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1 | Þ a g e
!"#$%&'%()* ,*-*)./0*'$ %', 1.0&'2 $. $*30# 4&$5 1.0/)*6&$7
1he concepL of susLalnable developmenL has been around for qulLe a whlle now. AccepLed Lhlnklng now
calls for aLLalnlng envlronmenLal susLalnablllLy, LogeLher wlLh soclal and economlc susLalnablllLy for
developmenL Lo be consldered susLalnable. SusLalnablllLy requlres LhaL all Lhree elemenLs 8.&'$)7 move
from an 'unsusLalnable Lo a susLalnable developmenL paLh'. ln facL, unuÞ proclalms LhaL ºlL ls noL
developmenL lf lL ls noL susLalnable".
Compared wlLh Lhe envlronmenLal susLalnablllLy paradlgm, Lhe enLry of soclal and economlc aspecLs
wlLh equal welghL has ralsed Lhe complexlLy of Lhe developmenL concepL. 1hls ls Lrue when conslderlng
aspecL of measurablllLy and predlcLablllLy, buL goes well beyond LhaL. Cnce Lhe expecLaLlon ls LhaL Lhe
developmenL paLh would be analyzed and pro[ecLed slmulLaneously from a soclal, economlc, and
envlronmenLal susLalnablllLy angle, we are faced wlLh subsLanLlal 'unknowns' ln:
Assesslng where we are
ueflnlng where we wanL Lo be
ueflnlng Lhe paLh from where we are Lo where we wanL Lo be
ueflnlng Lhe way ln whlch unuÞ could supporL our parLners.
Moreover, we encounLer slgnlflcanL deparLures from Lhe llnear Lhlnklng LhaL used Lo characLerlze our
undersLandlng of developmenL. MosL noLably, we see Llpplng polnLs, as acLlons LhaL appeared Lo have
no measurable lnfluence over ouLcomes for a prolonged perlod suddenly lead Lo marked change,
exLreme senslLlvlLy Lo lnlLlal condlLlons and paLh dependence, as we see LhaL slmllar acLlons ln dlfferenL
counLrles/clrcumsLances can lead Lo vasLly dlfferenL ouLcomes dependlng ln parL on whaL developmenL
paLh Lhe counLry or local communlLy has Lraveled before, and a paLchwork of dlfferenL clrcumsLances
(whlch can change raLher rapldly over Llme) conslsLlng of areas where ºslmple Lhlnklng and approaches
work", and Lhose where Lhey don'L. And wlLh LhaL we enLer lnLo Lhe arena of 'complexlLy'.
1hls small paper wlll Lry Lo ouLllne how we can geL Lo Lerms wlLh Lhe new noLlon of susLalnable
developmenL and Lhe resulLlng complexlLy, ln Lhe followlng senses:
ueflnlng Lhls Lhree-dlmenslonal susLalnablllLy concepL,
ueLermlnlng a 'susLalnable developmenL paLh', and
SuggesLlng ways for how we as unuÞ could supporL our parLner counLrles ln movlng along LhaL
'susLalnable developmenL paLh'.
!usL Lo be clear from Lhe ouLseL. 1hls paper wlll nC1 provlde answers. lL ls way Loo soon Lo provlde
answers. WhaL we can do aL Lhls sLage ls ask quesLlons. Þaraphraslng LakaLos, 'lL ls Lhe heurlsLlc aspecL
of asklng quesLlons - and ever beLLer quesLlons - LhaL wlll sLep-by-sLep geL us Lo a beLLer explanaLlon for
whaL we see, where we go and whaL we can do'.
8uL flrsL a blL of Lheory.whaL ls Lhls 'complexlLy' abouL?
2 | Þ a g e
9.0/)*6&$7 - % #5.3$ &'$3.,"1$&.'
AlLhough, as one mlghL expecL, Lhere are many dlfferenL ways of looklng aL complexlLy, Mr. Mlchael
provlded a raLher handy overvlew. Pe dlsLlngulshes 'Slmple', 'CompllcaLed' and
'Complex', and subsequenLly adds 'Chaos', whlch he raLher unceremonlously dlsmlsses, buL we wlll
come back Lo LhaL laLer. 1he neaL overvlew ls presenLed ln Lhe plcLure below.
Cn Lhe horlzonLal axls we see 'CerLalnLy', whlch means Lhe ºdegree of cerLalnLy and predlcLablllLy abouL
how Lo solve a problem' and on Lhe verLlcal axls we see 'AgreemenL', whlch means Lhe 'degree of
agreemenL or confllcL abouL how Lo solve a problem'.
1he level of soclal agreemenL and Lechnlcal cerLalnLy abouL how Lo go abouL solvlng a problem
deLermlnes wheLher Lhe problem ls ln Lhe arena of slmple, (soclal or Lechnlcal or boLh) compllcaLed,
complex, or ln Lhe arena of chaos (see plcLure 1). Whlle Lhls may sound vague-maybe LheorlsLs agree
and broadly undersLand an lssue whlle acLual declslon makers don'L-Lhls only underscores Lhe polnL
LhaL whaL ls chaoLlc for one acLor may only be complex (or even slmple) Lo oLhers. 8uL we can probably
agree LhaL Lhe developmenL process ls aL leasL complex for everyone lnvolved.
:&1$"3* ;< 9.0/)*6&$7 0%,* #&0/)* =>3.0 :%$$.'?
Mlchale Clulnn ÞaLLon, 'uevelopmenLal LvaluaLlon: Applylng ComplexlLy ConcepLs Lo Lnhance lnnovaLlon and use', chapLer 4, p 80 -110.
1he plcLure shows neaL llnes of dlvlslon beLween Lhe dlfferenL secLlons. ln reallLy, Lhe dlvldlng llnes may well be fuzzy. 1hey should be Laken
as 'senslLlzaLlon' concepLs, Lo dlsLlngulsh beLween dlfferenL slLuaLlons, and Lhus help Lo deLermlne whaL klnd of acLlon would be more sulLable.
ln addlLlon, Lhey are useful Lo dlscuss ln a Leam, as lL hlghllghLs Lhe dlfferenL percepLlons abouL Lhe problem (and posslble soluLlons) aL hand.
Chaos - masslve
creaLe common ground
lar from Close Lo
3 | Þ a g e
lmaglne a vacclnaLlon campalgn. MosL people would agree lL ls useful and a loL ls known abouL how Lo
do such a campalgn, hence lL ls movlng lnLo Lhe dlrecLlon of falrly slmple. 1hls does noL mean slmpllsLlc
or 'even a dummy can do'. lL only means LhaL Lhe parameLers are (falrly) well known and LhaL lL can be
done, and repllcaLed accordlng Lo a falrly slmllar formaL, ln order words lL can be 'producLlzed'. ln a
'slmple' slLuaLlon 'hlndslghL leads Lo foreslghL': experlence and knowledge abouL Lhe pasL ls rellable Lo
predlcL Lhe fuLure. Lven so, lL ls self-evldenL LhaL a vacclnaLlon campalgn can run lnLo locallzed
dlfflculLles and needs Lo be adapLed Lo local clrcumsLances.
ueslgnlng a governmenL-wlde e-servlce sysLem ls very compllcaLed and wlll need a loL of people from
dlfferenL backgrounds. 8uL Lhe prlnclples are falrly well known and lL can be done (buL lL can also fall, as
has been shown many Llmes). 1hls ls an example of a 'Lechnlcally compllcaLed' problem or slLuaLlon.
We may know LhaL Lhe way Lo solve Lhe Creek crlsls slLuaLlon ls Lo lmplemenL coordlnaLed budgeLary
measures, wrlLe off parL of Lhe debL and puL ln place a common Lu-level (or aL leasL eurozone-level)
flscal pollcy plaLform LhaL prevenLs Lhe crlsls from re-occurrlng. 8uL Lhe level of agreemenL ln socleLy ln
lndlvldual counLrles and also across counLrles seems raLher low, wlLness Lhe regular and lncreaslngly
vlrulenL proLesLs campalgns and Lhe wlLherlng and dlLherlng aL Lu SummlLs. Pence, we are deallng wlLh
a 'soclally compllcaLed' problem.
A problem may be boLh soclally and Lechnlcally compllcaLed. lor lnsLance geneLlc englneerlng of
agrlculLural planLs ls noL an easy Lhlng Lo do, whlle aL Lhe same Llme soclal accepLance of Lhe procedure
ls noL an +,-./0 everywhere, Lo say Lhe leasL.
SLlll, ln all Lhese slLuaLlons, Lhe processes are baslcally known and ln prlnclple an avenue of acLlon wlLh
speclflc measures Lo be Laken can be developed wlLh a reasonable level of predlcLablllLy.
1hls can change (and ofLen changes) when we move Lo Lhe arena of complexlLy. Complex slLuaLlons are
characLerlzed by a hlgh level of uncerLalnLy concernlng Lhe ouLcome of Lhe process, or even Lhe process
lLself. ln facL, many of Lhe parameLers ln such a slLuaLlon may noL only be an unknown quanLlLy or
quallLy, Lhey may ln facL be unknowable. 1here ls no sLandard way of movlng forward, Lhere ls no
overarchlng reclpe of success. Lven lf ln one place success ls reallsed, Lhe chances LhaL Lhls may be
repllcaLed elsewhere vary from good Lo sllm, because Lhe parameLers deLermlnlng Lhe behavlor of Lhe
sysLem can change. PlndslghL Lhen does noL lead Lo foreslghL.
We can provlde Lhe followlng overvlew of Lhe characLerlsLlcs of a complex sysLem broadly followlng
Snowden and 8oone ln Lhelr 'Leader's lramework for ueclslon Maklng':
lL lnvolves large numbers of lnLeracLlng elemenLs LhaL Lhemselves can change,
1he lnLeracLlons are nonllnear: mlnor changes can produce dlsproporLlonaLely large consequences,
1he sysLem ls dynamlc, Lhe whole ls greaLer Lhan Lhe sum of lLs parLs, and soluLlons can'L be
lmposed, raLher, Lhey arlse from Lhe clrcumsLances. 1hls ls frequenLly referred Lo as 'emergence',
1he sysLem has a hlsLory, and Lhe pasL ls lnLegraLed wlLh Lhe presenL, Lhe elemenLs evolve wlLh one
anoLher and wlLh Lhe envlronmenLs, and evoluLlon ls paLh-dependenL and ofLen lrreverslble,
4 | Þ a g e
1hough a complex sysLem may, ln reLrospecL, appear Lo be ordered and have regularlLles, hlndslghL
does noL lead Lo foreslghL because Lhe exLernal condlLlons and Lhe sysLem's lnLernal sLaLus
1here ls a progresslon from 1234243 0506470 (where Lhe sysLem consLralns Lhe agenLs), Lo 8+749
6:41246/, 0/6.+6/1;0 where Lhe agenLs and Lhe sysLem consLraln one anoLher and also over Llme (buL
predlcLlon ls noL necessarlly ruled ouL), Lo ,:+16/, 0506470 (where usual meLhods for undersLandlng
Lhe behavlor of Lhe sysLem or predlcLlng lL fall Lo dellver Lhe sorL of preclslon LhaL would be needed
Lo gulde developmenL work).
Above we sald LhaL wlLh enLerlng soclal and economlc susLalnablllLy lnLo Lhe equaLlon Lhe susLalnable
developmenL paradlgm moved lnLo Lhe arena of complexlLy
. Cplnlons regardlng soclal and economlc
susLalnablllLy dlffer by socleLy, age group, and eLhnlc and soclo-economlc groups, Lhey wlll also llkely
change over Llme. knowledge abouL whaL ls, and abouL whaL ls Lo be ls sparse, wlLh lnLerrelaLlons
beLween envlronmenLal, soclal and economlc susLalnablllLy. lor lnsLance, growlng lncome lnequallLy ls
llkely Lo lead Lo soclal excluslon, depleLlon of resources llke waLer may lead Lo confllcL and deprlve some
secLlons ln socleLy of vlLal resources Lo llve, whlle oLhers may buy Lhemselves ouL of Lrouble. CeLLlng Lo
Lerms wlLh Lhe exacL naLure of Lhese relaLlonshlps ls dlfflculL as many parameLers lnLeracL wlLh such a
wlde varlablllLy of posslble course of developmenL LhaL rellable predlcLlon of llkely developmenL ls noL
obvlous. Powever, Lo be relevanL ln developmenL work, we need Lo geL Lo Lerms wlLh Lhls complexlLy.
Annex 1 glves some more deLall abouL Lhe Lhree elemenLs LhaL deLermlne wheLher a developmenL
process - ln our case susLalnable developmenL - ls Slmple, CompllcaLed or Complex.
Powever, Lhere ls sLlll chaos, whlch slLs aL Lhe far rlghL Lop-end ln llgure 1 above. Pere dlsagreemenL
and absence of cerLalnLy are exLreme wlLh regard Lo boLh Lhe presenL and Lhe fuLure. Such slLuaLlons do
exlsL. A regularly used example ls Lhe complex Lype of warfare LhaL was wlLnessed ln 8wanda and
LasLern Congo. Several groups of armed people were runnlng amok, unclear who Lhey were LargeLlng
(alLhough LhaL ln 8wanda was qulLe qulckly clear, aL leasL for Lhe ma[orlLy of armed groups..), why Lhey
dld lL and whaL Lhey were golng Lo do nexL. WlLh hlndslghL, connecLlng doLs, researchlng whaL was
unknown, we undersLood a loL more. 8uL lmaglne slLLlng ln Lhe mlddle of LhaL. ?ou see armed groups
runnlng around, kllllng. Pow do you acL? AnoLher ofLen-used example concerns Lhe flrsL few hours
lmmedlaLely afLer Lhe aLLacks of 9/11. Cne could wlLness Lhe planes flylng lnLo Lhe World 1rade CenLer,
buL whaL was golng on only became clear durlng Lhe followlng days. SLlll, people had Lo acL lmmedlaLely,
ln a slLuaLlon where Lhey dld noL know whaL was golng on or whaL would happen nexL.
ln slLuaLlons llke LhaL, you have no ldea who ls who, whaL Lhey wanL and whaL Lhls mlghL mean for you.
