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Viklund Rundgren, Frida, 2023. Trade-offs and goal conflicts in policy coherence for sustainable development : what’s the problem represented to be?. Second cycle, A2E. Uppsala: SLU, Dept. of Urban and Rural Development



This paper investigates the concepts of trade-offs and goal conflicts in policy-making, specifically in relation to sustainable development, and how they are communicated in policy documents and are understood by civil servants. The study aims to identify the underlying assumptions that shape the construction of policy coherence within the Swedish Government Offices and contributes to the literature on Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development (PCSD), a concept within the 2030 Agenda. The “What’s the Problem Represented To Be” approach used in this thesis offers a critical perspective on policy analysis to interrogate meaning-making within policy processes. This approach gives insight into alternative ways to understand the work with PCSD and the possible effects on the practical work with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The findings show two main underlying assumptions in the empirical material related to trade-offs and goal conflicts: On the one hand, the problem is represented to lie within technical processes, leading to the conclusion that better methods and analytical tools are the solutions; one the other hand, the problem is seen to be a political process with the solution depending on political priorities. However, presenting the solution to conflicting policy objectives as a technical process risks leaving the inherently political nature of sustainability issues, such as political sensitivity and the importance of political interests, unproblematic. The analysis also suggests that when trade-offs and goal conflicts are considered politically sensitive, and sustainability objectives are not the primary focus, government communications tend to rely more on descriptive language rather than on analytical thinking—communicating only the goal conflicts that can be resolved by established political priorities. This results in a lack of clear identification of root causes and potential solutions to the goal conflicts. The PCSD is argued to be valuable because it emphasises the political dedication to achieving transformative development that addresses justice, human rights, and global power imbalances. However, if the 2030 Agenda does not produce results in areas beyond the government's political priorities, its value as a roadmap towards a more sustainable world is questionable.

Main title:Trade-offs and goal conflicts in policy coherence for sustainable development
Subtitle:what’s the problem represented to be?
Authors:Viklund Rundgren, Frida
Supervisor:Fischer, Anke and Förell, Nora
Examiner:Rödl, Malte
Volume/Sequential designation:UNSPECIFIED
Year of Publication:2023
Level and depth descriptor:Second cycle, A2E
Student's programme affiliation:NM026 Environmental communication and management - Master's programme
Supervising department:(NL, NJ) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
(LTJ, LTV) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
Keywords:Agenda 2030, policy coherence, trade-offs, goal conflicts, sustainable development, discourse analysis, PCSD, What’s the problem represented to be?
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Deposited On:20 Jun 2023 10:19
Metadata Last Modified:21 Jun 2023 01:01

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