- Abstracts and Readings -

Webinar 1 - Planetary Boundaries | Thursday 8 October 2020 at 5-6:30 PM (CEST)


Climate Change and Biodiversity Collapse

German Ignacio Andrade, Professor at School of Management, University of the Andes, Senior Researcher, Center for Sustainable Development Goals for Latin America and the Caribbean. 

The earth’s ecosystem is heavily impacted by climate change and loss of biodiversity, to a degree that Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in its 2019 report concludes that “we are entering an era of mass extinction”. In the Latin American region sustainable development - within ecological limits - is challenged by current mechanisms of economic growth and unsustainable practices.  

As an expert member of IPBES, Andrade will discuss the underlying causes of loss of biodiversity including unsustainable economic growth and issues of institutions of governance and justice. This presentation will focus on SDG13, SDG15 as well as SDG14 &16 with a point of departure in environmental protection, international conventional frameworks and planetary boundaries. The considerations on limitations and opportunities for SDG achievement in Latin America take account of land use change, unsustainable agricultural practices and urban expansion, as well as social ecology as a new concept of sustainability.


Using Agroecology Values and Principles as a Better Future Investment

Henrik Haugaard-Nielsen, Professor, Department of People and Technology, Roskilde University

Global food demands increase while climate change and ecosystem degradations challenge our current natural resource management traditions. Future farming practices play an important role for preserving natural resources, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, eutrophication and biodiversity losses. This is closely linked to consumer and citizen behavior, its impact on the environment and climate change.

Agro-ecology values and principles are put forward as a promising alternative to the current agriculture practices facing a large number of sustainability-related challenges making greater use of biological regulations and natural processes than of synthetic and technology-based inputs. Agroecology is characterized with a participatory approach requiring the involvement of all stakeholders from the farm to the table and everyone in between defending smallholders and family farming, farmers and rural communities, food sovereignty, local and short marketing chains, diversity of indigenous seeds and breeds, healthy and quality food.

Recommended reading and viewing


Linking ecologists and traditional farmers in the search for sustainable agriculture, Miguel A. Altieri 2004



TOO BIG TO FEED - Exploring the impacts of mega-mergers, consolidation and concentration of power in the agri-food sector, International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food, 2017




Webinar 2 – Measuring SDGs Performance: Progress and Barriers to Achievement | Thursday 15 October 2020, 5-6:30 PM (CEST)


Measuring SDG performance in Latin America and the Caribbean


Felipe Castro, Acting Director of The Center for Sustainable Development Goals for Latin America and the Caribbean (CODS) of the University of the Andes

The 2019 SDG Index for Latin America and the Caribbean is the first tool that makes it possible to measure progress in the fulfillment of the SDGs across 24 countries in the region. The report has been prepared by The Center for Sustainable Development Goals for Latin America and the Caribbean (CODS) and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Felipe Castro will share the experiences of measuring the SDGs in Latin America and the Caribbean reflecting on the methodologies applied, results and trends from the newly published 2019 Index. The fulfillment of the 17 Goals by the countries of the region is far from being expected five years after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is severely affecting SDGs implementation leading to a severe economic and social crisis in the region.


Attainment of SDGs in India: Policies, measurement, and concerns for natural resources and marginalised communities

Manish K. Jha, Professor at Centre for Community Organisation and Development Practice, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, India

Measuring progress towards the achievement of sustainable development goals (SDGs) fundamentally depends on how a particular country performs in the implementation of targets under the goals. The target is often set in the milieu of socio-political, economic and cultural context. A country as diverse and complex as India is, the challenges are far greater. In the backdrop of social hierarchy, caste and community cleavages, I examine how the country with its economic potentialities are moving ahead to accomplish SDGs and what are the faultlines and challenges ahead. To eradicate poverty and reducing multidimensional poverty, a range of policies and programmes are either strengthened or initiated in India so as to meet the goals. India’s planning think tank, Niti Aayog, has measured the progress on SDGs and indicated the progressive sign concerning more extensive coverage of goals, targets and indicators, and alignment with the National Indicator Framework (NIF), which serves as the backbone of SDG monitoring in the country (MoSPI 2019). The policies of the programme of right to work, food security, income transfer to farmers, crop insurance, health insurance, labour reform, sanitation programme and many more have influenced in moving ahead to meet the goals.