?ou have no ldea how Lhe slLuaLlon may evolve and sLlll you need Lo declde Lo acL or noL Lo acL. Pow
does one do Lhls ln slLuaLlon llke LhaL? And here lnslghLs from Chaos 1heory mlghL be of some help.
Cne may [usLlflably argue LhaL Lhe orlglnal (envlronmenLal) susLalnablllLy paradlgm was already ln Lhe realm of complexlLy. 1he modern
susLalnable developmenL paradlgm ls Lhen even more complex, where Lhe concepL of homeosLasls could be helpful, l.e. Lhe ldea LhaL some sorL
of balance among Lhe many ºmovlng parLs" of Lhe developmenL process ls posslble, and LhaL such a dynamlc equlllbrlum paLh should be our
maln ob[ecLlve. ln a sense, susLalnablllLy from Lhe Lhree angles ls [usL a more speclflc descrlpLlon of Lhls requlremenL.
3 | Þ a g e
1here ls however, a llLLle problem wlLh Lhls approach Lo chaos. 1hese examples descrlbe chaos as a
Lemporary sLaLe of affalrs, where order can be creaLed Lhrough clever acLlon LhaL moves Lhe slLuaLlon Lo
Lhe complex and compllcaLed arena. now, whaL happens lf ln our case - susLalnable developmenL - lL ls
noL a Lemporary sLaLe of affalrs, buL permanenLly characLerlzlng our operaLlonal envlronmenL?
9.0/)*6&$7 %', 95%.# - ,.*# 1.0/)*6&$7 $5*.37 2&-* %' %1$&.' /*3#/*1$&-*A
We now come back Lo Mr. ÞaLLon's raLher unceremonlous dlsmlssal of chaos. WlLh SusLalnable
uevelopmenL we are ln a slLuaLlon where we have lncompleLe lnformaLlon on Lhe presenL slLuaLlon, Lhe
'LargeL developmenL slLuaLlon' ls speclfled only Lhrough Lhe requlremenL of [olnL achlevemenL of Lhree
sorLs of susLalnablllLy, each wlLh lLs own crlLerla, yeL lnLerrelaLed. Moreover, Lhe process Lo reach LhaL -
as yeL noL fully deflned - LargeL ls unknown, and Lhe way Lo lnfluence Lhe developmenL paLh ls only
parLlally known. 1hls sounds very much llke complexlLy, posslbly borderlng on ouLrlghL chaos.
1he above sLory can be agonlzlngly frusLraLlng as lL seems our acLlon perspecLlve and resulLs-based
approach has dlssolved under Lhe welghL of our concepLual approach. ComplexlLy and chaos have ln
common LhaL Lhere are a loL on 'unknown unknowns' ln Lhe developmenL slLuaLlon under revlew. WlLh
dlfflculLles ln assesslng or analyzlng whaL ls and whaL ls Lo be, and wlLh some facLors unforeseen (llke
Lechnologlcal lnnovaLlon), aL Llmes we can only undersLand Lhlngs ln reLrospecL.
Snowden and 8oone focus ln Lhelr arLlcle on leadershlp, and suggesL LhaL because of Lhe unknown
unknowns, leaders [lnsLead of aLLempLlng Lo lmpose a course of acLlon] musL paLlenLly allow Lhe paLh
forward Lo reveal lLself. 1hey need Lo 'probe flrsL, Lhen sense, and Lhen respond', and 'leaders who Lry Lo
lmpose order ln a complex conLexL wlll fall, buL Lhose who seL Lhe sLage, sLep back a blL, allow paLLerns
Lo emerge, and deLermlne whlch ones are deslrable wlll succeed. 1hey wlll dlscern many opporLunlLles
for lnnovaLlon, creaLlvlLy, and new buslness models'. Snowden and 8oone suggesL LhaL Lhrough
dlscusslng, seLLlng clever barrlers, sLlmulaLlng Lhe aLLracLors (noL Lhe 'demenLors') eLc, Lhe rlghL answer
Lo Lhe complex developmenL slLuaLlon wlll emerge, and can subsequenLly be acLed upon. 1he approach
seems Lo be LhaL Lhe answer ls 'ouL Lhere somewhere', buL lL ls hldden ln Lhe complex seL of parameLers
we look aL and Lhe dlfflculLy or lmposslblllLy Lo predlcL Lhe developmenL course of Lhese parameLers.
ln a chaoLlc conLexL, as Snowden and 8oone argue LhaL Lhe search for Lhe rlghL answer ls polnLless: 'Lhe
relaLlonshlps beLween cause and effecL are lmposslble Lo deLermlne because Lhey shlfL consLanLly and
no manageable paLLern exlsLs - only Lurbulence'. 1he sequence of a leader's acLlon would be as follows:
SLop Lhe bleedlng, acL Lo esLabllsh order,
Sense where sLablllLy ls presenL and from where lL ls absenL,
Work Lo Lransform Lhe slLuaLlon from chaos Lo complexlLy, where emerglng paLLerns
can boLh help presenL fuLure crlsls and dlscern new opporLunlLles.
now, Lhls ls a somewhaL unsaLlsfacLory proposal. llrsL because by provldlng an acLlon perspecLlve Lhey
do acknowledge Lhere ls a 'rlghL' answer (ln Lhelr words: 'sLop Lhe bleedlng'). Second, lL ls dlsappolnLlng
as Lhey do noL provlde any polnLers as Lo whaL Lhen approprlaLe acLlons would be Lo sLop Lhe bleedlng,
how you ldenLlfy Lhose areas where sLablllLy ls emerglng (we have no ldea whaL Lhls 'senslng' ls abouL,
6 | Þ a g e
Lhls sounds all Loo esoLerlc) and how flnally you Lransform chaos Lo complexlLy. 1hey seem Lo work on
Lhe premlse LhaL chaos ls a crlsls, ln prlnclple Lemporary and LhaL needs Lo be pushed lnLo Lhe more
comprehenslble arena wlLh sLrong and declslve Lop-down managemenL. 8uL whaL happens lf chaos ls
noL an acuLe crlsls, lf chaos ln facL ls characLerlzlng Lhe developmenL conLexL?
complalns abouL slmllar Lypes of vagueness and lack of operaLlonal recommendaLlons. Pe
suggesLs LhaL 'complexlLy Lheory may acLually be a bunch of descrlpLlve concepLs ln search of a Lheory
[...] a seL of descrlpLlve caLegorles, noL an englne for generaLlng explanaLlons'. ÞolllLL conLlnues LhaL he
'[.] dld noL see LhaL Lhe added 4<=>+;+6125 value aLLrlbuLable Lo complexlLy Lheory was very hlgh
does see some added value Lhough: ºComplexlLy Lheory remlnds us of Lhe (probable) naLure of cerLaln
key elemenLs of Lhe general backdrop of conLemporary publlc admlnlsLraLlon. 1hese are, prlnclpally,
mulLlple and unpredlcLable lnLeracLlons beLween many dlfferenL klnds of organlzaLlons, comblned wlLh
hlgh-lmpacL evenLs (such as floods, new dlseases, Lechnologlcal dlsasLers), all of whlch can lead Lo 'non-
llnearlLles'". 1hls brlngs us back agaln a blL closer Lo Lhe susLalnable developmenL concepL.
All ln all, Lhere does noL seem Lo be a clear guldance from ComplexlLy 1heory for our deslred acLlon
perspecLlve. WhaL we need ls a framework for maklng sense of Lhe dlfferenL developmenL slLuaLlons we
flnd ourselves ln, for deLermlnlng whaL we need Lo know and how we geL LhaL knowledge, whaL facLors
would deserve prlorlLy, and for flgurlng ouL how we can supporL our parLners Lo handle Lhose prlorlLles.
Maybe we should accepL LhaL aL presenL Lhe ComplexlLy 1heory has noL yeL sufflclenLly developed Lo
allow a move from descrlpLlon Lo explanaLlon, whlch ln Lurn would allow Lhe deflnlLlon of an acLlon
perspecLlve. 8uL lL does help Lo come Lo Lerms wlLh Lhe 'descrlpLlve' slde of our developmenL conLexL.
B.4 1%' 4* 0.-* >.34%3,A
AlLhough complexlLy Lheory correcLly remlnds us LhaL noL all developmenL slLuaLlons are Lhe same, LhaL
ln some slLuaLlons hlndslghL does noL lead Lo foreslghL, LhaL dlfferenL developmenLs ln socleLy are llkely
Lo lnLeracL eLc., lL has noL provlded us wlLh a clear meLhodology Lo develop our acLlon perspecLlve. 1he
dlfferenL elemenLs menLloned by Snowden and 8oone, however, as a posslble response sLrucLure ln a
complex slLuaLlon do have Lhelr value.
Also from Lhe 'explanaLory' angle, Lhe conLrlbuLlon seems llmlLed, reduclng Lhe aLLracLlon of ComplexlLy
1heory. lL descrlbes, makes aware, buL hardly explalns. 1here seems Lo be a danger LhaL - also because
of lLs llnks Lo Lhe more popular use of words llke chaos and complexlLy -lL may be used as an excuse for
fallure Lo conLrlbuLe Lo change.
8uL Lhere ls more, even lf we fully agree wlLh ÞolllLL's skepLlclsm. Pe recognlzes some value ln Lhe
overall complex Lheory approach. Pe lnslsLs LhaL ºnoL all secLors, pollcles and lssues are llkely Lo be
characLerlzed by Lhls comblnaLlon of volaLlle elemenLs. lndeed, some areas of publlc pollcy and
ChrlsLopher ÞolllLL: ComplexlLy 1heory and LvoluLlonary Þubllc AdmlnlsLraLlon, ln Managlng Complex Covernance
SysLems, C. Lelsman, A. van 8uuren and L. CerrlLs (eds).
Cp clL. ÞolllLL refers Lo Lhe oLher chapLers ln Lhe same book. lLallcs by ÞolllLL.
7 | Þ a g e
managemenL are remarkably sLable and predlcLable. PecLlc change can exlsL alongslde long-Lerm
conLlnulLy, someLlmes lnslde Lhe same governmenL".
1hls lnslghL can provlde elemenLs of our acLlon perspecLlve. lor LhaL parL of Lhe developmenL challenges
LhaL are slmple or compllcaLed, many of our usual approaches may remaln appllcable. As for slLuaLlons
more ln Lhe arena of complexlLy: hecLlc change wlLh llLLle sLablllLy and predlcLablllLy, we aLLempL Lo
descrlbe a dual acLlon perspecLlve ln Lhe conLexL of susLalnable developmenL below.
C0(3%1* 3*,"1$&.'� %', ,. '.$ 5%30
1he flrsL lssue Lo Lackle ls wheLher we can descrlbe Lhe core elemenLs of susLalnable developmenL
we would llke Lo see movlng ln Lhe rlghL dlrecLlon? lf so, four quesLlons emerge:
a) WhaL are Lhese elemenLs for susLalnable economlc, soclal, and envlronmenLal developmenL?
b) Can we measure (quanLaLlvely) or descrlbe (quallLaLlvely) Lhese elemenLs? lf yes, whaL ls Lhelr
currenL level, and whaL ls Lhe 'susLalnable' level we are asplrlng Lo?
c) uo we undersLand how Lhe process works Lo geL from where are Lo where we wanL Lo be?
d) Can we ldenLlfy Lhe ºlevers Lo pull" and Lhe exLenL Lo pull Lhem Lo aLLaln susLalnablllLy?
1hls bolls down Lo 'reduclng' Lhe complexlLy of Lhe overall concepL of susLalnable developmenL Lo
comprehenslble lssues, where we do have (sufflclenL) lnformaLlon abouL where we are, where we wanL
Lo be, how Lhe paLh goes from here Lo Lhe fuLure and how unuÞ can asslsL dlfferenL counLrles.
Secondly, Lhe quesLlon of dolng no harm ls relevanL. AlLhough Lhe Lheory abouL complexlLy may noL help
us much ln deflnlng an acLlon perspecLlve, lL does remlnd us gravely abouL Lhe lnLer-relaLlons beLween
dlfferenL elemenLs ln our developmenL paradlgm and LhaL acLlon ln one area may (and cerLalnly wlll)
have an lmpacL ln anoLher area. Whlle lL may noL be easy (or even posslble) Lo descrlbe how such
lnLeracLlon funcLlons, Lhere ls a loL Lo say for avoldlng a negaLlve lmpacL.
9%' 4* (3*%D ,.4' $5* 1.'1*/$ .> !"#$%&'%()* E*-*)./0*'$ &'$. 1.0/3*5*'#&()* (&$# %', 1%' 4*
8reaklng down Lhe concepL of susLalnable developmenL lnLo comprehenslble llLLle blLs ls ln facL whaL we
have been dolng all along. lrom Lhe dlscusslon above lL may be clear LhaL lL ls noL ldeal, buL lL may be as
good as lL geLs. lL may noL be posslble Lo have sufflclenL lnslghL ln all posslble relaLlons - and hence
descrlbe and explaln Lhe complexlLy - aL Lhe Llme when acLlon ls called for. 8uL Lhe overall ldea seems
clear, o tltte J´exomple, a number of posslble examples ls provlded ln Lhe Lable below:
!.1&%) !"#$%&'%(&)&$7 C1.'.0&1 !"#$%&'%(&)&$7 C'-&3.'0*'$%) !"#$%&'%(&)&$7
Þeace, sLablllLy and securlLy
8easonably equlLable, lncluslve
CrowLh susLalned over years
ÞermanenLly hlgh employmenL
Avoldlng macroeconomlc lmbalances:
escalaLlng lnequallLy, relenLlessly
rlslng debL, unsLable exchange raLe.
