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Natural Capital and the Sustainability of Development

By Federico Mazzella ,
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  Impact assessment. n248

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Key issues and prospects for a sustainability-based research agenda.

The United Nations’ 1987 publication Our Common Future defined sustainable development as development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The 2015 Sustainable Development Summit established a set of 17 goals and 169 targets for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

A study by José María Fanelli of Red Sur, Development, Sustainability, and Natural Resources in South America: Conceptual Framework and Research Agenda (publication in Spanish) contributes to the analysis of what these goals and targets mean for South America with the aim of identifying a set of topics and questions that will prompt and feed into future research.

Mr. Fanelli’s hypothesis is that to understand the role of natural resources in sustainable development today, we first need to focus on the issue of sustainability itself, which we can then approach from a multidimensional perspective that encompasses matters such as natural capital and macroeconomics. Any analysis of sustainability should be structured around the intertemporal allocation of natural resource endowments and other factors that play a part in sustainable development.

The focus of the document is analytical and its main objective is to identify issues and existing studies, be they theoretical or applied, that may be useful in structuring a research agenda on the connection between natural resources, development, and sustainability. The publication interprets sustainability as entailing not just the rational use of natural capital but also the unhampered advance of the development process.

It explores the ties between sustainable development and natural resources for middle-income economies with an abundance of these, as is the case for several countries in South America.

Fanelli, José María. Desarrollo, sostenibilidad y recursos naturales en América del Sur. Marco conceptual y agenda de investigación [Development, Sustainability, and Natural Resources in South America: Conceptual Framework and Research Agenda] (publication in Spanish). Red Sur, 2017.

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