Measuring Societal Progress through Social Justice and Sustainability Lens: Southeast Asia and European Experiences and Collective Challenges


Single Panel


Session 4
Tue 16:30-18:00 REC A2.13



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How are societies making progress, and at what rate? Inquiry into those questions requires more interrogations on the vision of a better society, its underpinning values, indicators reflecting expected societal progress, and their implications in the decision-making process. The shift from a growth-based paradigm to beyond-growth debates has enlarged society’s goals to multiple economic, social, and environmental aspects and introduced more options for new economic narratives, such as green and inclusive growth. For decades, the sustainability paradigm and concerns of emerging inequality contributed to alternative policy frameworks. Many European countries have developed diverse societal progress measurement systems and approaches for those advanced societal goals. Some examples are the United Nations’ Global SDG Indicators, whose global, regional and country data and metadata on the official SDG indicators have accompanied the annual SDG report, the Bertelsmann’s Social Justice Index (SJI), which are designed as a cross-national comparative survey to explore the level of just society among countries in OECD and the EU. Since the popularity of the evidence-based approach, most societal progress measurement approaches have adopted the quantitative method, only a few focus on other assessment methods such as the qualitative assessment of community attitudes to progress and progress domains by the evaluation of Australia Progress in the 21st Century. This indicates that societal progress measurement is not just an academic concern but also direct policy relevance and citizen engagement.

Nevertheless, many developing countries in Southeast Asia are deficient in publicly available databases and reliable statistical indicators. Collectiveness as a core value of the global development paradigm requires the development of comparable indicators among Southeast Asian countries. Each Southeast Asian country’s societal progress measurement system becomes fragmented and overlooks the collective development goal at the regional and global levels.

As researchers and practitioners, tackling the issue of societal progress measurement aiming at a policy framework based on sustainability and social justice is one of our challenges. How does each country develop and imply its own progress measurement? Which approaches are applied theoretically and methodologically, and in which contexts? How do they fail or make a breakthrough? Apart from policymakers, how could the public use those societal progress measurements? What could we learn from each other? Contributions from multidisciplinary aspects with this theme are welcome.