Þlease see annex 2 for a descrlpLlon of susLalnable developmenL.
8 | Þ a g e
lor each of Lhese lssues an 'as ls' descrlpLlon can be made relaLlvely easlly, lL ls much more compllcaLed
Lo agree on Lhelr fuLure, susLalnable value.
F5%$ &# $5* ,*-*)./0*'$ /%$5A
lor each of Lhe elemenLs ldenLlfled, lL should be deflned whaL Lhe 'movers' (or 'levers for change') are
LhaL push Lhe presenL slLuaLlon lnLo Lhe deslred one. lor lnsLance, human rlghLs could be broken down
8ecognlLlon / slgnlng up Lo Lhe relevanL lnLernaLlonal convenLlons
Pavlng a naLlonal pollcy
naLlonal organlzaLlonal / lnsLlLuLlonal sLrucLure LhaL has clear mandaLes, budgeLs and
responslblllLles Lo lmplemenL Lhe naLlonal pollcy (lncl. 'volce' mechanlsms from socleLy)
uegree of non accepLance of dlscrlmlnaLlon eLc.
ln many areas we have a decenL ldea. lnvesLmenLs for lnsLance ln energy efflclency of bulldlngs are llkely
Lo conLrlbuLe Lo all Lhree susLalnable developmenL componenLs (reducLlon of energy use, of CC
emlsslons, and of energy cosLs ln Lurn leavlng more money avallable for soclal or economlc servlces).
Powever, more ofLen Lhan noL we cannoL predlcL how our conLemplaLed acLlons-LogeLher wlLh llkely
developmenLs ln oLher lnLervenlng facLors as well as acLlons of oLhers-wlll conLrlbuLe Lo more
susLalnable developmenL. We are ln a slLuaLlon of unknowns and complexlLy! A good way forward here
ls noL Lo look for one way ahead, buL Lo develop scenarlos wlLh dlfferenL levels of llkellhood, and rlsk
assessmenL Lo ensure as much as posslble LhaL (a) no harm ls done, (b) all relevanL alLernaLlves and
approprlaLe Lrade-offs are welghed, and (c) developmenL acLlon deslgned accordlng Lo one scenarlo can
be adapLed lf lL becomes clear anoLher developmenL scenarlo sulLs reallLy beLLer.
B.4 1%' GHE: (*#$ #"//.3$ '%$&.'%) 2.-*3'0*'$# - %', /.##&()7 .$5*3 %1$.3# - &' 3*%)&I&'2 $5&#
8roadly speaklng, unuÞ ln engaged ln Lwo dlfferenL slLuaLlons.
1he flrsL slLuaLlon ls non-chaoLlc accordlng Lo ÞaLLon's model. lL ls reasonably safe Lo assume LhaL we
know Lhe areas LhaL ln a 'broad sense' conLrlbuLe poslLlvely Lo susLalnable developmenL, where we wanL
Lo sLlmulaLe change and we can reasonably expecL lmprovemenLs, or aL leasL no harm, regardless of
how oLher parameLers ln Lhe overall sysLem are movlng (e.g., Lhe energy efflclency example). Pere Lhe
supporL mechanlsm Lo governmenL would be characLerlzed by a 'producLlzed' approach. More or less
sLandardlzed approaches and (pollcy and Lechnlcal) advlce would be provlded Lo Lhe governmenLs.
1he second slLuaLlon ls Lhe one where we do noL have LhaL cerLalnLy. 1he advlce provlded by Snowden
and 8oone (see above) ln complex slLuaLlon does provlde some guldance:
J/*' "/ $5* ,"##&.'K *'1."3%2&'2 ,&##*'$ %', ,&-*3#&$7
AlLhough we generally do noL expllclLly sLlmulaLe dlssenL, our lncluslve approach e.g., Lo pollcy
developmenL ls very close Lo whaL ls needed ln Lhls 'sLraLegy' elemenL of deallng wlLh complexlLy.
9 | Þ a g e
!*$ (%33&*3#K )&0&$&'2 .3 ,*)&'*%$&'2 (*5%-&.3
1hls ls predomlnanLly a maLLer of developlng Lhe naLlonal pollcles, sLraLegles and legal lnsLrumenLs.
Powever, ln complex slLuaLlons, we may need Lo re-Lhlnk our approach Lo how exacLly Lhese should
be developed: we may need Lo move from relylng prlmarlly on 'experlence' elsewhere, Loward an
'experLlse' base, where we focus on helplng Lhe governmenL Lo develop pollcles and sLraLegles LhaL
are unlquely relaLed Lo Lhelr developmenL slLuaLlon. Pence, brlnglng experLs wlLh Lhe Lechnlcal
compeLencles ls sLlll needed, whlle maybe more aLLenLlon should be pald Lo (pollLlcal) analysls, Lo
sLakeholder engagemenLs ln all lLs forms (lncl. Lhrough soclal medla), Lo scenarlo developmenL, Lo
rlsk managemenL and slmllar areas.
!$&0")%$* &'$*3*#$ %', '|evers of change'K 45&15 %3* /5*'.0*'% $5%$ %3&#* 45*' #0%)) #$&0")& %',
/3.(*# 3*#.'%$* 4&$5 /*./)*
1hls calls for whaL we generally call Lhe 'plloL' pro[ecLs. Pere we experlmenL, and when successful
we 'scale up'. 1here are dlfferenL Lypes of 'levers'. larmers may be sLlmulaLed Lo make llLLle sLorles
(blogs) abouL how Lhe lncreaslng soll eroslon ls maklng Lhelr llfe lmposslble. 1ruck-drlvers may be
asked Lo send an SMS each Llme Lhey are asked Lo provlde a brlbe. A demonsLraLlon blogas
lnsLallaLlon, a plloL waLer heaLer on solar energy, eLc. are more classlcal examples. 1he appolnLmenL
of a woman as CLC of a large company, may fuel renewed lnLeresL ln gender equallLy.
L%'%2* #$%3$&'2 1.',&$&.'#K 0.'&$.3 >.3 *0*32ent |nstab|||ty, and bu||d |n "shock absorbers" for
Pere our approaches Lo quallLy assurance, monlLorlng and evaluaLlon, and resulL managemenL falrly
well cover whaL ls lnLended. Powever, sLronger aLLenLlon ls Lo be pald Lo rlsk managemenL, and Lhe
acLual monlLorlng of poLenLlal rlsks. ln parLlcular, desplLe donor pressure for a ºlean" managemenL
cosL sLrucLure, lL may well be opLlmal Lo bulld ln flexlblllLy for execuLlon Lo respond Lo unforeseen
shocks, and also some redundancy ln pro[ecL deslgn Lo ensure LhaL Lhese shocks do noL derall
Looklng aL complexlLy ln Lhls manner seems Lo lndlcaLe noL much ls changlng. 1hls ls noL enLlrely Lhe
case. 1hree elemenLs sLand ouL where Lhe unuÞ (and Lhe naLlonal governmenLs) need Lo reflecL.
