Can neoliberalism and sustainability coexist?

  • October 10, 2013
Can neoliberalism and sustainability coexist?

Gates Cambridge Scholar Albert Arhin calls for a new focus on economic policies which favour the poor in a co-authored journal article.

Neoliberal policies which focus largely on economic growth often run counter to sustainable development and a new focus on economic policies which favour the poor is needed, according to a journal article co-authored by a Gates Cambridge Scholar.

In the article, Can post-2015 sustainable development goals survive neoliberalism? A critical examination of the sustainable development–neoliberalism nexus in developing countries,  Gates Cambridge Scholar Albert Arhin and colleagues Emmanuel Kumi from the University of Reading and Thomas Yeboah from the Univerity of Cambridge’s Centre for Development Studies examine neoliberal policies of privatisation, trade liberalisation and government spending cuts and how they affect the attainment of sustainable development ideals and goals.

The article is published in the Journal of Environment, Development and Sustainability.

World leaders are working on a successor of the Millennium Development Goals which are due to expire by 2015 and are focusing on sustainable development. These will become the overarching framework for international cooperation and actions on the major problems that confront the world, including poverty, access to education and improved health.

The writers note that, in developing countries, the Millennium Development Goals have become “increasingly dominated by neoliberal orientation driven by market reforms, commodification of natural resources and a move towards enhancing the economic competitiveness of the supply side of the economy”.

They contend that relying solely on market mechanisms for governing and allocating environmental and economic resources “is necessarily insufficient and problematic”. They call for a new approach which shifts the focus from “pro-growth for poor towards pro-poor growth”, addresses equity issues and gives the poor greater power to influence policy.

Albert Arhin, who is doing a PhD in Geography [2012], says: “The paper has shown that the tenets of neoliberal economic agenda such as commodification, deregulation, privatisation and cuts in government expenditure may in some context undermine the attainment of sustainable development by increasing poverty and inequality. This in turn increases the exploitation of environmental resources, such as forests, as a result of poverty-induced constraints. Additionally, the regulatory capacity of environmental management provided by the state has been reduced mainly due to budgetary constraints imposed by the adoption of neoliberalism…

“This paper concludes that progress made in advancing sustainable development as an ideal goal of development over the past years remains threatened by the rise and expansion of neoliberal regimes in developing countries. We are therefore of the view that the economic thinking on neoliberalism will have implications on the ongoing sustainable development goals being prepared to succeed the Millennium Development Goals after 2015. This paper therefore suggests that relying solely on the mechanisms of the market in governing and allocating environmental resources is necessarily insufficient and problematic and therefore calls for a new approach which goes beyond just recognising the interdependency among social, environmental and economic goals and places issues of equity and addressing unfavourable power relations at the centre of interventions aimed at achieving the ideals of sustainable development.”

Picture credit: africa and www.freedigitalphotos.net.

Latest News

Affecting change for the Māori community

Self-determination lies at the centre of Māori culture. “It’s a way of life,” says Chris Tooley. That idea is also at the heart of his PhD studies at Cambridge and his subsequent work in Parliament and in the community. Chris grew up with a strong sense of being part of the Māori community. He has ancestral […]

On the COVID frontline

Three Gates Cambridge scholars who have been on the medical frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic will be speaking about their experiences at a virtual event next weekend. The event, organised by the Gates Cambridge Alumni Association, will be moderated by Elizabeth Dzeng, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco in the […]

New game tackles Covid conspiracies

A new online game that puts players in the shoes of a purveyor of fake pandemic news is the latest tactic in the UK Government’s efforts to tackle the deluge of coronavirus misinformation that is misleading many and costing lives across the world. Launched to the public today, the Go Viral! game has been developed by the […]

“Democracy does not work on a ‘trust me’ basis”

When Jennifer Gibson started her MPhil at Cambridge in 2001 as part of the inaugural class of Gates Scholars, no-one knew what it meant to be a Gates Cambridge Scholar. Twenty years later, Jennifer is now a human rights lawyer focused on national security issues, something she never could have anticipated, but which she credits in no small part […]