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22 December 2016

New programme on geopolitics and sustainable development

A research programme focusing on geopolitics and sustainable development is to start in the spring.

‘The geopolitical landscape is changing all the time. The programme will deliver better and more suitable decision data than are available today,’ says Johan Edman, who oversees the programme at Mistra.

The Paris Climate Agreement has been pushed through and now it is not words but actions that count. Being able to make well-founded decisions requires predictions about the future that are as accurate as possible. Answers are sought on many questions, from oil-price movements to the implications of demographic changes, greater environmental impact and competition for natural resources in the Middle East and Africa for social stability and increased migration to Europe.

For a better understanding of the interplay between challenges related to the environment and natural resources, on the one hand, and new social, political and economic patterns on the other, Mistra is now initiating the Mistra Geopolitics research programme.

This programme will be headed by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), but also involve researchers from four Swedish universities: Linköping, Lund, Stockholm and Uppsala. The participants will be mainly from departments oriented towards political science, economic history and research on peace and conflict. The consortium also includes adelphi, a German research institute, and the British E3G (‘Third Generation Environmentalism Ltd’). Many public agencies, companies and NGOs will also be involved.

The Programme Director will be Björn-Ola Linnér, a climate-policy researcher and professor at Linköping University. The programme is to last four years and its total budget will be SEK 58 million, of which 48m will come from Mistra. The programme is expected to start in spring 2017.

The purpose of Mistra Geopolitics is to critically examine and explore the interplay between geopolitical development and changes relating to the environment and natural resources. Lines of research will include how society should be shaped and capacity strengthened in order both to meet more severe resource shortages and ensure positive development. The programme is also intended to generate support and a solid basis for devising strategies for Sweden and Swedish stakeholders, thus enabling them to tackle geopolitical uncertainties better. Equally important is an ability to seize the opportunities created through innovation and technical development in the area.

‘We’re glad that, in its application, the consortium made it clear they want to move from a one-track focus on threats to seeing opportunities as well. Ultimately, we hope the programme will deliver better, more suitable decision data in this area,’ says Johan Edman, Programmes Director at Mistra.

Specifically, the programme will comprise five different areas of work. The first four will, from various points of departure, analyse the interrelationship between geopolitics and sustainable development. The results from these areas will then be synthesised in a fifth area, in which one aim will be to identify both risks and opportunities for Sweden in the future.

‘We have great hopes that the programme will generate a clear benefit to society,’ says Johan Edman.

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