The idea of ‘sustainable development’ was primarily adopted by the international community via the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, which resulted from the first UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), or Earth Summit, in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Sustainable development was further enshrined in the global development agenda after the expiration of the Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) and the subsequent introduction of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015.

Since the concept of sustainable development was first introduced, ideas around it have been diverse, contradicted and contested, from practices and perspectives of local communities, social movements, academics, and international and financial institutions such as The World Bank and United Nations. Researchers who examined the concept of sustainability in Ireland found that there were very different perceptions between local community and policy actors (Moran & Rau, 2016). This also true in the context of countries in the Global South. Since the international community adopted the SDGs, “sustainable development” has been dominated by an official, technical and environmental-oriented discourse, leading it to become a single, homogeneous concept. Yet real sustainable development would not be possible if it could not address the diverse realities on the ground. It is therefore important for the international community to critically analyze the mainstream discourses and approaches, explore different practices and concepts of sustainable development, review the similarities, contradictory and contested ideas, and examine how these can be incorporated into global development.

To further strengthen long-term collaboration between the Chulalongkorn University Social Research Institute (CUSRI) and Focus on the Global South (Focus), and to enhance understanding of sustainable development, CURSI and Focus will organize the international conference, “Deconstructing and Reconstructing Sustainable Development” on September 5, 2016. The conference will be comprised of discussions and presentations from academics, activists, members of political organizations and social movements from Europe, South Africa and Asia.


  1. To critically analyze the current discourses and approaches of sustainable development and explore different practices and concepts of sustainable development from different fields;
  2. To identify knowledge gaps on sustainable development;
  3. To explore possible areas for collaboration on sustainable development

Venue: Saranites Auditorium, Main Auditorium, Chulalongkorn University

English – Thai translation will be provided

Organized by: Chulalongkorn University Social Research Institute and Focus on the Global South 

Date: 5 September 2016

Venue: Saranites Conference Room, Main Auditorium, Chulalongkorn University

Time: 10am – 5pm

Tentative Program

10.00 – 10.15 Opening and welcome by Dr. Pirongrong Ramasoota, Vice President for Information Services and International Affairs, Chulalongkorn University*
10.15 – 10.30 Introduction

  • Shalmali Guttal, Executive Director of Focus
10.30 – 12.30 Deconstructing “the Sustainable Development” from Social, Political and Ecological Perspectives

  • Bharat Dahiya, From Rio Declaration to Sustainable Development Goals: Challenges and Prospects
  • Narumon Arunotai, Reaffirming the Social Dimension of Sustainable Development: Some thoughts from the Margin
  • Mercia Andrews – Sustainable Development in the context of South Africa
  • Carl Middleton, Sustainable Development in the context of the Mekong region
  • Moderator– Surichai Wun’Gaeo
12.30 – 13.30 Lunch
13.30 – 15.30




15.30 – 16.30

“Sustainable Development” from Below – Practices and Experiences from Communities, political organizations and social movements.

  • Indra Lubis-  Agroecology/Food Sovereignty and Sustainability
  • Christophe Aguiton –  Sustainable development in Europe and the Just Transition
  • Suraphol Songrak –  Land and Natural Resource governance, and sustainable development
  • Nuchanart Taenthong –  Urban Poor’s Perspective on Sustainable Development
  • Moderator– Shalmali Guttal

Discussion and planning for collaboration

16.30 – 17.00 Conclusion