Sustainable Development in a Global Context: A Success or a Nuisance?

Author: Dr. Mohamed El-Kamel Bakari

Keywords: sustainable development; global governance system; global trade; North-South divide


This article argues that the evolution of, and challenges to, sustainable development cannot be understood completely outside its contemporary global context, consisting mainly of three interconnected spheres, i.e., the global governance system, the North-South debate, and global trade liberalization. As the boundaries of these three spheres get more and more blurred in a context of an intensifying globalization, the project of sustainable development is very often faced with obstacles that set back its evolution and might very well bring it to a halt. Above all, sustainable development is now caught in the crossfire between the push for exponential economic growth, on the one hand, and a compelling need to reverse catastrophic ecological threats and social exigencies, on the other. More often than not, the current structure and scope of global governance constitutes more of a hindrance than a help to the emerging paradigm of sustainable development. Accordingly, this article seeks to pinpoint the different challenges to the implementation of sustainable development in the field of global governance and to discuss to what extent these challenges are inherent in the structure and scope of this system. In a similar vein, this article examines and discusses the challenges to sustainability within two other highly interrelated spheres, namely global trade and the North-South politics. With this end in view, a special focus is placed throughout this paper on the interconnectedness of, and overlap between, these three global spheres and the determinant role played by the major actors therein.