Promoting sustainable livelihoods

Ensuring sustainable livelihoods

A means of living is advocated which supports life, meets individual and community needs and creates healthy, sustainable societies. Individuals and community organizations must be empowered so they can achieve sustainable livelihood.

Principles of sustainable livelihood encompass a holistic set of values that are non-exploitative, promote participation in decision-making, emphasize the quality and creative nature of work, place needs over wants and foster healthy, mutually beneficial relationships among people and between people and their environment.


The notion of sustainable livelihood is based on a web of functional inter-relationships in which every member of the social system is needed and participates. Sustainable livelihood provides meaningful work that fulfils the social, economic, cultural and spiritual needs of all members of the community (human, non-human, present and future) and safeguards cultural and biological diversity.

Sustainable livelihoods: (1) Promote equity between and among generations, races, genders, and ethnic groups; in the access to and distribution of wealth and resources; in the sharing of productive and reproductive roles; and the transfer of knowledge and skills. (2) Nurture a sense of place and connection to the local community, and adapt to and restore regional ecosystems. (3) Stimulate local investment in the community and help to retain capital within the local economy. (4) Base production on renewable energy and on regenerating local resource endowments while reducing intensity of energy use, eliminating over-consumption of local and global resources and assuring no net loss of biodiversity. (5) Utilize appropriate technology that is ecologically fitting, socially just and humane, and that enhances rather than displaces community knowledge and skills. (6) Reduce as much as possible travel to workplace and the distance between producers and users. (7) Generate social as well as economic returns, and value non-monetized as well as paid work. (8) Provide secure access to opportunity and meaningful activity in community life.


This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities.

Sustainable livelihoods are supported by political, economic and social policies that enable mutually beneficial relationships to develop among people and the whole community of life. Central to a broad policy framework that supports sustainable livelihood are: 1. An investment in people and the environment as well as in physical capital; 2. Explicit recognition that women's empowerment is central to the achievement of broad-based socio-economic goals; 3. Broad public participation in the establishment of research priorities and the assessment and selection of technologies consistent with needs of sustainable communities; and 4. New resources accounting and institutional mechanisms for resource allocation and debt management and relief.


Economic globalization primarily advances supranational corporate interests and is often inimical to human and environmental wellbeing. Current development trends ignore many of the crucial social functions on which all economies depend, particularly women's productive and reproductive roles and providing human security, equity and authentic human development.

Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 2: Zero HungerGOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 4: Quality EducationGOAL 5: Gender EqualityGOAL 6: Clean Water and SanitationGOAL 7: Affordable and Clean EnergyGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and InfrastructureGOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and ProductionGOAL 13: Climate ActionGOAL 14: Life Below WaterGOAL 15: Life on LandGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong InstitutionsGOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal