Drivers of Injustice

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This database consists of the summaries of results of an in-depth study on the drivers and manifestations of urban injustice related to sustainability.

Addressing justice in urban sustainability

Justice is understood here as a variegated set of conditions ― substantially concerned with distribution of resources, political processes, and social recognition ― that allows for full human flourishing. If conditions within a given society systematically support some, but hinder other individuals or groups with regard to basic flourishing (i.e. thriving within reasonable limits) according to achievable outcomes that they value in order to live a healthy and fulfilled life, then that society is to some degree unjust (see for example the work of Fraser, 2005 [1]; Nussbaum, 2000 [2]; Schlosberg, 2013 [3]).

Manifestations and drivers of injustice are not only seen as a challenge to be addressed by urban sustainability, but also – in certain circumstances – as a potential undesirable outcome of efforts meant to accomplish urban sustainability. Urban sustainability efforts aspiring to address the current and future needs of society call for greater attention to questions of and claims for justice, as those needs are being shaped by deeply political processes and differential access to resources while also being unequally recognised in society. The challenge remains in how to make urban neighbourhoods greener, healthier, more sustainable and more liveable, while protecting the right to housing, public space, and healthy amenities, for all.

Drivers of injustice in the context of urban sustainability

10 drivers of injustice in the context of urban sustainability

This study identified ten drivers of injustice which manifest, arise or are being exacerbated, in the context of urban sustainability efforts.

  1. Exclusive access to the benefits of sustainability infrastructure
  2. Material and livelihood inequalities
  3. Racialized or ethnically exclusionary urbanization
  4. Uneven and exclusionary urban intensification and regeneration
  5. Uneven environmental health and pollution patterns
  6. Unfit institutional structures
  7. Limited citizen participation in urban planning
  8. Lack of effective knowledge brokerage and stewardship opportunities
  9. Unquestioned Neoliberal growth and austerity urbanism
  10. Weak(ened) civil society

Methodology followed

In the framework of the UrbanA project, we examined 43 relevant EU-funded research projects, taking place since the mid-2000s, and conducted a meta-analysis of their findings [[1]].

The selection of projects and materials built on a previous extensive mapping of different approaches towards sustainability and justice, evidenced and studied in Europe through a broader sample of 350 EU-funded research projects. Data used to develop the database on the drivers of injustice included: deliverables; policy briefs; reports on events; academic and non-academic publications, and was combined with targeted interviews with core researchers in those projects.

The drivers presented in this database formed the basis of discussions at the second UrbanA Arena event, taking place online on June 4th and 5th 2020, and organized by the Barcelona Lab for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability. Insights were added to complement the information in the summary booklet prepared for the Arena, and current wiki entries are open for further additions and refinement, as part of our broader call for co-creation of the UrbanA knowledge commons on sustainable and just cities.

Short video summaries of each driver are also available on the UrbanA Youtube account.


  1. Fraser, N. (2005). Mapping the feminist imagination: From redistribution to recognition to representation. Constellations, 12(3), 295–307.
  2. Nussbaum, M. (2000). Women’s capabilities and social justice. Journal of Human Development, 1(2), 219–247.
  3. Schlosberg, D. (2013). Theorising environmental justice: the expanding sphere of a discourse. Environmental Politics, 22(1), 37–55.