Sustainable Development in International Law Making and Trade
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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.
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Chapter 2: Conceptual and institutional approaches towards sustainable development

Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi


Since the worldwide recognition of sustainable development as an overarching concept, both international and national institutions have worked on providing the concept with more concrete contours, in order to operationalize it for practice. Besides governance institutions, research institutes have intensively dealt with and continue to ponder sustainable development and its constitutive elements. Thereby, the various disciplines – such as political science, law, economy, anthropology, or natural science – deal with the concept of sustainable development in different ways. While most agree that sustainable development is about the balancing of divergent interests, the tools and perspectives differ. Over time, some concepts and approaches have become influential, among them the ‘multi-dimensional concept’, the ‘capital stock model’, the ‘context based approach’, or the ‘people centred approach’. With regard to the multi-dimensional concept, the economic dimension has been particularly subject to critical scrutiny. These different concepts inform each other, and, in the wider debate on sustainable development, elements thereof become mixed and newly combined. International institutions such as the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have elaborated tools to ensure that national governance institutions respond to them. The formulation of the normative content of sustainable development in international public law has been and still is informed by the various conceptualizations and institutionalization of sustainable development. For a better understanding of the legal elements introduced in Chapter 3, some cornerstones and prominent conceptual and institutional approaches will be introduced in this chapter.

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