Governance, Democracy and Sustainable Development
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Governance, Democracy and Sustainable Development

Moving Beyond the Impasse

Edited by James Meadowcroft, Oluf Langhelle and Audun Ruud

The contributors explore the difficulties developed countries are experiencing in coming to terms with environmental limits and the resultant challenges to the democratic polity. They engage with different dimensions of the governance challenge including norms, public attitudes, citizen engagement, political conflict, policy design, and implementation, and with a range of environmental problems such as climate change, biodiversity/nature protection, and water management. The book concludes with an essay by William Lafferty that explores the flawed character of the contemporary democratic polity and offers his reflections on possible pathways to reform.
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Chapter 8: Governance and participation for sustainable development in Ireland: ‘Not so different after all?’

Gerard Mullally


The differentness of sustainable development from other modes of national development, for example market liberalism, social-democratic liberalism and ecological modernization requires ‘political initiatives to ameliorate the negative impacts on life-support systems of over-and under-development within an ethical context of global and intergenerational equity’ (Lafferty 2004, p. 17). Lafferty identifies five main characteristics of sustainable development: it is an exogenous outside-in programme; it is a trans-border, supra-national programme; it is a transformative programme; it is a holistic, interdependent and contingent programme; and, it is a normative long-term programme (Lafferty 2004, pp. 17–22). Accepting these key characteristics as the basis of any further discussion regarding governance for sustainable development, my specific point of departure is a question posed by Lafferty in the conclusion to Governance for Sustainable Development: A number of recent evaluations of sustainable development in Ireland (OECD 2010; NESC 2010), while acknowledging some progress, have remarked on the loss of momentum in the implementation of the National Strategy for Sustainable Development; the lack of integration of environmental considerations into sectoral policies and practices (for example land-use planning, agriculture and transport); and, the need to enhance implementation capacity at the local level (OECD 2010, p. 15).

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