Scenarlo developmenL lnsLead of llnear and flxed pollcles and sLraLegles
1he flrsL elemenL we need Lo look lnLo more closely ls scenarlo developmenL. Cur 'sLandard' approach
Lo pollcy and sLraLegy developmenL ls Lo sLaLe Lhe hlgh level goals and Lhe way ln whlch Lhese are Lo be
reallzed. As overall goals are generally seL ln raLher 'vlslonary' Lerms and reflecL pollLlcal ldeologles Lhey
have a raLher long shelf-llfe. Powever, ln Lhe fasL changlng world we are llvlng ln, Lhe sLraLegy Lo reallze
Lhose hlgh level goals may be overLaken by evenLs ln a year's Llme. 1he permanenLly changlng
condlLlons also call for flexlblllLy and redundancy Lo allow for reslllence (as dlscussed above).
1hls 'complexlLy' elemenL of permanenLly changlng (lnLernal and exLernal) condlLlons makes Lhe
formulaLlon of medlum and long Lerm flxed plans less and less relevanL. lnsLead, Lhe elaboraLlon of
10 | Þ a g e
scenarlos on posslble developmenLs ln Lhe secLor under revlew, by changlng Lhe parameLers accordlng
Lo dlfferenL assumpLlons mlghL provlde useful lnslghLs. 1he emerglng dlfferenL developmenL paLhs ln
varlous scenarlos help deLermlne Lhe approprlaLe monlLorlng sLrucLures. Changlng Lhe assumpLlons
(parameLers) leads Lo dlfferenL pro[ecLlons abouL Lhe developmenL paLh, and can help ldenLlfy whlch
lndlcaLors Lo monlLor ln our quesL Lo ensure LhaL acLual developmenLs meeL expecLaLlons. 1he Lrlcky
parL ls ldenLlfylng [usL a few of Lhe posslble lnflnlLe number of scenarlos LhaL can encompass mosL of Lhe
posslble sLaLes of Lhe world LhaL are relevanL for pro[ecL deslgn.
llexlblllLy ln plannlng does noL mean LhaL governmenLs, lCCs, and nCCs cannoL be held accounLable!
nelLher does lL mean LhaL mechanlsms Lo LransparenLly record and communlcaLe hlgh level resulLs
would noL exlsL anymore. Changlng reallLles do noL mean LhaL promlses for lmprovemenLs all of Lhe
sudden become redundanL. 8aLher, Lhe way ln whlch Lhey can be reallzed has Lo be adapLed.
8lsk analysls and rlsk managemenL
Where above scenarlos were promoLed as a more sulLable lnsLrumenL Lo gulde change managemenL
Lhan Lhe LradlLlonal medlum and long Lerm pollcy and sLraLegy lnsLrumenLs, Lhere are Lwo core Lype of
rlsks assoclaLed wlLh Lhls:
1he llkellhood and severlLy of Lhe acLual changlng naLure of Lhe consLlLuenL elemenLs of Lhe facLor
LhaL ls under revlew. Pence, how llkely ls lL LhaL a speclflc assumpLlon ls valld or golng Lo change?
1he monlLorlng sysLem referred Lo above wlll follow Lhe movemenLs, buL esLlmaLes have Lo be
made how llkely lL ls LhaL changes may happen and how severe Lhey may be. lor Lhe crlLlcal
lndlcaLors LhaL heavlly lnfluence Lhe movemenL of Lhe overall susLalnablllLy elemenL, upsLream
monlLorlng and assessmenL needs Lo be done.
1he whole approach ls based on dolng no harm. 1hls Lhen needs Lo be conLlnuously followed LhaL
lndeed no harm ls belng done.
AbouL Weak Slgnals
An aspecL noL ofLen Louched upon by ComplexlLy 1heorlsLs ls LhaL lL ls crlLlcal Lo be open Lo ºweak
slgnals" of loomlng fundamenLal changes LhaL can be game-changers, and - hence - may pull you lnLo
complex or chaoLlc slLuaLlons characLerlzed by abrupL change. lor Lncyclopedla 8rlLannlca, Lhls was
Wlklpedla, for 8arnes and noble, and for 8orders 8ooksLores, Lhe e-8eader. Leaders of organlzaLlons
and buslnesses need Lo ldenLlfy such weak slgnals when Lhere ls a slgnlflcanL llkellhood of endlng up ln
elLher Lall of Lhe probablllLy dlsLrlbuLlon of ouLcomes: caLasLrophlc decllne or exLreme galns. Cnce such
posslble ouLcomes are ldenLlfled, some resources need Lo be puL lnLo Lracklng Lhe slLuaLlon Lo see lf lL ls
evolvlng Lowards an emergenL equlllbrlum conslsLenL wlLh Lhese exLreme ouLcomes, and lnLo havlng a
game-plan of how Lo respond. lL ls lmposslble Lo always make Lhls call correcLly. 8uL Lhe world ls
unforglvlng Lo organlzaLlons or buslnesses LhaL make a masslvely wrong call, and Lhe payoff can be huge
Lo havlng made Lhe rlghL call before oLhers have done so ([usL go Lo 8arnes & nobles' webslLe,
welcomlng 8orders cusLomers wlLh plcLures of Lhelr nook e-8eader-Lhe laLLer wenL bankrupL by noL
readlng Lhe weak slgnal a year ago LhaL e-8eaders are Lhe way Lo remaln afloaL for booksellers). 1hus,
11 | Þ a g e
preempLlvely Lracklng poLenLlal ouLllers whlle laylng ouL a response plan-for boLh exLreme poslLlve and
negaLlve conLlngencles-uslng a reasonable porLlon of Lhe avallable resources, ls Lhe opLlmal response.
unforLunaLely, we are noL very good aL readlng weak slgnals Loday, and even worse aL respondlng Lo
Lhem. 1he approach explalned above would-for unuÞ-arguably call for prompL acLlon Lo masslvely
reduce Lhe Llme needed for recrulLlng Lop LalenL, more effecLlvely deal wlLh new/emerglng donors,
ensure a beLLer balance beLween pollcy advlsory and pro[ecL work, and conslsLency among Lhese, far
more effecLlvely coordlnaLe whaL unuÞ 8ureaus and un organlzaLlons say and do. Some or more could
end up as ºgame-changers" and lf we fall ln havlng a coherenL and convlnclng way Lo deal wlLh Lhem ln a
shorL perlod of Llme, we mlghL lose much of our relevance.
M' )&*" .> 1.'1)"#&.'
We sLarLed our debaLe ln Lhls paper Lo flnd ouL wheLher or noL we can come Lo Lerms wlLh Lhe concepL
of complexlLy, and Lhe Lheory LhaL surrounds lL, ln relaLlon Lo our overarchlng framework of wanLlng Lo
conLrlbuLe Lo susLalnable developmenL.
