International Association on Social Quality
To all scholars interested in the
Sustainability conference in Paris
Concerning: invitation to join an academic
Amsterdam/The Hague, 6 July 2015
The ‘overall sustainability conference’ in Paris is approaching quickly, demanding a strong contribution from the academic world. In 2012 the International Association on Social Quality (IASQ) initiated a Dutch group of experts that generated a contribution to the Rio+20 conference in June 2012. Its analysis criticized the dominant but superficial distinction between economic, social and environmental dimensions of overall sustainability (dating from the 1987 Brundtland Report about ‘Our Common Future’). In this categorization the ‘social dimension’ receives no serious formulation, and in practice becomes a ragbag of everything that is considered non-economic or non-environmental. Therefore the socio-political and socio-cultural dimensions – including concerning the empowerment of citizens to play a role in changing unsustainable circumstances especially in the urban context (where in future 80% of humankind may live) – are neglected in the global sustainability debate. Since then much international support has been received for this analysis.
We feel it is essential to apply the analysis and contribute, on the basis of sound research, to an understanding of the interrelationships of the following aspects:
- Sustainable societal strategies/outcomes,
- Sustainable urban development strategies/outcomes,
- Sustainable energy strategies/outcomes
- Sustainable ocean strategies/outcomes
- Sustainable forest strategies/outcomes
- Sustainable water strategies/outcomes
Therefore we would like to propose setting up an interdisciplinary global academic network with representatives from all continents in order to go beyond the existing conceptual, analytic and policy fragmentation. This would be done by applying an improved conceptual framework based on the current understandings of ‘human security’ and ‘social quality’. It would consider how to develop overall sustainability as outcome of the interrelationship of processes in the four dimensions of overall sustainability, the socio-economic, socio-political, socio-cultural and socio-environmental dimensions. This builds-in a more adequate, integrative, perspective of ‘the social’. Development of a comprehensive view has remained problematic because of the current severe fragmentation and the lack of an adequate conceptual framework to realize this comprehensive view. For example, the CO2 emissions issue concerns the geosphere but is not a separate issue that can be adequately addressed in an isolated way with only technical innovations. The applied work on each of the six aspects mentioned above should be connected to an adequate theoretical understanding of sustainability, using the improved conceptual framework. Academic institutions should play a clear role to address such questions and to contribute to this understanding for supporting people all over the world to change their attitudes concerning the use of resources, to prepare for equity and solidarity and to enhance human dignity for all people without crossing the planet’s geo- and biophysical resilient boundaries. The planet will continue; but the sustainability of human existence on the planet is not equally guaranteed.
With support of the IASQ the results of the 2012 Rio conference were discussed in expert-meetings. Also the IASQ participated in a European-Chinese project on environmental protection by citizens in Zhejiang Province. These activities were communicated to the current vice president of the European Commission when he was the Netherlands Minister of Foreign Affairs, Frans Timmermans. For this ministry it seemed attractive for academic institutions in Europe, China, Japan and other Asian-Pacific Region, Russia, USA, South America etc. to collaborate in the integration of a huge amount of specific studies worldwide oriented on aspects of the four dimensions of overall sustainability.
In collaboration with the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), the Townsend Centre for Poverty Research (TCIPR), Eurispes (Economic, Social Political research institute in Rome), the Plekhanov University in Moscow, the University of Cambridge, the Australian Centre for Sustainable Business and Development University of Southern Queensland and the Zhejiang University, the IASQ taken the initiative to urge political leaders participating in the Paris conference to support the establishment of an interdisciplinary global academic network. The initiators will send a text for this plea to all potential participants. We hope to engage many institutes worldwide to engage large support. With crowd-funding activities we aim to publish this signed plea in a page wide Guardian newspaper advertisement, distributed all over the world. The text of this plea will be distributed by all subscribers with the help of social media. Finally we will contact the Vice President of the European Commission to present this text to fellow world-leaders.
Please let us know if you are interested to support us to unfold this initiative.
With our best wishes,
Dr. Laurent J.G. van der Maesen (IASQ)
Professor Vyacheslav Bobkov (Plekhanov University Moscow)
Dr. Tim Cadman (Australian Sustainable Business Centre, University of Southern Queensland)
Professor Des Gasper (ISS, Erasmus University Rotterdam)
Professor Dave Gordon (Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research, University of Bristol)
Professor Ka Lin (Zhejiang University, China)
Professor Marco Ricceri (Eurispes, Rome)
Professor Goran Therborn (University of Cambridge)
Professor Alan Walker (Sheffield University)
 Available as: Social Quality Working Paper nr. 11 (2012), ‘ Development Towards Sustainability, The need for a Comprehensive Conceptual and Methodological Framework for new politics and policies: A social quality perspective’ (http://www.socialquality.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/WorkingPaper-11-2012.pdf).