How vital is it to switch to sustainable development during COVID-19?

A conversation with Enrico Giovannini Giovannini

In the last decade, sustainable development has quickly caught on various areas of politics, economy and social issues. In this difficult period for all the countries of the world, a new idea to change the actual status quo is needed and sustainability can trigger the development of a new view on global challenges. Our special guest has offered a focus on the European Union dimension, which is important today and will be also for the future.




5e7b79fd220000980bb3aaa8Mr. Enrico Giovannini is an Italian economist and statistician, a member of the Club of Rome and a professor at Tor Vergata University in Economics Statistics. During his career he dealt with lots of international issues, also of statistical and economic nature, at various NGOs and international organizations. He is currently the Director of the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development.

The reference point for sustainable development is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); they offer an integrated vision on development based on four pillars: economy, society, environment, institutions.

A new development paradigm can be identified by a close system: from an exchange of solar energy to the release of heat (waste). The four kinds of capitals: natural, human, social, built, produce GDP. The production process creates wastes or goods and services; wellbeing is the result of ecological services, investments and consumption. Physical waste has a direct impact on ecological services and waste heat on social ones. If the system is placed in the perspective of the new development paradigm, 2030 goals represent a plan to change our system.

If we focus on Europe and take as a point of reference the Lisbon Treaty signed in 2007, it quotes the seventeen SDGs as part of the future work of the European Union. Under the Art. 3 of the treaty on European Union, there is a relevant link with sustainability.

“The union shall establish an internal market. It shall work for the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress, and a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment. It shall promote scientific and technological advance.

It shall combat social exclusion and discrimination, and shall promote social justice and protection, equality between women and men, solidarity between generations and protection of the rights of the child.

It shall promote economic, social and territorial cohesion, and solidarity among Member States.

It shall respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity, and shall ensure that Europe’s cultural heritage is safeguarded and enhanced.”

The new European Commission has contributed to the “switch”, including the 2030 Agenda; sustainable development has been the priority for the Union since that decision. Mr. Giovannini posed an important question regarding the “dreams” of the EU:

“How can we make it real?”.

First of all there is the need to have a clear vision about the sequence of individual policy interventions; then the ability to foresight future situations and steps that could build a unique path.

The main problem that can occur is related to the large variety of economic, social, environmental and institutional “shocks”: policies can reinforce the resilience of the system.

In order to have a more resilient and sustainable Europe the combination of the SDGs and a roadmap is central.

The effective policies are the result of defined goals, strategic foresight and a deep evaluation of the resilience of the system.

Moreover, the challenge of policy coherence concerns a strategic long-term vision that defines a multi-level governmental exchange of policies from external to domestic fields and vice versa.

Foresight enters again into the discussion because of its “strategic” attitude to forecast and mitigate the eventual impacts on the well-being of people and the sustainable development scenarios for future generations.

The keyword here is again resilience due to its transformation as an added value for Europe in a globalized world. In 2016, the Secretariat General, the representatives of each Directorate General, the JRC (the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre) and the EPSC (European Political Strategy Centre) established a research network for the measurement of resilience; the final goal concerned the mixture of resilience and policymaking.

This tuition is perfectly applicable to the current situation of COVID-19: the existence of unforeseeable crisis is present in our life, making the world a vulnerable place. In order to be able to face shocks, also institutional ones, society needs a planned resilient pattern.

In order to have a complete picture in mind on “adaptation to shocks”, Mr. Giovannini offered us a parallelism with the previous closed system and a new one with three different perspectives: resilience of assets, resilience of the engine and resilience of outcomes.

The first part concerns the four kinds of capitals (Natural, Human, Social, Built), then their effect on institutions, eco-socio system services directed to the life of people and their wellbeing.

When it’s time to shift towards a new policy framework, there is the need to apply some interventions in order to reclassify policies in order to: prevent, prepare, protect or promote

All in all, forecast with the help of SDGs, mix up sustainable development with European policy-making and monitoring resilience are the most important instruments to build a broad picture of future challenges and maybe prevent the majority of them, without impacting too much on the environment.

The Global Conversation has been a dream come true, thanks to the efforts of a GG students from the second year of the course:

“Prof. Enrico Giovannini is an economist and statistician, active in the fields of Sustainable Development and Circular Economy, which makes him a pride for our University.  We had the opportunity to meet him already during the Academic Convocation in September, a period in which the Fridays for Future movement reached the peak of its popularity and adhesion, especially among the young people. Since then, Prof. Giovannini has often been hosted in TV programs, pushing for a transition towards a more conscious approach in our everyday life with regards to the environment, which he also presented in our conference. The reason for which we have insisted a lot for having him again in Global Governance – although only in a virtual way – was aimed at allowing the students to have an exchange of views and thoughts about the aforementioned topics, and offer new solutions to shape the future. Considering the long debate that took place after his introductory speech, we can definitely assert that we have reached our goal, looking forward to future fruitful occasions to meet him again.”



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