Policy briefs

We produce policy briefs based on our research outputs, to influence and engage with policy makers and Parliamentarians.

  • Agricultural Voices Syria: promoting sustainable agriculture in conflict zones

    Drawing on findings and information collected in focus groups and workshops with local authorities, donors and agricultural experts in Northwest Syria, this policy brief provides an overview of ‘Agricultural Voices Syria‘ (AVS), a knowledge exchange project focussing on supporting Northwest Syrian farmers with sustainable agricultural practices through innovative media. It lists ten key recommendations and actions which target governments, institutions and donors that provide funding to Northwest Syria and those NGOs and organisations that implement projects aimed at post-conflict reconstruction.

    Underpinned by their previous work with SSRP, the Syrian Academic Expertise (SAE) and Council for At-Risk Academics (Cara) Syria Programme, the authors of the briefing claim that AVS is not just a tool, but a model to support knowledge exchange, connect agricultural experts with farmers and local institutions, create local networks in conflict zones, and strengthen farmers’ voices. 

    Nevertheless, social media tools cannot substitute infrastructure, training and agricultural assets. In the difficult aftermath of the earthquakes in February 2023, it has become critical to maintain food production and support all actors who can address dire food shortages. AVS and its future iterations can become a communication platform of integrated social media to promote best practices, link humanitarian organisations, NGOs and institutional actors working towards achieving common goals in Northwest Syria.

    Download the full brief [PDF 1.35MB]

  • Biodiversity COP 15 Thinking beyond just the global: strengthening mechanisms of multi-level accountability for transformative change

    The Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (Post-2020 GBF) provides an opportunity to steer successful implementation to support biodiversity goals and further progress towards goals for climate and sustainable development. Fundamental to the success of the Post-2020 GBF is ensuring that member parties (and other actors) are held accountable for their actions towards global goals and targets for biodiversity. Negotiations on strengthened responsibility and transparency mechanisms at CBD COP 15 are therefore a key element.

    Part two of COP 15 held in Montreal, Canada, in December 2022 is a vital opportunity to heighten ambition for responsibility and transparency Post-2020 and political will could be mobilised at COP 15 by: (1) heads of state (2) the presidency and bureau of the COP (3) coalitions of willing ministries (4) other groups such as Indigenous Peoples and local communities, youth, women, civil society and research communities. Raised ambition could lead from the development of the voluntary peer review mechanism to a compulsory peer review mechanism for use alongside a ‘review and ratchet’ system. This would enhance transparency and accountability, and facilitate action.

    In the event that global agreement for a stronger implementation mechanism is not achieved at COP 15, individual member parties can focus on strengthening reporting, review and other accountability mechanisms at national, sub-national and local levels to facilitate implementation. This will require the adoption of ‘interactive’ processes of review: firstly, ambitious national targets for biodiversity must be set through a just, fair and inclusive process, outlining their contribution towards global targets. Secondly, transparent national and local review and feedback processes need to be implemented targeting support for implementation. And lastly, a commitment to continually increasing ambition towards global targets through self-reflection, following review and feedback at the national to local levels, is required.

    Download the full brief [PDF 243.99KB]

  • Sustainable food systems for global biodiversity

    Biodiversity is declining faster than at any time in human history and unsustainable food and agriculture systems are a major contributor. Goals of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) calling for sustainable production and consumption by 2020 were unmet. The CBD’s post-2020 global biodiversity framework provides an opportunity to steer transformative shifts towards sustainable food production and consumption to support biodiversity and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

    Firstly, this policy briefing recommends eight actions and proposes targets and indicators to be included in the post-2020 global biodiversity framework: removal of harmful incentives, accounting for the true value of biodiversity, reducing food waste and loss, strengthening sustainability standards, promoting lifecycle assessments, promoting sustainable diets, mainstreaming biodiversity in food systems and strengthening governance.

    Secondly, creating enabling conditions for transformative change within and beyond the CBD – to support these actions and drive broader sustainable change in food systems – is essential. Actions by a broad range of ‘agents of change’ are needed to generate enabling conditions, including: small-medium scale farmers, large-scale producers, citizens, local communities, local-regional governments, non-governmental organisations/civil society organisations, consultants/experts, standards bodies, research communities, funders, and private investors. Actions to redress power are key to developing enabling conditions, alongside strengthened policy frameworks for sustainable food systems.

    Download the full brief [PDF 586.35KB].

  • Forecasting for food producers

    This policy brief shares lessons from Sussex research in climate and environmental sciences that contributes to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) relevant for food producers such as farmers, fishers and pastoralists. It oulines four research initiatives that involve climate modelling, weather forecasting and early warning systems (EWS) to help people better understand and prepare for weather extremes – especially storms, floods and droughts.

    We worked with planners, forecasters and communities across Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to co-produce weather knowledge. These initiatives share the mission of the Sussex Sustainability Research Programme (SSRP) – providing science for the SDGs. They are in line with SDG13 (Climate Action) targets 1–3 – to enhance local resilience and adaptive capacities to deal with weather-related hazards and disasters, integrate climate change measures into national policies, and improve people’s awareness and capacity for climate change adaptation, impact reduction and early warning systems.

    This work with food producers takes us closer to SDG2 targets 1–4 of ending hunger and malnutrition, doubling farm productivity through knowledge and other inputs, and sustainable food production through resilience and adaption to climate change.

    Download the full brief [PDF 1.13MB].

  • Europe imports Amazonian commodities linked to violence

    European countries import beef, palm oil, minerals and other commodities from Brazil through companies that purchase from farms and mines with proven links to human rights violations and environmental crimes including massacres, assassination attempts, slave labour, illegal deforestation, and pollution.

