WP2 – Conceptualisation of development and sustainable development

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With the Brundtland Report in 1987, produced by the World Commission on Development and  Environment and presented in the book Our Common Future, the concept of sustainability acquired its first widely spread and accepted definition. Since then the debate on sustainability has expanded rapidly in scope. Starting in late 2006 with the advent of a series of ground breaking research reports like The Stern Review the debate took off mainly under the label of climate change and climate change impacts. Before and around that time a series of events, meetings, conferences, debates and scientific reports boosted the discussion on development and sustainable development. To name a few there was the G8 meeting in Gleneagles in 2005, Al Gore’s film An inconvenient Truth from 2006, The IPCC Reports in Spring 2007. Over the last decade or so the planning of the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 has caused, and still causes, an intense debate on climate change impacts and actually on the whole range of sustainability issues including economics as well as social, ethical and environmental aspects. The debate on sustainability can thereby be said to have expanded much in parallel to the globalisation debate which experienced an earlier spurt.

There are several distinct approaches within the field of Sustainable Development (SD). The celebrated definition of the Brundtland Report of SD, “(meeting) the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, should best be understood as articulating the challenge rather than formulating the solution. Different approaches to (or paradigms of) SD differ in their assumption not only about whose needs SD is supposed to meet, but also about what constitute the needs. The environmental challenges, particularly the challenge of Climate Change, rule out any simple identification of needs with revealed consumer preference on the market. For instance, until very recently it seemed that the vital need for food of the whole population of the world could be met thanks to the Green Revolution; there were problems of course, but they were at the level of distribution, not of production of foodstuff. However, we now  know that, due to the combined impact of climate change, water scarcity, change in consumption pattern, and allocation of land away from agriculture due to global urbanization, the problem of food security is very much alive.


  1. Assess the usefulness of the main contributions of academic literature on sustainability for a deeper understanding of sustainability issues and sustainable policy formulation.
  2. Apply these analytical frames and concepts to formulate policy framework in the transition to sustainability
  3. Explore the advantages and the drawbacks of the existing global economic order for sustainable development in developing countries
  4. Explore the relationship between main environmental challenges, in particular climate change, and main short-term development concerns:
    -poverty alleviation
    -energy constraints
    -land-use and food security
  5. Explore the possible adverse impacts on development issues in developing countries (e.g. food security) of the policies and measures in developed countries to mitigate the climate change or adapt to it, and how these could be rectified
  6. Explore the role of eco-innovation for sustainable development; especially the process of diffusion of eco-innovation and the absorptive capacity of a country and a culture can innovate locally to adopt an existing product to local conditions.

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