Gender and sustainable development

Examining sustainable development from a gender perspective means, first and foremost, asking about unequal power relations. Depending on the historical time period and culture, gender inequalities manifest in different ways – especially since gender is also intertwined with other dimensions of inequality, such as ethnicity or social background. Issues of gender inequality encompass norms, the division of labour, the symbolic order, as well as concrete and tangible discrimination and oppression.

Gender inequality affects how current crises are dealt with in specific contexts – thus also influencing sustainability. For example, economic and social issues are determined as a function of who has access to information and education, who generates cash income for the household, or who does mostly unpaid work. This, in turn, affects the strategies for coping with crises.

Applying targeted gender perspectives thus creates clear added value: it can uncover structural causes of unsustainable development and bring into view alternative solutions to overcoming crises.

CDE projects encompass a range of approaches that focus on gender. These span resource access and use, the division of labour, labour market opportunities, and strategies aimed specifically at empowering women.


Sustainable decisions result from far-reaching participation of affected people and communities. With robust data, information access, and local capacity development, CDE fosters the empowerment of actors who do not belong to established governance structures – especially in the areas of land use, food systems, and labour conditions.

Poverty and inequality

Poverty and inequality are drivers and outcomes of unsustainable development. There is a need to distribute resources and opportunities more fairly. CDE researchers work to shed light on the causes and consequences of global inequality. They examine key poverty factors at the household level and link them with analyses of trade and the economy.

Labour and production

Technical and sociopolitical developments open up new opportunities for transformation to a sustainable society in the area of work and employment. CDE examines forms of work and social innovations that could alter our relationship to consumption and prosperity. This approach is complemented by studies on global value chains and rural labour markets in countries of the global South.

Agriculture and food systems

How we organize our food systems has enormous implications for the environment and human health. It also influences the social, economic, and cultural life of whole societies. Through its research, CDE supports transformation towards comprehensive sustainability of agriculture and food systems.

Land management

Land resources and the ecosystem services they provide are threatened by climate change, desertification, overuse, and increasingly competitive market demand. Using various methods and techniques, CDE provides knowledge-based decision support for large-scale implementation of sustainable land management.


Human well-being is much more than material prosperity: It is an overarching goal of sustainable development. CDE develops concepts and indicators that make it possible to capture and measure sustainable quality of life and well-being. It also investigates what a good and simultaneously low-impact life might look like.

Environmental justice

The ecological changes driven by climate change, land grabbing, and overuse of natural resources also worsen social inequalities. CDE uses methods and concepts of environmental justice to evaluate such conflicts, to identify causes of marginalization and inequality, and to develop pathways for fairer solutions.