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Sustainability 2013, 5(12), 5034-5051; doi:10.3390/su5125034

Political Criteria for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Selection and the Role of the Urban Dimension

IASS Project, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), Berliner Street 130, Potsdam 14467, Germany
Received: 3 September 2013 / Revised: 8 November 2013 / Accepted: 19 November 2013 / Published: 28 November 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Development Goals)
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A flood of ideas and proposals on the shape and selection of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has begun to rise since 2012. This article looks at some of them, trying to understand which kind of “boundary work” between science and policy is done here. Starting with a reflection on the epistemological and practical implications of “discussing SDGs”, it primarily addresses scientists, but also decision makers and activists interested in the post-2015 debate. In practical terms of SDG selection, the argument goes in favor of a self-reflective “politization of science”; i.e., against claims for broad scientific comprehensiveness of SDGs and in favor of an “exemplary” selection of thematic areas and targets, which would combine aspects of (i) political opportunity and (ii) societal visibility. These criteria are only very partially met in the proposals the article looks at. By applying them, the article emphasizes the political importance of addressing, through SDGs, the subnational level directly, thus making the case for an SDG on cities. Such an SDG should, by the same logic, be rather focused and exemplary than all-encompassing. The recently employed formula of “resilient, inclusive and connected cities” is considered useful, when accompanied by tangible and communicable indicators.
Keywords: Sustainable Development Goals; science policy interface; boundary work; cities Sustainable Development Goals; science policy interface; boundary work; cities
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Rivera, M. Political Criteria for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Selection and the Role of the Urban Dimension. Sustainability 2013, 5, 5034-5051.

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