Sustainable development is a fundamental theme in international environmental law and policy. Seeking to capture linkages between economic development, environmental protection and societal improvement, sustainable development has been a cornerstone of global, regional and domestic policy for over thirty years. As a matter of law, issues have revolved around its status, justiciability and implementation. Nevertheless, it remains a powerful trope for global engagement, most notably now within the 2015-2030 Sustainable Development Goals, though again questions surround the role and relevance of law here. However, the overt discourse in the 2020s seems more muted than it was in 2010, when the first edition of the Research Handbook was published. The question to ask must be whether this is a sign of increasing maturity and normative integration or, in fact, the opposite; marginalization and growing irrelevance - admittedly in the blatant face of worsening environmental conditions.
Duncan French and Benjamin Pontin
Louis J. Kotzé and Duncan French
Humans only seem able to function well if our actions are limited by boundaries. History seems to teach us that unconstrained free will is a recipe for disaster; if left to our own devices, we will do whatever we want without much consideration of actual or potential future consequences. This truism - always characterised with noble exceptions - seems to be as accurate at the community level as it is (often) for the individual. And that is why we need boundaries: boundaries set limits, and these limits are meant to achieve, maintain and/or return us to what is perceived to be a desired condition.
Edited by Duncan French and Louis J. Kotzé
Duncan French and Louis J. Kotzé
This chapter provides the context, a broad introduction and the essence of each of the chapters in the book.
Nathan Cooper and Duncan French
As the final Global Goal, SDG 17’s principal function is to establish partnerships in support of the achievement of the other Sustainable Development Goals. It includes targets in such areas as overseas development assistance, debt sustainability, technology transfer, capacity building, and international trade. It reflects a pattern set in the Millennium Development Goals, where the final goal is also the most instrumental, in that case MDG 8, which sought to establish a ‘Global Partnership for Development’. SDG 17 underscores the importance of cooperation in the attainment of global development, recognising more broadly that partnerships are fundamental to the achievement of sustainable development. And yet SDG 17 also reveals many of the contradictions within the primarily voluntarist nature of the international community’s approach to development. SDG 17 is reflective of an approach that possesses strong moral injunction but weak normative commitment. Thus, the chapter provides a critical analysis of SDG 17, focusing on three distinct issues. First, whether on their own terms, the targets within the Goal will contribute to the achievement of effective partnerships, or whether the systemic hurdles towards institutional reform remain as great as they always have done. Secondly, how far SDG 17 weakens still further the normative argument as to the existence of a positive obligation in international law on development cooperation. And thirdly, in the context of seeking to achieve the right to water in a domestic setting, how far SDG 17 provides legal certainty to such partnerships, especially those involving civil society. The chapter concludes that while SDG 17 promotes partnerships it has not given sufficient guidance to states in implementing them. The innate voluntarism of the cooperation that supports the Global Goals ultimately puts at risk their effective attainment, and there thus remains a necessity for the development of supportive legal frameworks.