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Sustainable Development in International Law Making and Trade

International Food Governance and Trade in Agriculture Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi, Attorney at Law and Senior Lecturer, World Trade Institute and Centre for Environment and Development, University of Bern, Switzerland
This timely book provides an accessible insight into how the concept of sustainable development can be made operational through its translation into legal terms. Understood as a multidimensional legal principle, sustainable development facilitates coherent international law making. Using this notion as an analytical lens on the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, the book considers the unresolved question of what a sustainable and coherent agricultural trade agreement could look like.
Extent: 456 pp
Hardback Price: $170.00 Web: $153.00
Publication Date: 2015
ISBN: 978 1 78471 726 1
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  • Development Studies
  • Development Studies
  • Law and Development
  • Environment
  • Environmental Law
  • Law - Academic
  • Environmental Law
  • Law and Development
  • International Economic Law, Trade Law
The concept of sustainable development has become a fundamental discourse in international decision making. To enable pragmatic sustainable development governance, legally coherent, mutually supportive multilateral treaties are both necessary and important. This timely book provides an accessible insight into how the concept of sustainable development can be made operational for coherent law making through its translation into legal terms.

The book is split into two informative points of inquiry. The first part of the book explores the origins of the sustainable development debate and sheds light on how the international community has inadequately operationalized the concept to utilize its full potential. In this view, Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi illustrates how sustainable development can facilitate coherent international law making when it is understood as a multidimensional legal principle and methodical norm. The second part of the book adopts this notion as an analytical lens on the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, placing the focus specifically on food security and food sustainability. The overarching discussion contributes to one of the most intricate debates of international food governance and investigates the unresolved question of what a sustainable and coherent agricultural trade agreement could look like.

Providing a comprehensive overview of sustainable development law, its origins, and its current theories, scholars and students with a background in international public law, trade, and investment law, development and human rights law, international relations, and environmental policy will find this book a valuable reference tool. Practitioners and policy makers will benefit from the insight into the search for politically coherent and sustainable legal agreements.
‘This book provides a magisterial account of the history, conceptualization, and institutionalization of the concept of sustainable development in international law and policy making. It provides helpful and insightful illumination of these issues, both at a general level and specifically through an extended case study of the evolution of the WTO Agreement on Agriculture – a particularly appropriate choice of case study given that agriculture implicates a wide range of divergent values, including the economic benefits of free trade; promoting access to affordable food; protecting small subsistence farmers, especially in developing countries; and minimizing environmental degradation through over-exploitation of natural resources such as fisheries, soil depletion or contamination. An overarching and constructive theme of the book is the need for greater legal coherence in international law making across these various domains which are often fragmented in institutional silos that lack effective integrating mechanisms.’
– Michael Trebilcock, University of Toronto, Canada

‘Sustainable development, now made fully operational thanks to the contribution of Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi, can support policy reforms that will improve global governance, thus ensuring that the trade regime is shaped to support the policy objectives that it is meant to serve. The area of food and agriculture is in many ways a case study of a lack of consistency across policy areas. It is now high time to overcome this failure. I have no doubt that this volume represents a major contribution towards this end.’
– Olivier De Schutter, Member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

‘Understanding the problems of global food governance through the lens of sustainable development provides an important way of reinvigorating the increasingly fractious debate about how, if at all, the WTO Agreement on Agriculture should be changed to accommodate the contemporary challenges of global food security. Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi’s book is an interesting and very welcome addition to the literature.’
– Fiona Smith, Warwick University, UK

* Following quote should not be used without the express permission of the author

‘Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi’s book is a refreshing new look at an established concept. Many believe ‘sustainable development’ need not be explained to them. Think again. By reviewing the concept’s origins and tracking its application in treaty and case-law alike, this book offers a much needed revisit of an issue core to international environmental law.’
– Geert van Calster, University of Leuven, Belgium
Contents: PART I THE FOUNDATIONS OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT 1. History of the Concept of Sustainable Development 2. Conceptual and Institutional Approaches Towards Sustainable Development PART II SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN INTERNATIONAL LAW 3. International Sustainable Development Law: A New Branch of Law 4. Notion of Legal Coherence in the Context of Sustainable Development 5. Status of the Principle of Sustainable Development in International Law PART III TRADE IN AGRICULTURE ASSESSED FOR COHERENCE 6. The Legal Foundations of the Assessment 7. Legal Principle of Sustainable Development Applied to the Agreement on Agriculture Bibliography Index