Above we argue LhaL Lhe complexlLy approach does help ln descrlblng our developmenL slLuaLlon, buL
LhaL-aL leasL ln our readlng-lL does noL provlde greaL help ln explalnlng lL nor ln deflnlng whaL Lhen
our acLlon perspecLlve ls, alLhough Lhey provlde some meLhodologlcal hlnLs.
Cur skepLlcal ÞolllLL, wlLh hls more 'down Lo earLh' approach, remlnds us LhaL noL each elemenL of our
developmenL slLuaLlon ls complex (or ln chaos). 1haL means LhaL ln Lhose areas - ln Lheory - lL should be
posslble Lo descrlbe, explaln and reasonably predlcL developmenL, and hence Lo develop an acLlon plan.
ln Lhose areas where Lhe developmenL conLexL ls more complex, our complexlLy LheorlsLs do provlde
some hlnLs on how Lo consLrucL a response.
1o brlng Lhe debaLe forward, we propose baslcally four quesLlons:
a) Can we deflne Lhe composlLe elemenLs for susLalnable economlc, soclal, and envlronmenLal
b) Can we measure (quanLaLlvely) or descrlbe (quallLaLlvely) Lhese elemenLs? lf yes, whaL ls Lhelr
currenL level, and whaL ls Lhe 'susLalnable' level we are asplrlng Lo?
c) uo we undersLand how Lhe process works Lo geL from where are Lo where we wanL Lo be?
d) Can we ldenLlfy Lhe ºlevers Lo pull" and Lhe exLenL Lhey need Lo be changed Lo move Loward
lf Lhe answer ls yes Lo all of Lhese, lL ls hlghly llkely we are noL ln a complex or chaoLlc slLuaLlon, buL
much more llkely Lo be ln a compllcaLed or slmple developmenL slLuaLlon.
lf Lhe answer ls no, we are more llkely Lo be ln a developmenL slLuaLlon characLerlzed by complexlLy.
Surprlslngly, Lhe response mechanlsm proposed by Snowden and 8oone slLs qulLe well wlLh Lhe overall
unuÞ approach. 1o paraphrase:
12 | Þ a g e
uevelop boLh vlslonary and more operaLlonal pollcles and sLraLegles
ALLracL lnLeresL, push Lhe levers - plloL pro[ecLs
Lnsure quallLy conLrol
ls all well Lhen? Well no, noL really.
llrsL of all, we remaln ln raLher unLesLed waLers as far as ComplexlLy 1heory ls concerned. AlLhough lL
has been around for qulLe some Llme now, Lhere ls preclous llLLle explanaLory value documenLed from a
large body of research (a loL of case sLudles, buL Lhere ls llLLle done ln aggregaLed form) and Lhere ls
preclous llLLle guldance on how Lo Lackle complex slLuaLlon beyond Lhe somewhaL dlsappolnLlng
sLaLemenLs by Snowden and frlends.
ln such an arena, skepLlcs - as raLher brllllanLly represenLed by ÞolllLL - have a fleld day. 8uL Lhey may be
wrong. Absence of solld proof ln a sclenLlflc sense does noL mean all ls unLrue, and provldlng useful
rules of Lhumb LhaL can gulde us much of Lhe Llme (and ln parLlcular, help averL caLasLrophlc mlsLakes)
would be a worLhwhlle conLrlbuLlon.
AcLlng upon one of Lhe core lssues, LhaL we belleve LhaL Lhe unuÞ should Lake (much) sLronger on
board, we propose LhaL much sLronger aLLenLlon ls Lo be pald Lo scenarlo developmenL ,rlsks
managemenL and Lhe 'openness' Lo weak slgnals, LhaL may presage dramaLlc change.
AL Lhls sLage, we soughL Lo wrlLe enLlclngly abouL complexlLy, buL wlLhouL preLendlng Lo know more
Lhan we do. 1o make headway from here, we flrsL and foremosL look forward Lo a llvely debaLe on our
webslLe. Secondly, early 2012 we (Lhe unuÞ 8raLlslava 8eglonal CenLre) lnLend Lo organlze a (vlrLual)
evenL brlnglng ln some of Lhe more experlenced LheorlsLs and experLs Lo help us furLher on Lhe road.
1hls paper and Lhe ensulng debaLe are lnLended Lo help shaplng LhaL evenL and formulaLe an
approprlaLe seL of quesLlons. 1he answers Lo Lhese quesLlons would have Lo provlde pragmaLlc,
lmmedlaLely usable guldance Lo (unuÞ) advlsors and pracLlLloners on how Lo do developmenL work ln a
complex world. 1hus, Lhe quesLlons wlll have Lo be speclflc whlle coverlng Lhe mosL lmporLanL aspecLs of
our work. Cver Lo you...
13 | Þ a g e
N''*6 ;< O5* ,*$*30&'&'2 *)*0*'$# .> #&0/)*K 1.0/)&1%$*, %', 1.0/)*6
1hree aspecLs are lmporLanL ln deLermlnlng wheLher or noL an lssue ls complex: Covernance, Causal modellng, and
1he number of parLles lnvolved, LhaL have a (slgnlflcanL) lmpacL on Lhe way ln whlch each of Lhe composlLe
elemenLs of Lhe paradlgm evolves, plays an lmporLanL role. 8uL even more lmporLanL are Lhe many dlfferenL ways
Lhey can lnLeracL, and Lhe varlous paLLerns (e.g., sub-groups wlLh common lnLeresL, blocklng coallLlons) LhaL can
emerge. lor each of Lhe composlLe elemenLs of susLalnablllLy (soclal, economlc and envlronmenLal), Lhere are
many lnLerrelaLed players and even more of Lhese paLLerns, whlch, coupled wlLh llmlLs on Lhe undersLandlng of Lhe
naLure of lnLeracLlon Lhe number of parLles havlng an lnfluence on Lhe flnal ouLcome ls large, whlle aL Lhe same
Llme ls only undersLood Lo some exLenL, maklng Lhe process raLher complex, posslbly borderlng on 'chaos'.
Pere we look aL Lhree lnLerrelaLed lssues (causal sLrands, alLernaLlve causal mechanlsms, and Lhe naLure of Lhe
causal sLream (llnear versus non-llnear)
(+.0+> 062+;30. A slngle causal paLhway leadlng Lo a well-speclfled ouLcome ls slmple, cause-effecLs relaLlons are
known and predlcLable. Several causal paLhs leadlng Lo mulLlple ouLcomes, all needlng Lo be coordlnaLed, ls
compllcaLed, cause-effecL relaLlons are unknown buL knowable wlLh careful assessmenL. uncerLaln causal paLhs for
achlevlng deslred ouLcomes, especlally where causal connecLlons are lnLerLwlned, and overlapplng, consLlLuLe
complexlLy, cause-effecL relaLlonshlps are unknown and unknowable before effecLs have emerged.
