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Policy coherence and integration as social innovations. Analysis of food in the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Authors: Sabine Weiland*,
Topics: Food Systems, Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Sustainability Science
Keywords: Sustainable Development Goals, food, policy integration, policy coherence, innovations
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent the global development agenda for people and the planet for the coming decades. They address the global challenges, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. The 17 SDGs are integrated—that is, they recognize that action in one area will affect outcomes in others, and that development must balance social, economic and environmental sustainability.

This paper analyzes integrated solutions in the realm of food. The latter features prominently in many of the SDGs because food is interconnected with various aspects of economy, environment and society, from hunger, malnutrition, desertification, sustainable water use, loss of biodiversity, to overconsumption, obesity and public health. The focus of the paper will be on the notion of sustainability-oriented policy coherence and integration, i.e. questions of how to identify, understand and manage interactions among highly interconnected SDGs.

In several case studies, I analyze what constitutes integrated food innovations and how these can be achieved. Their complexity and the nested nature of problems reveal the contradictions in-built in policy formulation and implementation. It will be shown that priority setting and acceptance of trade-offs are not necessarily the result of bounded rationalities or silo-thinking, but inevitable for achieving sustainable food solutions.

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