Side Events - Rio+20


Integrating the social dimensions of green economy into policy – a Rio+20 side-event

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As a side-event of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), a conference on “Integrating the Social Dimensions of Green Economy into Policy” will be held on 21 June 2012, in Rio, Brazil, by the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), in co-operation with UNESCO’s Management of Social Transformations (MOST) Programme and the International Social Science Council (ISSC). This conference aims to examine the gaps and barriers in integrating the social dimensions into green economy decision-making and to promote the role of social policy and research in addressing current and emerging challenges.

The economy is not separate from society, but is part of it and should contribute to building green, inclusive societies. However, green economy and sustainable development debates have been largely dominated by environmental and economic concerns, while social issues have consistently received the least attention.

In policy discussions, the social dimensions of green economy are often addressed quite narrowly in terms of green jobs, incentives for green consumerism, and the kinds of education/retraining, social protection safety-nets and social dialogue to facilitate the transition. A great emphasis has been given to decoupling economic growth from carbon emissions via green technologies, green financing and the greening of markets (such as PES, REDD etc.) – or ‘green growth’. Currently, social policies mainly focus on issues of protection and compensation for those who are negatively affected by certain processes of change and on attaining co-benefits between the three spheres of sustainable development – environment, society and economy. But these may not go far enough towards transforming the fundamental structural inequalities and political inconsistencies at the centre of current global crises, poverty and unsustainable development.

This conference will bring together policy-relevant lessons from recent research by UNRISD, UNESCO and ISSC, and focuses on the existing gaps and barriers that need to be overcome in order for the social dimensions of green economy to be better integrated into green economy decision-making. It will outline what a ‘social lens’ on the green economy might look like, pointing to the key role for social policy in addressing the negative social impacts of transition and institutional change, and in achieving policy coherence. These social dimensions are not add-ons to economic or environmental concerns; they underpin the process of structural transformation required to move towards development policies that are inclusive, equitable and sustainable. Finally, the conference will highlight directions for future research in this area.

Also on the agenda: how policy-makers can better understand the social cornerstones of sustainable development and integrate a social perspective into the green economy. This discussion will contribute directly to ongoing debates around a post-MDG agenda, specifically to the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’, a key outcome of Rio+20.

Among the speakers are Pilar Alvarez-Laso (Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO); Peter Utting (Deputy Director, UNRISD); Bina Agarwal (President of the International Society for Ecological Economics); and Heide Hackmann (Executive Director of ISSC). The Chair of the event is Sarah Cook (Director, UNRISD).


Type of Event Meeting by Member States or Institutions
Start 21.06.2012 18:00 local time
End 21.06.2012 19:30 local time
Date to be fixed 0
Focal point Golden, Cecilie
Organizer United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)
Country Brazil
City Rio de Janeiro
Venue Room T-9
Permanent Delegation Contact
Major Programme
Language of Event English
Estimated number of participants 100
Official Website United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)
Link 1 UNESCO's contribution to Rio+20: Building Equitable, Inclusive, Green Societies
Link 2 UNESCO Management of Social Transformations (MOST) Programme
Link 3 Rio+20 - United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 20-22 June 2012
Link 4 Flyer


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