De-growth and sustainable development : rethinking Human Rights Law and poverty alleviation
In strong definitions, sustainable development has been argued to imply the prevalence of the environmental dimension over the economic one. The prioritization of the environmental (planet) and (arguably also the) social (people) pillar over the economic (profit) one may require a rather radical departure from assumptions of economic growth, including zero-growth or even de-growth, as argued in post-growth or ecological economics. This article asks the "what if" question. What if unorthodox, ecological economics got it right that post-growth or growth agnosticism is the new economic norm? What are the implications for human rights law and for the field of human rights and development? How could poverty alleviation look like in a growth agnostic scenario? The objective of this article is to draw out in an exploratory way some of the implications of strong definitions of sustainable development for human rights law and its relevance for development. At first, this intellectual exercise may look irrelevant or even cynical in the context of Africa, where more than 40% of the population, more than 300 million people, live in poverty. However, I see two major reasons for also debating in an African context the implications of growth agnosticism for human rights law. First, economic growth does not necessarily lead to economic development, let alone human development, and has typically come at a huge environmental cost. Alternative approaches that focus more directly on human well-being and ecological sustainability may help avoid a simple mimicking of the historical development of the global North. Second, ecological economics shifts the attention from growth to redistribution. The latter is a key challenge within Africa and within African countries, as well as from a global perspective. I examine how to factor in the consequences of post-growth or doughnut economics in the conceptual analysis of socio-economic human rights, and in the role of human rights law in development (cooperation), globally and nationally. In particular, I will try and set a research agenda on two issues that require further examination: the redefinition of obligations of international assistance and cooperation in human rights law and the reconceptualization of equality towards redistributive equality in human rights-based development cooperation interventions.
Source (journal)
Law and Development Review
Walter de Gruyter - Journals , 2018
11 :2 (2018) , p. 647-675
Full text (Publisher's DOI)
Full text (publisher's version - intranet only)
Research group
Project info
BOF Sabbatical leave - Wouter Vandenhole.
Publication type
Publications with a UAntwerp address
External links
Web of Science
Creation 02.08.2018
Last edited 23.08.2022
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