development.

  • Green Economy and Sustainable Development: Bringing Back the Social. UNRISD submission to the UNCSD, 1 November 2011

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United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, Amy Merritt andTristan Stubbs