Eduardo Gonçalves Gresse


Eduardo Gonçalves Gresse

Eduardo Gonçalves Gresse received his bachelor degree in International Relations (IR) from the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo, Brazil, and his masters’ degree in Political Science from the University of Göttingen, Germany. He is currently a PhD Candidate at the University of Hamburg and member of the Centre for Globalisation and Governance (CGG) at the Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences of the same university. He has also 7-year experience in the logistics and foreign trade sectors and is since May 2015 co-founder and project coordinator at the Instituto Terroá, a Brazilian NGO whose mission is to facilitate and support both the human and territorial developments through the empowerment, protection and prominence of individuals, communities and organizations within their specific socio-cultural contexts.

Promoting sustainable development in a world of diversity

In an increasingly globalized and interconnected world, the numerous consequences of climate change, environmental degradation, uncritical consumerism and many other threats to life on our planet transcend geographical or political boundaries. In turn, finding “universal solutions” to enhance human rights and achieve sustainable development in a world of immense socio-cultural diversity is an enormous challenge.

Against the background of widespread threats to the environment and to humankind, the current debates on security, development, governance, urbanization and other areas of expertise cannot overlook the importance of sustainability. At the global level, a wide range of efforts have been made to propose long-term strategies that couple socio-economic development with sustainability. Recently, the UN Member States have committed to achieving sustainable development through the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, which established 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and 169 targets for sustainable development to be met by 2030 (UN General Assembly, 2015). In turn, international initiatives such as the World Urban Campaign (WUC) are fundamental to raise awareness and bring both individuals and organizations together to diffuse best practices, exchange experiences and produce knowledge in order to make cities more inclusive and sustainable. In any case, while global debates and international initiatives have been crucial to the efforts towards meeting the SDGs and the targets of the 2030 Agenda, most of the significant and long-term changes can only occur at the local level.

In light of the growing interest of state and non-state actors in promoting sustainable development goals worldwide, the question that arises is: how can we create sustainable solutions for sustainable development in a world of diversity? Put differently, how can the global debates on sustainability provide distinct socio-cultural contexts with adequate and long-term solutions to enhance human rights and achieve sustainable development within their respective local contexts?

I would argue that, in order to implement global agendas at the local level in a sustainable fashion, it is fundamental that any initiative towards this aim employs inclusive approaches that take the everyday life, the perspectives and the participation of local people and communities into account. In addition, these approaches should be very much focused on effective communication and constant interactions among distinct local agents such as policymakers, scholars, NGOs and other civil society groups. In practice, this means that more multi-stakeholder initiatives are needed, where public officials, private companies, academics, advocacy groups as well as community leaders or any other interested citizen can interchange knowledge and experiences from their various backgrounds and fields of work in a mutually intelligible way.

Communication is the bridge between knowledge and legitimacy (Gonçalves Gresse, 2017). In this vein, the knowledge produced by social interactions among scholars, NGOs, policymakers, etc. can only be successfully diffused through democratic communication processes. That is, only through effective and inclusive communication can global norms be better assimilated, improved and legitimated at the local level. Therefore, to effectively diffuse best practices and achieve sustainable development in any socio-cultural context, it is crucial to improve communication between norm promoters and beholders, as well as to create new channels whereby local actors can make their voice heard and participate in the implementation processes. Furthermore, these social interactions may improve both the awareness and the sense of belonging of people throughout the implementation process. As a consequence, they may empower and encourage them to promote, for instance, the 2030 Agenda, and to press governments towards supporting them when carrying out concrete actions to the realization of the SDGs and targets “on the ground.”

Already in the 1960’s, Berger and Luckmann (1966, p. 112) claimed that science, as one of the historically dominant forms of conceptual machinery, became the property of specialist elites, whose bodies of knowledge were increasingly removed from the common knowledge of society at large. The inclusive approach advocated here aims precisely the opposite: to encourage multi-stakeholder initiatives, know-how transfer, inter-cultural and multi-level dialogues, and interdisciplinary work in order to create sustainable solutions for promoting and achieving sustainable development in a world of diversity.


Berger, Peter L. , & Luckmann, Thomas (1966). The Social Construction of Reality. A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. New York: Anchor Books.

Gonçalves Gresse, Eduardo (2017). Non-state actors and the diffusion of the Human Security Agenda. Special Edition, Journal of Conflict Transformation & Security, Vol. 6, No.1, pp. 35-54.

UN General Assembly (2015). Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. (A/RES/70/1).  Retrieved from: