Institutions for Sustainability and Resilience

Coordinator: prof. dr. Marcus Düwell

This theme deals with the question how we can organize our society so that economic development is not hampered while at the same time the basis for future development is not eroded, economically, ecologically and socially. This requires institutions that stimulate both producers and consumers to act in more sustainable ways.

These institutions can either be formed within cooperative organisations or through self-regulation, or enforced through law, but success is not self-evident, as shown by the increasing negative impact of our society on the natural environment, despite growing public awareness.

These issues also link up with the UU theme on sustainability. They have a clear social component, since societies need to prevent that economic developments lead to inequality and polarization, while conversely inequality may erode economic or ecological sustainability.

There is a direct relation to the issue of resilience and the degree to which societies are able to cope with economic, ecological, demographic and socio-political shocks and crises, and to prevent them from developing into disasters. This coping capacity, and the reduction of risk and uncertainty, is highly determined by the quality of the formal and informal institutional arrangements in society, which play a crucial role in enhancing individual and collective security.

Specific questions are:

  • How can institutions be developed which generate sustainable transformation processes?
  • How can those institutional changes be ethically justified and how does this interrelate to the understanding of basic ethical concepts such as responsibility?
  • How can financial markets be regulated in order to enhance their resilience and guarantee a positive contribution to sustainability?
  • How to solve potential tensions between sustainability issues and democracy and human rights?
  • What is the role and effect of formal and informal institutions at various levels of organisation (local, state, world) on crisis management, risk reduction and social resilience?
  • How is this role affected by the growing scale and scope of developments?