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Research and Dialogue Project

Sustainability Transition and Sustainable Peace (STSP)

The Sustainability Transition and Sustainable Peace Project (STSP) was launched after the completion of a comprehensive project on the Reconceptualization of Security (2004-2011) that resulted in 270 peer reviewed book chapters that were published as volume 3, 4 and 5 in the Hexagon Book Series on Human, Environmental Security and Peace (HESP) as the Global Human and Environmental Security Handbook for the Anthropocene (GHESHA).

This new international research and dialogue project on Sustainability Transition and Sustainable Peace Project (STSP) addresses key scientific and political challenges of the 21st century:

  • The relative failure of international efforts to address, face and cope effectively with the impacts of global environmental change and global climate change that have resulted in a ‘climate paradox’ that major industrialized and democratic countries were unable or unwilling to comply with their global legally binding and declaratory commitments they adopted during the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 in the aftermath of the end of the Cold War:
  • This failure is reflected in
    • the inability of the international community represented by the world of states to agree on a legally binding follow-up regime to the Kyoto Protocol by the end if 2012;
    • in the relative failure of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC at
      • COP 15 in Copenhagen, Denmark (2009);
      • COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico (2010);
      • COP 17 in Durban, South Africa (2011);
    • in the failure of most G8 countries to initiate measures to implement their announced goal (2007-2011) to reduce their GHG emissions by 80% by 2050 that decided on 18-19 May 2012 at their summit in the USA not to repeat in their Camp David Declaration previous commitments;
    • in the failure of the G20 meeting in Los Cabos (Mexico) on 18-19 June 2012 to adopt any legally binding agreement on financing climate change activities in developing countries in their G20 Leaders Declaration
    • in the failure of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro on 20-22 June 2012 to adopt any new and legally binding decisions at besides the declaratory statement: Outcome of the Conference: The future we want.

  • This skeptical diagnosis refers to two different approaches on international security and environmental policy:
    • a business-as usual policy that the market, economic initiatives and military power will be able to cope with its consequences;
    • a willingness to move towards a fourth sustainability revolution that requires multiple efforts to move towards a long-term transition towards sustainability.

  • This is also reflected in different policy debates (see the Report of the UN Secretary General on Climate change and its possible security implications. Report of the Secretary-General. A/64/350 of 11 September 2009 (New York: United Nations)) and the scientific discourses that are so far not conceptually linked:
    • on the securitization of the impacts of global environmental and climate change due to this international inability and a lack of political will to act in a proactive manner by postponing policy decisions to the successors and to the next generations of citizens who will have to pay the price;
    • on the need to initiate strategies, policies and measures aiming at a sustainability transition during the 21st century.

  • The first debate has been primarily policy driven and has gradually evolved since the turn of the millennium i in the framework of international, national and human security. The scientific discourse (see Scheffran/Brzoska/Brauch/Link/Schilling, 2012) has been pursued from different policy and scientific perspectives and with different scientific methods.

  • The second debate has also partly been policy driven, e.g. by the debate on a green economy that has been launched by UNEP, OECD and by different DGs of the European Commis¬sion. The scientific discourse on sustainability transition has evolved initially in Europe since the conferences in Amsterdam (2009); Lund (2011) and Copenhagen (2012) and it takes place within the Sustainability Transitions Research Network (STRN) and is documented in the new journal on Environmental Innovation and Sustainability Transition (EIST) and the Routledge Book Series in Sustainability Transitions (since 2010).

  • This new project tries to link this emerging debate with the experience of international relations and environment, security, development and peace (ESDP) studies by addressing possible impacts of both alternative policy trends for international peace and security.

  • All three technical revolutions: the first agricultural revolution (10.000 to 6.000 years ago), the second industrial revolution (1750-1890/1914), and the third revolution of com¬mu¬ni¬cation, transportation and information (CTI) technologies (since 1890 or 1920) (also called the ‘second industrial revolution’) have resulted in a higher and more violent level of warfare and have thus impacted negatively on international peace and security.

This experience raises several new key research questions:

  • Will the suggested fourth sustainability revolution lead to new multiple and potentially violent conflicts within and among countries?

  • May the suggested sustainability transition in the energy sector reduce the potential of resource-related violent conflicts and wars?

  • From a scientific and conceptual perspective, which strategies, policies and measures may be needed to combine the proposed process of a long-term transition of the scientific institutions and their new knowledge, of societies and the business community and economic sectors as well as new forms of governance with the goal of a sustainable peace?


Project Directors

This project has gradually evolved from three coauthored concluding book chapters written by Úrsula Oswald Spring, research professor at UNAM/CRIM (Mexico), and Hans Günter Brauch, chairman of AFES-PRESS (Germany) that were published in volumes III, IV and V of the Hexagon Book Series that form the Global Environmental and Human Security Handbook for the Anthropocene (GEHSHA), most particularly from their co-authored text:

Oswald Spring, Úrsula; Brauch, Hans Günter, 2011: “Coping with Global Environmental Change – Sustainability Revolution and Sustainable Peace”, in: Brauch, H.G. et al. (Eds.), 2011: Coping with Global Environmental Change, Disasters and Security – Threats, Challenges, Vulnerabilities and Risks (Berlin – Heidelberg – New York: Springer-Verlag): 1487-1504.

Prof. Dr. Úrsula Oswald Spring, UNAM/CRIM, Mexico
Oswald Spring

Úrsula Oswald Spring has a Doctor of Social Anthropology, specializing in Ecology. She is a full-time researcher at the Regional Centre of Multidisciplinary Research at UNAM, and held the first Chair of Social Vulnerability at the United Nations University (UNU-EHS). She has been Minister of the Environment in the State of Morelos. She is a member of the National Researchers System SNI, level III and is a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and member of the advisory council of the World Social Science Report 2013. She wrote and edited 45 books and 274 articles and book chapters. She has been awarded the Environment Prize of the State of Tlaxcala, the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Award, the Fourth Decade of Development by the UN, and Academic Women of the Year in 1991 and Women of the Year 2000.She is among others editor of: Water Resources in Mexico (2012) and co-editor of: Security and Environment in the Mediterranean (2003); Globalization and Environmental Challenges (2008); Facing Global Environmental Change (2009); Coping with Global Environmental Change, Disasters and Security (2011) all published in the Hexagon Book Series.

Brauch PD Dr. Hans Günter Brauch, FU Berlin, UNU-EHS; AFES-PRESS chair; Editor, Hexagon Book Series, Springer Publishers; Adj. Prof. (Privatdozent) at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, Free University of Berlin; since 2005 he has been a fellow at the Institute on Environment and Human Security of the United Nations University (UNU-EHS); since 1987 chairman of Peace Research and European Security Studies (AFES-PRESS). He was guest professor of international relations at the universities of Frankfurt on Main, Leipzig and Greifswald and at the teachers’ training college in Erfurt. From 1976-1989 he was research associate at Heidelberg and Stuttgart universities, a research fellow at Harvard and Stanford University and he was also teaching at the universities of Darmstadt, Tübingen, Stuttgart and Heidelberg. He is editor of two peer reviewed book series published by Springer-Verlag (Heidelberg –,New York) of the Hexagon Series on Human and Environmental Security and Peace (HESP), of the new Springer Briefs in Environment, Security, Development and Peace (ESDP) and of the Springer Briefs on Pioneers in Science and Practice (PSP). He is co-editor of: Security and Environment in the Mediterranean (2003); Globalization and Environmental Challenges (2008); Facing Global Environmental Change (2009); Coping with Global Environmental Change, Disasters and Security (2011); Climate Change, Human Security and Violent Conflict: Challenges for Societal Stability (2012).