    Through analysis of case studies in the South/Southeast of Pará, known as the epicentre of violence against environmental human rights defenders, we found evidence of numerous crimes by companies and farms within the supply chain of European markets. For example, chain-of-custody documents show that large beef export companies purchased cattle raised on the farm where 10 landless workers were massacred in Pau D’Arco in 2017 and where Fernando dos Santos Araújo, witness to the massacre, was murdered in January 2021. These violence footprints of EU markets should be tackled through mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence and insistence upon transparent and traceable supply chains.

    Given the links between EU markets and these rights violations, the EU must hold companies accountable for these atrocities and increase support to the EU human rights defenders mechanism to protect frontline defenders who speak out against these violations.

    Download the full brief in English [PDF 614KB].

    Download the full brief in Brazilian Portuguese [PDF 634KB].

  • Diverse land use delivering diverse benefits

    University of Sussex academics conducted research in the South East of England comparing different forms of land use using ecological and social science techniques.

    The findings suggest that wildlife-friendly livestock production can contribute to both biodiversity conservation and ecosystem service delivery, underscoring the potential for large herbivores to support the delivery of a range of environmental public goods and services.

    The research also shows that different approaches to managing livestock – including agroecological farming, conservation grazing and rewilding – deliver different types of biodiversity and other benefits, suggesting that combinations of these should be favoured at landscape scales. Of the sites studied, Tablehurst Farm in East Sussex was found to provide a particularly diverse range of benefits for both people and nature.

    Download the full brief [PDF 2.31MB].

  • Assessing the sustainability impacts of trade agreements

    The UK is at a critical moment in defining trade agreements post-Brexit. To ensure that such agreements do not undermine social welfare and environmental policy goals, it is essential to create policy coherence and implement sustainable development. The UK’s departure from the EU provides an opportunity to identify and advocate approaches to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into trade policy in the UK and beyond.

    This policy briefing argues for the implementation of Sustainability Impact Assessments (SIAs) that would identify the potential environmental, economic and social impacts of free trade agreements. This systematic and cooperative approach would enable progress towards meeting our commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) more efficiently, synergistically and without the prioritisation of one goal (e.g. SDG 8 Economic Growth) over and above others (e.g. SDG 10 Reduced Inequalities, SDG 13 Climate Action and SDG 15 Life on Land).

    Download the full brief [PDF 1.42MB].

  • Sustainable Development Goals in the Debt Trap

    A series of slow and fast burning debt crises in low-income countries seriously threaten the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Covid-19 pandemic came to exacerbate an already unsustainable situation. The stakes are very high. If no immediate action is taken, many low-income countries will be at a worse position in 2030 in comparison to where they were in 2015. They will not only have a larger percentage of their population living in extreme poverty but also significantly weakened capacity to escape poverty.

    To help these countries escape their debt traps we should further integrate current ‘attainment to SDGs’ metrics with Debt Sustainability Analysis (DSA) and criteria for assessing vulnerability and accessing concessional funding. We also need to create new sources of funding and institutional arrangements able to address these crises in an orderly way.

    This policy brief provides an assessment of the impact of debt distress dynamics on the implementation of social and environmental SDG targets in low-income countries, and considers dynamic linkages and feedback loops between different SDGs. Our analysis is based on average historical data of more than 400 financial crises during the period 1970-2017 (Antoniades, Widiarto, Antonarakis, 2019). It does not aim to estimate the unprecedented impact of the current pandemic.

    Download the full brief [PDF 510.28KB].

  • Forecasting with fishers to save lives at sea

    Accurate and timely marine weather forecasts are of crucial importance in planning and conducting fishing safely around the world, yet this essential information is not always accessible to artisanal fishers from the South-West coast of India. The persistence of weather-related accidents calls for urgent action to provide artisanal fishers with accurate, accessible, and actionable forecasts as a means to promote safety at sea.

    An interdisciplinary research team at the University of Sussex explored ways of improving risk communication, with accurate, accessible and actionable forecasts by co-producing test bulletins with fishers and forecasters from the Thiruvananthapuram district in Kerala. Findings suggest better ways to produce, disseminate and act on forecasts to increase the resilience and sustainability of artisanal fishing communities.

    Download the full brief [PDF 1.28MB].

  • Interactions among the Sustainable Development Goals and why they are important

    The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a comprehensive, internationally agreed-upon set of objectives aiming to vastly improve economic, social and planetary well-being. How exactly to achieve these goals is now a point of discussion at many fora around the world.

    At one such forum, a Wilton Park Roundtable, an international group of stakeholders and experts found the efficiency of implementation to be a central issue. This efficiency in turn, is, related to the fact that the goals are all interconnected: In some cases steps towards achieving one goal may hinder the achievement of one or more other goals, leading to unintended “trade-offs”, or inefficiencies in implementation. But at least as often, actions towards a particular goal can have a positive influence on other goals, setting up beneficial “synergies” among the SDGs. Actions that take advantage of these synergies are key to implementing them efficiently because many different goals can be achieved at the same time and fewer resources are needed to achieve the whole set of goals. Saving resources would be a major payoff to countries confronted with the high costs of implementing the SDGs.

    The challenge now is to sort through the large number of possible interactions among SDGs in order to uncover and exploit the most important synergies while minimising the effects of trade-offs. Much can be done to achieve this at all levels, from local to global, including raising awareness about SDG interactions, reorienting investments, and reforming governance.

    Download the full brief [PDF 203.48KB].