Governing ‘wicked sustainability problems’

Central to the research of WCGS are so-called ‘wicked problems’. Examples include climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and hunger. These issues are often ill-defined, transnational, and multi-level in scope.

Moreover, the issues themselves are highly interdependent and characterized by complexity, value conflicts, political and legal ambiguity, and scientific uncertainty. Hence, easy regulatory answers to these problems do not exist.

Understanding how these problems are currently governed, and with what consequences for effectiveness, equity and legitimacy, highlights challenges and opportunities to design hybrid, reflexive and responsive governance arrangements. This also involves inter- and transdisciplinary research methods that are inclusive of different stakeholders, values and knowledge systems.

WCSG has contributed to such governance approaches and interventions ranging from local self-organising communities and regional legal frameworks, to global public–private partnerships and sustainability standards for timber, palm oil and fish.