Leibniz Conference on Sustainable Development Goals

Conference Report

The Leibniz Association has organized a scientific conference on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs have been adopted by the member states of the United Nations in 2015, apply to all countries of the world and aim at ending poverty, fighting inequalities and tackling climate change. The conference took place at the Leibniz-Headquarters and more than 200 academics, policy makers, and further stakeholders discussed the content, scope, and interconnectedness of the 17 SDGs. The discussion focused on how the SDGs are translated into research agendas and how the research community can contribute to their implementation. Within this context, the Leibniz Research Alliance “Crises in a Globalised World” hosted a panel which was dedicated towards achieving SDG 10: Reducing inequality within and among countries. The session, which was organized and chaired by Anna-Katharina Hornidge (ZMT), Stefan Kroll (PRIF) and Achim Schlüter (ZMT), dealt with the issue of social inequalities in the context of environmental changes.

The starting point of the panel “Social inequalities, coastal megacities and environmental crisis” was the observation that social inequalities exacerbate the negative consequences of environmental change. The crisis-character of environmental change is by no means only, but inter alia related to the fact that the actors concerned lack the resources to react adequately to such a situation. The presentations included anthropological case studies on coastal megacities in India and South East Asia as well as an economic analysis on climate risks and agriculture and a political science analysis on the prospects and challenges for reducing social inequalities in Latin America. Especially the case studies underlined, that the local understanding of social inequalities is highly context-sensitive. As a consequence, instruments and mechanisms used to reduce inequalities must be adapted to these contexts. A successful strategy aimed at sustainably reducing inequality should therefore take local institutions into account as well as political discourses and global normative expectations. Furthermore, the link between questions of social inequality and environmental risks illustrates that understanding and dealing with environmental crises requires close cooperation between the social sciences and the natural sciences, as practiced in the Leibniz Research Alliance “Crises in a Globalised World”.

On the basis of these observations, the panelists were asked during the discussion to elaborate on their respective crisis concepts. While the term crisis usually describes a situation that is characterized by an extraordinary pressure to take immediate action, it also became clear that there are diverse regional understandings of crisis and crisis management. This debate reflected also research questions, which are addressed in the context of one of our ongoing projects and which investigates Cultures of Crisis in diverse regional and issue related contexts. Altogether, the presentations and the discussion well illustrated one of the key observations, which was made by Ottmar Edenhofer (PIK) in his keynote speech at the beginning of the conference, namely that the successful implementation of the SDGs is based on a combined understanding of “facts and values”.  


Mobilizing from below - How low-caste fishers from Chennai, India, climb the socio-economic ladder
Maarten Bavinck | University of Amsterdam & Mare

Politics of Slow Violence along an Urban Shoreline: Meanings, Ambiguities and Contradictions of Coastal Defense in Island Southeast Asia
Rapti Siriwardane | ZMT

Climate risks in agriculture – Securing rural livelihood with index-based crop insurance
Lena Kuhn | IAMO

Prospects and challenges for the reduction of social inequalities: Recent experiences from Latin America
Jonas Wolf | PRIF