SERI Background Papers

latest SERI publications


Most crises look similar - regardless of being born from nature or man-made. Earthquakes, tsunami, floods and wars destroy water and food supply, agricultural lands, critical infrastructure and economy, people’s lives and societies. They destroy the past, but they bring opportunities for the future. As we live in the times of multiple crises (environmental, resource, climate, political) they lead to a spectrum of consequences evolving from barely visible through moderate and suddenly becoming catastrophic that we are often not prepared for or prepared only with delay.

When the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine, we also were mostly not prepared for this big war, its scales and consequences. It shows us how crises act and look like, what their consequences are, highlights the weaknesses and potentials of our systems. While learning the lessons of this war, we can conclude how to become more resilient and develop sustainability, and how to avoid future crises.

In this paper we will be looking for lessons of the war and for immediate crisis response actions which will compose a base for post-war sustainable recovery and reconstruction of Ukraine.


Vietnam has made remarkable progress, socially and economically, over the last decades. Those past successes are a source of confidence that it will be able to meet future challenges just alike, but in order to do so a clear recognition of what the challenges are, and where the established business as usual will help, and where it will fails solving the upcoming problems.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals, which Vietnam has adopted and supported, give a first hint of how broad the problems are. For instance, fortunately Vietnam has been enjoying an extended period of peace (SDG 16), and has been actively search for partnerships on the international stage (the recent free trade agreement with the EU being just one example – SDG 17). Industry, innovation and infrastructure have made remarkable progress (SDG 9) and economic growth has been impressive (SDG 8; although there is room for improvement regarding decent work). Zero hunger (SDG 2) is almost achieved, and the progress towards SDG 1, No Poverty, is remarkable.


Sustainable development indicators are tools to reduce complexity, designed for specific purposes, to provide a reliable but easily understandable information base for public and private decision making. They consist of raw or processed data characterising the state and/or development of a system trait relevant for the reaching of Sustainable Development as defined by the Brundtland Report (WCED 1987), Agenda 21, (United Nations 1993), the Johannesburg PoI (United Nations 2002), the 2012 “Future we want” (United Nations 2012) and, most recently, Agenda 2030 incl. the SDGs and their targets (United Nations 2015). However, in any case, and for the SDGs in particular, global goals and targets are not easily broken down into indicators for monitoring as any operational definition has to take into account the specifics of local culture and values. Thus sustainability, although defined by a common set of goals may look quite different in practical terms in different parts of world, and as well in different EU member states. A suitable indicator system must take such differences into account.

Integrated politics for macroeconomic objectives has a remarkable tradition in the European Union. Already the late president of the Commission, Jaques Delors issued a White Paper on “Growth, Competitiveness and Employment”1 calling for an investment-led development path, including reducing the cost of labour financed by a tax on environmental “bads”. As the tide had turned to a more neoliberal point of view based on restricted state activity and the rejection of an expanding welfare state in the member states, the White Book launched in a major conference and revisited a year later never made into practical politics. Instead the Essen summit 1994 decided to emphasise the co-ordination of labour market politics based on enhancing employability and increased flexibility of the labour market, a focus integrated into the Amsterdam Treaty and later on the starting point of the Luxembourg Process. Now, after a “lost decade for social politics” (Romano Prodi), the integration of social, economic and environmental politics is back on the agenda. However in a changed political landscape dominated by (micro-)economic thinking and a thrive to deregulation.