Taking Stock of the Concept of Sustainable Development in International Law and International Relations
ESIL 2012 5th Biennial Conference: Regionalism & International Law
14 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2013
Date Written: September 12, 2012
This paper, based on a keynote speech held at the ESIL in 2012, gives an overview over the development of the concept of sustainable development in international law and international relations since the Brundtland Report in 1989. It traces the three-dimensionality of sustainable development, namely its social, economic, and environmental dimensions, which have been declared to be of equal value, and the cornerstone of what distinguishes sustainable development from other related concepts. Yet, in the “meaning-in-use” (Wiener 2009, 2008) of sustainable development, this key aspect of the reconciliation of the three dimensions is usually neglected or ignored with the economic and environmental dimensions emphasized to the detriment of the social dimension. Yet, how individuals understand and interpret the concept matters crucially to how the concept is enacted in the literature as well as at the United Nations and beyond. Therefore, this paper argues, more attention needs to be paid to the invisible normative baggage of actors, which influences how they enact sustainable development, in order to understand how sustainable development as a concept develops and is used with regard to the underlining three-dimensionality.
Keywords: sustainable development, ILA, international law, international relations, UN, social, environmental, economic dimension
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