CRI Research Seminar: Depoliticizing and Repoliticizing SDGs

14 December 2020
Sustainable Development Goals
CRI seminar
Political instruments
Raúl Velasco-Fernández

Research seminar by Raúl Velasco-Fernández (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) at the Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity (CRI), Paris, on 14 December 2020, at 11:30 CET. Link:

Cite as: Raúl Velasco-Fernández (2020), 'Depoliticizing and Repoliticizing SDGs', CRI Research Seminar, 14 December 2020.

Abstract: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have become an important political reference for all types of institutions as public administration, multinationals or NGOs. The advocates of SDGs emphasize that they are the result of a deliberative and decision-making process building on expert knowledge and considering a plurality of moral arguments about human dignity, achieving a discursive consensus with strong universalist legitimacy. However, they have been accused to be a political instrument for imposing “green-economy” under a neoliberal agenda (e.g. fostering land-grabbing), ignoring that sustainability requires the reduction of consumption of the richest and redistribution, and not just a change in the so-called Knowledge-based Bio-Economy. In this seminar, we will discuss: (i) how ignoring the systemic contradictions among SDGs when implementing specific policies contribute to the growing distrust in institutions; (ii) how depoliticising for maintaining consensus is a bad solution to handle conflicts derived from SDGs agenda; (iii) the fact that the identification of the concerns addressed by SDGs has been based on deliberative processes, does not exclude that at the moment of prioritizing policies a hegemonic perspective of perpetual economic growth is adopted; (iv) the implementation of SDGs policies would require not only a deliberative process identifying priorities over concerns but also the recognition of their conflictive nature. Therefore, this process should leave the door open to a continuous re-adjustment of both the list of concerns and the priorities over them. In conclusion, the quality check over SDGs policies should be used to repoliticise their discussion.

See also: Raúl Velasco-Fernández (2020), 'Depoliticizing and Repoliticizing SDGs', The Nexus Times, Issue XIII: The Nexus and the SDGs, June 2020,