Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


Trade, societies and sustainable development (Sustra)

Project ID: HPSE-CT-2001-50005


Sustra is a research network of European social scientists in relation with policymakers and stakeholders, who have worked together for three years in order to analyse the interactions, complementary and tradeoffs between trade rules and social and environmental protection objectives. The objectives were to provide analytical keys to interpret the needs of the civil society, the underlying motives of collective preferences and the gradual building up of international collective action in the area of sustainability in trade. The network organized five international workshops on the following themes: (i) global public goods and global governance; (ii) the institutional architecture of the global system of environmental governance; (iii) the methodologies for assessing the process of trade liberalisation from a sustainability perspective; (iv) vested interests and resistance to trade and sustainable development reforms; (v) civil society participation into the European policy-making process.
The whole analytical approach of the Sustra network was based on the general recognition that sustainable development is not a stabilized concept for which a single measurement benchmark can be used. It is, therefore, difficult to develop a theoretical framework that can assess and measure progress towards sustainable development objectives. It is typically an area in which traditional top-down approaches to public decisions lack legitimacy, and for which deliberative processes could help improve the quality and acceptability of policy making. Sustra therefore analysed the theoretical justifications of deliberative processes for defining sustainability priorities; it then made a critical survey on principles and guidelines for participatory procedures and it drew a number of general recommendations for the architecture of the global system of governance. Sustra also focussed on the role that the EU could play in promoting sustainability in trade.

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