Connecting drylands to the SDGs

The project XPaths will conduct cross-case comparisons and examine contextual differences between critical dryland regions in Senegal, Brazil and Spain. Photo: B. Hermant/Unsplash

XPaths is a Formas-funded research project that explores the critical issues of co-designing inclusive pathways towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Story highlights

  • "Science in action: Intersecting pathways to the SDGs across scales in drylands (XPaths)" is a collaborative research project that will run from 2021-2023
  • The project explores how to inclusively design pathways that lead towards achieving the SDGs, using drylands in Brazil, Senegal, and Spain as case studies, as well as how distant regions such as Sweden and the EU can have local and regional influence
  • XPaths will use systems thinking science as well as cross-scale participatory and modeling approaches including Wayfinder, the Three Horizons for SDGs, and the SDG Assessment Tool

Identifying inclusive pathways to sustainable and just futures is extremely challenging. This is particularly true in global drylands where there are increasing social and environmental pressures, rising inequalities and conflicts related to water availability.

XPaths, which stands for Science in action: Intersecting pathways to the SDGs across scales in drylands, is a collaborative research project that will explore the critical issues of co-designing inclusive pathways towards SDGs.

Through a science-action research process, the project will look at three countries with critical dryland regions.

Deborah Goffner, an XPaths researcher, explains: “The case studies are strategically located in the drylands of countries spanning different levels of income and different institutional and historical contexts - Brazil, Senegal, and Spain.” This type of study design will allow for XPaths to make cross-case comparisons, but also examine contextual differences.

The project is funded by Formas, a Swedish government research council for sustainable development from their 2019 call Realising the Global Sustainable Development Goals, and will run from 2021-2023, and will be hosted by the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

Connecting the local to global

XPaths will advance knowledge on barriers and leverage points for the achievement of the SDGs through participative transdisciplinary processes operating at multiple levels, from local to global, as a means to connect the global SDGs to local issues and aspirations. Local and regional key actors in each region will be identified and involved in the project early on as a way to ensure action.

Our core assumption is that achieving the globally-defined SDGs requires fostering action at multiple levels and involving a mandatory sense-making process of the SDGs at the national and local levels. This allows for the SDGs to be translated into tangible actions specifically designed to local contexts.

Ana Paula Aguiar, Principal Investigator

The science-action process in XPaths combines transdisciplinary cutting-edge system thinking with state-of-the-art cross-scale participatory and modeling approaches for discussing pathways to sustainable futures.

Some of these approaches include:

In addition, the projevt identifies how distant regions, such as Sweden and the EU, influence pathways towards SDGs, through a number of factors such as trade, investment, and development policies. The project will also employ archetype analysis, a statistical method, to shed light on which elements of pathways and leverage points towards the SDGs are recurrent across dryland regions, and therefore potentially transferable to other related contexts.

A collaborative effort

XPaths will draw on the expertise from a team of scientists affiliated with several global institutions, including:

  • Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University (Sweden)
  • Earth Systems Sciences Center, National Institute for Space Research (Brazil)
  • French National Centre for Scientific Research (France)
  • CzechGlobe - Global Change Research Institute CAS (Czech Republic)
  • Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere, Royal Academy of Science (Sweden)
  • Chalmers University (Sweden)
  • Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Northern Europe
  • Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels (Belgium)
  • Indiana University Bloomington (USA)

XPaths Team
Ana Paula Aguiar (Stockholm Resilience Centre and National Institute for Space Research, Brazil) (Principal investigator)

Deborah Goffner (French National Centre for Scientific Research and Stockholm Resilience Centre)

Zuzana Harmackova (Stockholm Resilience Centre and CzechGlobe - Global Change Research Institute, Czech Republic)

David Collste (Stockholm Resilience Centre)

Andrea Downing (Stockholm Resilience Centre)

Amanda Jiménez-Aceitunoa (Stockholm Resilience Centre)

Hanna Sinare (Stockholm Resilience Centre)

Maria Mancilla García (Stockholm Resilience Centre and Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium)

Ashley Perl (Stockholm Resilience Centre)

Martin Eriksson (Chalmers University, Sweden and Sustainable Development Solutions Network)

Steven Lade (Stockholm Resilience Centre)

Taís Sonetti González (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium and Indiana University Bloomington)

Helene Karlsson (Stockholm Resilience Centre)

Published: 2021-03-01

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