While the efforts are identifiable, there has been parallel processes under a neoliberal economy that pushes for resource extraction, state’s withdrawal from welfare services, weakling of affirmative action policies and natural resource appropriation that might turn out to be a stumbling block in achieving the SDGs in India. Structural inequality and insecure livelihood for people in informal work present itself a major concern. Moreover, some data governance makes it difficult to have a precise measurement of achievements so far and assessment for times ahead. Despite having an advanced system of data gathering, management and statistical analysis in India, somehow the data deficiency and lack of data transparency is making the measurement further complicated and confusing. The data gap issues with SDGs can be filled with the contribution of various stakeholders, such as states, civil society organisations, institutions and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The SDG Index India Report, 2019 identifies the role of states towards localisation in terms of power and responsibilities on programme and policy design, implementation and monitoring (NITI Aayog 2019). However, the structure and role of local governments at the district level, such as municipalities, panchayats, blocks need strengthening in terms of resources and institutional power. Higher education institutions like universities have the potential for substantive contribution; however, its potential is not harnessed well. Universities like TISS with its academic expertise, advocacy and networking potential, trained human resources and research facilities are trying its level best to contribute.

The present situation of attainment of SDGs will be reviewed through government policies and practices; the issues and concerns with measurement and data reliability; and the influence of neoliberal policies that raise concerns for natural resources, rights and justice issues for the marginalised community. The presentation will situate the discussion in the contemporary context of COVID-19 pandemic, nationwide lockdown and its consequences for meeting the target and attaining the goals.

Recommended reading and viewing

The 2019 SDG Index – Latin America and the Caribbean. https://cods.uniandes.edu.co/indice-ods/#entry-content ;  



Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report 2020. https://www.unescap.org/publications/asia-and-pacific-sdg-progress-report-2020


SDG Index India 2018. https://niti.gov.in/sdg-india-index



Webinar 3 Circular Economy and Sustainable Cities | Thursday 22 October 2020 at 5-6:30 PM (CEST)


Circular economy


Thomas Skou Grindsted, Assistant professor of Sustainability and Geography, Department of People and Technology, Space, Place, Mobility and Urban Studies at Roskilde University

This mini lecture first explores key notions of the great acceleration related to global environmental change research. It particularly outlays concepts of space and time and the different temporalities operating in the economic system versus natural system dynamics. This is the point of departure for understanding circular economy (CE) as one of the normative concepts and (utopian) visions for addressing existing business as usual models, that are claimed to fail in meeting different sustainability goals. What is circular economy? What basic principles lay behind circular economy and how do these principles differ from linear economic models? Very briefly we touch upon the SDG 11 of cities and draw an example to explain one way in which urban planning may deal with issues of unsustainable transportation systems. Insofar as CE is said to align with a biophysical economy, we finally ask questions of mimicking operations of natural systems and their space-time configurations.


Building Sustainable Cities Using an EcoDisctrict Framework


Karen Gaul, Dean of Academics, Evergreen State College, Washington

Using an EcoDistrict framework can help forge community partnerships between campus and community, strengthen the city’s sustainability goals, and lead to more resilient and just neighborhoods. The Evergreen State College, a public liberal arts college in Olympia, Washington (US), is uniquely positioned to invest deeply with community partners. Interdisciplinary, multi-quarter programs mean that students can work in intensive ways on field-based, applied projects. In an academic program called Repair: Sustainability and the Art of Social Practice, we worked for two quarters with partners in the City of Olympia and in the neighborhood around an urban sustainability site called The Commons at Fertile Ground. Student research and community forums helped to inform multiple stakeholders of the potential (and possible challenges) with EcoDistrict protocols, which includes planning at neighborhood scales to address community solar, equitable housing, food justice and more. Frameworks for art as social practice helped inform our creative outreach in the community. This presentation will review our work in the community, summarizing this foundational work as well as next steps and potential for long-term partnerships. 

Recommended reading and viewing