1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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UNRISD Held Parallel Event at World Summit on Sustainable Development

1 Oct 2002

The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) and the University of the Witwatersrand co-hosted a one-day conference on "The Political Economy of Sustainable Development: Environmental Conflict, Participation and Movements" in Johannesburg on the 30th August 2002.


The ongoing deterioration in the world's social and environmental conditions since the Earth Summit in 1992 raises serious questions regarding both the analysis and proposals associated with Agenda 21 and other mainstream policy documents. What went wrong? Part of the problem has to do with the failure of policy makers to adequately address issues such as the contradictions between economic, social and environmental aspects of development, inequalities in social and north-south relations, conflicts of interest and values, and the social forces and alliances that need to be in place to promote change and institutional reform. This conference highlighted the importance of "political economy" and "political ecology" perspectives for understanding environmental and development problems and for formulating strategies for sustainable development.


The conference provided a forum where researchers, activists and policy makers could discuss these and related issues. International scholars presented papers on:

The environmentalism of the poor
– Juan Martinez-Alier

Grassroots mobilization for land
– Krishna Ghimire

Corporate responsibility and the movement of business
– Peter Utting

Environmental movements, politics and Agenda 21 in Latin America.
– María Pilar García-Guadilla,
Environmental movements in sub-saharan Africa
– Cyril Obi

Making environmental policy in a democratic South Africa
– David Fig

UNRISD intends to produce a Programme Paper series as a result of the conference. The draft papers will be published on the UNRISD website.