Sustainable Development in International Law Making and Trade

Sustainable Development in International Law Making and Trade

International Food Governance and Trade in Agriculture

Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi

This timely book provides an accessible insight into how the concept of sustainable development can be made operational through its translation into legal terms. Understood as a multidimensional legal principle, sustainable development facilitates coherent international law making. Using this notion as an analytical lens on the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, the book considers the unresolved question of what a sustainable and coherent agricultural trade agreement could look like.

Chapter 1: History of the concept of sustainable development

Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi

Subjects: development studies, law and development, environment, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, international economic law, trade law, law and development

Extract

The concept of sustainable development results from a combination of fragmented approaches towards the notion of development. Aware of poverty and inequality, the United Nations (UN) proclaimed four development decades between 1960 and 2000. Over time, the main constituents of development policy became formulated and debated. In the first decades, sectorial approaches abounded whereby economic perspectives of development were paramount; while such perspectives were linked to social issues very early, though in an unstructured way, the environmental perspective came into play quite separately. Soon, it became apparent that the sectorial approaches were limited and lead to a lack of legitimacy. While developed countries’ interests were mainly of an economic and ecological nature, developing countries emphasized the economic and social perspectives. Thereby, the economic claims of developing countries differed quite significantly from those countries which were economically better off. The consequence was a blockade which culminated in the formulation of the concept of sustainable development in the late 1980s. Since the concept of sustainable development focused specifically on the needs of future generations, it succeeded in providing an all embracing umbrella for the wide range of development agendas. Since this period, international actors have been struggling for understanding and deepening of this promising conceptual approach. The concept of sustainable development has become anchored and widely diffused in the international debate, but it has remained rather intangible. In order to make it more operational, much work still needs to be done.