‘The rise to dominance of neo-liberal policies is a significant constraint on efforts to achieve sustainability in international environmental governance’

Topics: Environmentalism, Environmental movement, Sustainability Pages: 9 (4099 words) Published: May 11, 2014
TMA DU311 05
‘The rise to dominance of neo-liberal policies is a significant constraint on efforts to achieve sustainability in international environmental governance’

Environmental governance can be identified through different policies and legislations which are established in effort to manage and control certain practices affecting the environment. The objectives of these controls main focus are to achieve sustainability with regard to nature, people as well as the economy. However, maintaining sustainability for all three can prove to be a difficult task, especially due to the current political influence of neo-liberalism which is dominating a significant proportion of countries worldwide. The impact of this can be argued as achieving economical sustainability; an opinion of those who benefit from the system. Other important aspects including people’s livelihoods and well-being as well as nature it-self can suffer as a consequence of the profit driven society which neo-liberalism has produced. By looking at two environmental issues; ‘food and agriculture’ and ‘hazardous waste’, and the political, social and environmental relationships within them will help to assess whether the impact of neo-liberal policies has benefited, or causing significant constraint on international environmental governance achieving sustainability. The rise of neo-liberalism

‘Neo-liberalism’ is a political form in which the ‘market system’ plays a prominent role in society as opposed to ‘structuralism’ where the control and accountability lies with the ‘state’. The dominance of markets allows countries down to individuals to openly trade in a profit driven, competitive environment. Followers would argue as this being the driving force of a rising economy due to the entrepreneurial aspect with which it is associated. However, it is also blamed as a major cause of problems, in particularly; increasing inequalities and large- scale environmental pressures. Neo-liberalism (or liberal capitalism) has been the political destination by the governments of the industrialised North as well as increasing Southern countries since the 1980’s who consider it as ‘leading to the desired result of modernisation’. The philosopher Karl Marx described the basis of the neo- liberal system as “who owns the means of production have the power to appropriate surplus, whereas those do not own means of production have to sell their labour power (Thomas, p.45, 2000). This emphasises the gap between the rich and the poor, removing any chance of an equal society (Thomas, p.42, p.43, 2000). The success of neo- liberalism can be analysed through the different economic structures adopted by governments. The basis of these structures began with the ‘Bretton Woods era’; an economic agreement at a conference in Bretton Woods, 1944 where industrialised nations made agreements for a financial governance system, favouring state intervention in domestic economies at the same time as free international trade. This was achieved through the UN charter giving all nations sovereign status to govern themselves, allowing for the control of exchange rates to manage the international economy. The International Monetary fund (IMF) (now known as The World Bank) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) were both established from the conference. The IMF was empowered to manage the fixed exchange rates by giving loans to poor countries to keep the economies stable, whilst the IBRD would invest in developing and war stricken countries. As all exchange rats were fixed to the American Dollar, this allowed the USA to become the dominant economic power which it is today (Sarre, p.369, p.370, p.371, 2009) The period that followed witnessed fast growth and greater prosperity resulting in inflations and recessions, in part because of the oil crisis leading up to the 1970’s. Governments agreed that economic governance had to change resulting in the end of...
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