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Responsibility and the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals

Bexell, Magdalena LU and Jönsson, Kristina LU (2017) In Forum for Development Studies 44(1). p.13-29
Abstract
This article asks what key concerns emerge from the way responsibility is framed in United Nations summit documents on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015. Our conceptual framework serves to make the study of SDG responsibility more systematic by distinguishing three main senses of responsibility: cause, obligation, and accountability. The framework structures our analysis of two SDG summit documents, Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. The article shows, first, that the causal sense of responsibility is hidden between the lines in paragraphs on poverty, debt and environmental issues. As a consequence, root causes of problems might not be appropriately... (More)
This article asks what key concerns emerge from the way responsibility is framed in United Nations summit documents on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015. Our conceptual framework serves to make the study of SDG responsibility more systematic by distinguishing three main senses of responsibility: cause, obligation, and accountability. The framework structures our analysis of two SDG summit documents, Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. The article shows, first, that the causal sense of responsibility is hidden between the lines in paragraphs on poverty, debt and environmental issues. As a consequence, root causes of problems might not be appropriately addressed. Second, SDG summit documents deal predominantly with responsibility in the sense of obligation. We raise concerns with repeated consideration for national circumstances and with vague obligations for non-governmental actors. Third, with regard to accountability, we stress that quantitative indicators have unintended steering effects both before and beyond the review phase. The focus on indicators risks shadowing broader obligations, such as international human rights. In all its three senses, responsibility in key SDG documents remains state-centric with great room for state sovereignty, self-regulation and respect for national circumstances. Our framework is useful also in showing that the three senses of responsibility build on each other and that engagement with responsibility provides fruitful ground for further research. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Responsibility., sustainable development, United Nations, accountability, Sustainable Development Goals
in
Forum for Development Studies
volume
44
issue
1
pages
17 pages
publisher
Taylor & Francis
external identifiers
  • scopus:84996489086
  • wos:000396607200002
ISSN
0803-9410
DOI
10.1080/08039410.2016.1252424
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
ee984539-1517-481e-b78e-d6601a7eccfe
date added to LUP
2016-11-21 18:00:43
date last changed
2018-01-07 11:36:12
@article{ee984539-1517-481e-b78e-d6601a7eccfe,
  abstract     = {This article asks what key concerns emerge from the way responsibility is framed in United Nations summit documents on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015. Our conceptual framework serves to make the study of SDG responsibility more systematic by distinguishing three main senses of responsibility: cause, obligation, and accountability. The framework structures our analysis of two SDG summit documents, Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. The article shows, first, that the causal sense of responsibility is hidden between the lines in paragraphs on poverty, debt and environmental issues. As a consequence, root causes of problems might not be appropriately addressed. Second, SDG summit documents deal predominantly with responsibility in the sense of obligation. We raise concerns with repeated consideration for national circumstances and with vague obligations for non-governmental actors. Third, with regard to accountability, we stress that quantitative indicators have unintended steering effects both before and beyond the review phase. The focus on indicators risks shadowing broader obligations, such as international human rights. In all its three senses, responsibility in key SDG documents remains state-centric with great room for state sovereignty, self-regulation and respect for national circumstances. Our framework is useful also in showing that the three senses of responsibility build on each other and that engagement with responsibility provides fruitful ground for further research.},
  author       = {Bexell, Magdalena and Jönsson, Kristina},
  issn         = {0803-9410},
  keyword      = {Responsibility.,sustainable development,United Nations,accountability,Sustainable Development Goals},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {01},
  number       = {1},
  pages        = {13--29},
  publisher    = {Taylor & Francis},
  series       = {Forum for Development Studies},
  title        = {Responsibility and the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08039410.2016.1252424},
  volume       = {44},
  year         = {2017},
}