Research Area I: Global Governance for Sustainable Development

Research Focus

► Reducing inequalities via the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
► Problematizing the concept of development and overcoming traditional roles in development cooperation
► Participation of non-state actors and new forms of accountability
► Transnational and global governance practices in the areas of global health, land, food and poverty reduction 

With the catalogue of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the member states of the United Nations have committed themselves to concertedly addressing crucial problems such as poverty, hunger, environmental degradation, lack of access to education or health care by 2030. The focus is on reducing the inequalities that still exist between countries, within societies or between the sexes. The commitment to “sustainable development” also puts the traditional concept of development to the test. The addressees of development are no longer exclusively countries of the Global South, but societies worldwide. More than ever before, development cooperation is understood as part of a multi-layered structure of global governance practices.

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With the growing complexity of cross-border problems and the growing number of actors, of instruments used and, in many cases, parallel processes, it is increasingly controversial who sets binding rules for whom and with what objective. In other words, the controversy is over who has authority and what this authority is based on. The values propagated and the governance practices associated with them are also being critically scrutinized. This becomes clear in the discussion of partnerships as an instrument for dealing with problems at all levels of action. For this instrument, hailed as a panacea, raises pressing questions, not only theoretical but also very practical, about its interpretation, legitimacy, its effectiveness and, above all, the way in which it is implemented at local level.

In networks between state, private and civil society actors, too, immanent hierarchies develop because of concentrations of power. The challenge therefore arises how the participation of relevant stakeholders can be ensured in the face of existing power inequalities. Besides the question of who is allowed to participate in political processes and who is ultimately allowed to make binding decisions for a group (based on which “good reasons”?), we also address the question of how and in what form the rule-making actors can be held accountable. We combine these questions, for example, in analyses of how civil society actors can be engaged “meaningfully”.

In this research area, we also engage with the practice of development cooperation. On a substantive-strategic level, one focus is on the extent to which projects of development cooperation and the associated forms and norms of governance reflect the desired coherence and overcoming of silos. At the actor level, we are interested in whether traditional roles and relationships between state donors and recipients are overcome, the range of actors involved is broadened, and processes are made more participatory.

Empirically, we examine the issues raised in the context of the design and practices of global governance for sustainable development, particularly in the areas of global health, land, food/food insecurity, poverty (alleviation) and resilience.

Research Projects

Global Trends. Analysis

Ways out of Poverty, Vulnerability and Food Insecurity

Recent Publications

► Rieber, Arne / Bliss, Frank / Gaesing, Karin 2022: Sustainable Financial Inclusion in the Rural Area. Duisburg: INEF, AVE-Studie 26.

► Gaesing, Karin 2020: Access to Land and Securing of Land Rights in Development Cooperation. Analyses and Recommendations. Duisburg: INEF, AVE-Studie 22b. 

► Sondermann, Elena / Ulbert, Cornelia 2021: Der wachsende Einfluss privater Stiftungen, in: Vereinte Nationen, 69: 2, 57-62. DOI: 10.35998/VN-2021-0007

Sondermann, Elena / Ulbert, Cornelia 2021: Transformation through ‘Meaningful’ Partnership? SDG 17 as Metagovernance Norm and Its Global Health Implementation, in: Politics and Governance, 9: 1, 153-163. DOI:

Sondermann, Elena / Ulbert, Cornelia 2020: The Threat of Thinking in Threats: Reframing Global Health During and After COVID-19, in: Zeitschrift für Friedens- und Konfliktforschung, 9: 2, 309-320. DOI: 10.1007/s42597-020-00049-7

Head of Research Area

Dr. Cornelia Ulbert

Room: LS 119
Phone: +49 (0)203-379-4422
E-Mail: cornelia.ulbert[at]
Staff Portfolio

Participating Members

Prof. Dr. Tobias Debiel

Room: LF 324
Phone: +49 (0)203-379-2021
E-Mail: tobias.debiel[at]
Staff Portfolio

Dr. Karin Gaesing

Room: LS 031
Phone: +49 (0)203-379-3973
E-Mail: karin.gaesing[at]
Staff Portfolio

Carolin Rosenberg, M.A.

Room: LS 031
Phone: +49 (0)203-379-1436
E-Mail: carolin.rosenberg[at]
Staff Portfolio