This chapter aims to show how the fundamental principle of sustainable developmentis experiencing a deep crisis at different institutional levels. At the international level, the concept is recurrently reaffirmed by force of habit and laziness, but it has exhausted its propulsive push. At the country level, taking Italy as an example, sustainable development has become a common legislative label, but remains a vague theory, and is not effectively translated into specific legislative or administrative provisions. At the regional level, taking the European Union (EU) as an example, there have been attempts to translate the concept into practice through market-based instruments, measuring and monitoring. However, it remains unclear what role sustainable development can, may or should have in the future. Considering the breadth of the topic, which does not allow for an exhaustive analysis, this chapter, starting from some fundamental and recent legal instruments that deal with sustainable development, aims at provoking some thoughts about the current perception of such a general principle, its actual value and implementation. In particular, this chapter compares the three levels of governance (global, regional, domestic) and their current approaches to sustainable development with a look toward the future, if any, of this principle. Rio+20 cannot be described as a success. The final document, The Future We Want, stands out in length (283 paragraphs), but it excels neither in clarity nor in incisiveness.
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