Governing the transformations towards sustainability

Leininger, Julia / Ines Dombrowsky / Dirk Messner / Anita Breuer / Constantin Ruhe / Hannah Janetschek / Hermann Lotze-Campen
External Publications (2018)

in: Elmar Kriegler / Dirk Messner / Nebojsa Nakicenovic / Keywan Riahi / Johan Rockström / Jeffrey Sachs / Sander van der Leeuw / Detlef van Vuuren (eds.), Transformations to achieve the sustainable development goals; Report prepared by The World in 2050 Initiative, Laxenburg: International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), 107-126


Key Messages

  1. Peace and good governance are uncontested preconditions for sustainable human development. However, neither peace nor good governance is sufficient for achieving the six Transformations Towards Sustainability. Good policies, change of social values and a reformed culture of global cooperation are as relevant. 

  2. Inclusive institutions are crucial in bringing about egalitarian societies, which have been demonstrated to perform better in promoting innovation, prosperity and wellbeing. 
  3. Transformations to sustainability require governing interlinkages between Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This implies adaptive polycentric multi-sector, multi-level, multi-scale and multi-actor governance approaches, even though they may be hindered by veto players, power asymmetries, transaction costs and low capacities. 
  4. Transformations to sustainability are likely to be disruptive and, thus, could even trigger violent conflict. In history, most great transformations have been accompanied by violent conflict, including wars. Acknowledging governance reforms to govern social change as a vital part of pathways to transformation is thus crucial. 
  5. Many of our societies are now at a tipping point where they can step up the pace of transition towards implementing the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement. This tipping point situation is characterized by three major bifurcations: The transformation towards sustainability, nationalist counter-transformations and the far-reaching dynamics of the digital transformation.


About the authors

Breuer, Anita

Political Scientist


Dombrowsky, Ines



Leininger, Julia

Political Scientist


Janetschek, Hannah

Political Scientist


Ruhe, Constantin

Political Scientist


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