?>642;+6/@4 ,:+;84 74,:+;/070. A slngle, conLrollable change mechanlsm ls slmple. ulfferenL causal mechanlsms
operaLlng wlLhln dlfferenL conLexLs make Lhe slLuaLlon compllcaLed. Cverlapplng mechanlsms wlLh lnLeracLlon
polnLs aL varlous lnLersecLlons or Llme polnLs can make Lhe slLuaLlon complex.
*+6.24 1A 6:4 ,+.0+> 0624+7B >/;4+2 @420.0 ;1;9>/;4+2. Slmple causal connecLlons lnvolve dlrecL llnear cause-effecL
connecLlons (e.g. 8lg [ump ln baslc needs afLer a dlsasLer). CompllcaLed causal connecLlons lnvolve several efforLs
almed aL Lhe same ouLcome, where lL ls compllcaLed Lo sorL ouL Lhe conLrlbuLlon of each efforL Lo Lhe evenLual
ouLcome, such compllcaLed relaLlonshlps can be non-llnear, buL are knowable wlLh careful assessmenL, and aL leasL
parLlally predlcLable. ComplexlLy lncludes nonllnear lnLeracLlons and flows ln whlch small acLlons can lead Lo large
effecLs (nonllnearlLy) or vlce versa, and Lhe naLure and degree of nonllnearlLy cannoL be conLrolled or known ln
advance, or even afLer Lhe evenL ln mosL cases, because Lhere are Loo many lnLeracLlng varlables Lo sorL ouL.
CompllcaLlng facLors ln all Lhese cases lnclude dynamlc feedback loops, lnLeracLlons among causal paLhways, and
underlylng common cause relaLlonshlps LhaL drlve classes of causal paLhways.
Slmple (change) processes lnvolve one or a small number of clear, speclflc and measurable ouLcomes, noL ln
confllcL wlLh each oLher, speclfled ln advance. CompllcaLlon (change) processes lnvolve mulLlple, vague, and/or
confllcLlng ouLcomes. A (change) process becomes complex when ouLcomes cannoL be speclfled ln advance
because Lhey are emergenL, Lhls makes pre-posL comparlsons and Lracklng changes agalnsL basellnes especlally
14 | Þ a g e
N''*6 @< E*>&'&'2 !"#$%&'%()* E*-*)./0*'$
%4@4>1=74;6 /0 0.06+/;+C>4 lf lL meeLs Lhe needs of Lhe presenL wlLhouL compromlslng Lhe ablllLy of fuLure
generaLlons Lo meeL Lhelr needs. 1hls requlres noL depleLlng human caplLal, knowledge caplLal, naLural caplLal and
produced caplLal avallable Lo socleLy over Llme (Arrow eL al., 2004). lL lnvolves Lhree plllars: economlc, soclal and
envlronmenLal susLalnablllLy. Lach ls lndlspenslble for developmenL Lo be susLalnable. lmpllclL ln Lhe deflnlLlon ls
Lhe requlremenL Lo also avold ln[ecLlng large rlsks lnLo subsequenL generaLlons' llves.
1he currenL ouLcome of exlsLlng governmenL pollcles and lncenLlves for prlvaLe secLor ls noL conslsLenL wlLh long-
Lerm susLalnablllLy ln several aspecLs. lallures of governmenLs and markeLs, and weaknesses ln clvll socleLy all
conLrlbuLe Lo Lhls ouLcome.
A crlLlcal mass of changes ln pollcles, lnsLlLuLlons, regulaLlon, and lncenLlves ls needed Lo markedly allevlaLe
governmenL and markeL fallures, and develop and engage clvll socleLy. Such changes need Lo be conslsLenL and
feaslble. CovernmenLs need Lo reverse dysfuncLlonal pollcles currenLly pursued (such as masslve fossll fuel
subsldles), puL ln place lmproved lnsLlLuLlons and regulaLlon where markeLs fall, buL reLreaL from areas where
markeLs or clvll socleLy work besL. 1hey need Lo bulld or reverse Lhe depleLlon of physlcal, soclal, and naLural
caplLal, whlle adherlng Lo budgeL and soclal consLralnLs. Mlcro-level secLoral pollcles need Lo complemenL Lhls Lo
provlde local LracLlon and address soclal and envlronmenLal Lenslons. 1ogeLher, Lhese can reseL lncenLlves for all Lo
llve and lnvesL ln llne wlLh economlc, soclal and envlronmenLal susLalnablllLy.
lmporLanLly, such a pollcy mlx need noL be perfecL. lL only needs Lo change lncenLlves sufflclenLly Lo Llp Lhe balance
Loward susLalnablllLy ln Lhe bllllons of declslons made abouL currenL and fuLure acLlons. Moreover, perfecL global
coordlnaLlon ls noL requlred, only a mlnlmum level of compaLlblllLy for Lhe paLchwork of naLlonal pollcles. Lnough
of Lhe elemenLs for effecLlvely addresslng subsLanLlal componenLs of Lhe challenge are avallable LhaL a ºwedge-by-
wedge" approach, ln aggregaLe addlng up Lo Lhe necessary crlLlcal mass of pollcles can be successful. Lxperlence
shows LhaL a sLeadlly erodlng slLuaLlon reaches a Llpplng polnL when a domlnanL coallLlon for change rapldly
coalesces. AL LhaL polnL, luck favors Lhe well-prepared: Lhose LhaL have a conslsLenL and credlble proposal for Lhe
SusLalnable developmenL ls complex. 1he Lhree plllars-each explored exLenslvely ln Lhe pasL lndlvldually-are noL
compeLlng agendas. Lvery plllar ls equally lmporLanL. 1hey are lnLerconnecLed, lnLroduclng synergles and Lrade-
offs (lncludlng lnLer-Lemporal ones). lnLer-Lemporal Lrade-offs arlse when sLocks and flows lnLeracL, as ln Lhe case
of mlgranL populaLlons and remlLLance flows, or naLural caplLal and commodlLy exporL earnlngs. 1he overlaps also
produce some of Lhe mosL lnLeresLlng areas LhaL are aL Lhe forefronL of unuÞ work, noLably human developmenL,
lncluslve and green growLh, green [obs, Lhe poverLy-envlronmenL nexus (llgure 1). AddlLlonal facLors also play a
key role, noLably demographlc shlfLs LhaL shape populaLlon sLrucLure, labor supply, and aggregaLe savlngs
behavlor. All Lhese need Lo be consldered when formulaLlng pollcles. llnally, Lhese processes are lnherenLly
nonllnear, addlng a furLher elemenL of complexlLy: Llpplng polnLs can occur when soclal, economlc or
envlronmenLal Lenslons reach crlLlcal levels-lndlvldually, or ln comblnaLlon.
13 | Þ a g e
F igure 1: Three pillars
Issue of traditional growth based
on high use of energy
energy pricing, regulation, direct
Biodiversity, water, food,
energy, climate change
Inclusion, access to
resources, green jobs,
health, education, good
Social incidence of pollution effects; Green (and decent) jobs; Poverty-
envi ronment nexus; Social inclusion effects of envi ronmental disasters
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