Trade and the Sustainable Development Goals

Mission unfulfilled

This blog series was launched with a sharp opinion by Jan Orbie and Sarah Delputte on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and in particular on the role of trade in them. Marc Maes (11.11.11-Coalition of the Flemish North-South Movement) agrees that the SDGs do not question the neoliberal paradigm. However, he argues that trade policy does play an important role in the Agenda 2030. He systematically illustrates how the different trade provisions have been barely implemented. Trade policy should not only support the Agenda 2030, but it should also become more sustainable. European Union (EU) trade policy has been failing in this regard. 

The Coronavirus pandemic and the irrelevance of the SDGs.

Time for a Jubilee

According to Remco van de Pas (Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp), SDG3 on health and wellbeing has been irrelevant to address global challenges in this area. The futility of this SDG and limits of the World Health Organization are today painfully clear in the approach of the covid-19 pandemic. Although the crisis was not unexpected, WHO member states have insufficiently invested and left much scope for charities and private investors. The author scrutinizes global public health policies and advocates the creation of a new Jubilee Campaign for indebted countries.

Blog series – debating the SDGs

In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were launched to great fanfare by the United Nations. Not only governments at different levels, but also NGOs and companies invest a great deal of time and energy into the SDG story. This year, a first state of affairs will be drawn up. There are still 10 years to go to reach the 17 general objectives and 169 sub-objectives. Time to evaluate and look ahead. This blog series by the Centre for Global Studies at Ghent University (Belgium) aims to foster critical debates on the SDGs.  

We will publish weekly episodes, from different authors – including academics and voices from the development sector – discussing the SDGs from different angles. 

This series is created in collaboration with MO*Magazine. The contributions will be published in English on this webpage and in Dutch on MO*Magazine. 

Episode 1: Jan Orbie and Sarah Delputte (UGent) – Who wants some more old wine in new bottles? Why the Sustainable Development Goals will not save the world.

Episode 2: Remco van de Pas (Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp) – The Coronavirus pandemic and the irrelevance of the SDGs. Time for a Jubilee.

Episode 3: Marc Maes (11.11.11-Coalition of the Flemish North-South Movement) – Trade and the Sustainable Development Goals. Mission unfulfilled.

Episode 4: Francine Mestrum – How sustainable are the SDGs? We need more development, not post-development.

Episode 5: Chiara Macchi (Wageningen University & Research) – The SDGs and the urgency of human rights in times of crisis

Episode 6: Jonathan Matthysen (Oxfam Belgium) – The SDGs as double agent for progressive sustainable development

Episode 7: Bernard Mazijn (UGent) – Agenda 2030: the limits of multilateralism?

Episode 8: Brecht De Smet (UGent) – SDGs caught between development and underdevelopment. It is time for new alternatives based on old critiques

Episode 9: Tonia Novitz (University of Bristol) – The normative promise of sustainability for labour standards – and the limitations of the SDGs

Episode 10: Mia Kristin Häckl and Julia Schöneberg (University of Kassel) – It is time to abandon “development” goals and demand a post-2030 Utopia

Episode 11: Keya Khandaker and Lata Narayanaswamy (University of Leeds) – The unbearable whiteness of international development: the SDGS and decolonial feminisms

Who wants some more old wine in new bottles?

Why the Sustainable Development Goals will not save the world 

Jan Orbie and Sarah Delputte (Gent University) are of the opinion that the SDGs do not tackle – and may even strengthen – global injustice. Delays and failures in achieving the SDGs may easily be blamed on the global disruptions following the covid-19 pandemic. However, there have always been fundamental problems with the SDG approach. SDGs do not contain any structural reforms and further legitimise the existing world order, as evidenced by the role attributed to (free) trade.   

Seminar on Post-Development

Global Studies Research Seminar 2020

The making and unmaking of development: de- and reconstructions – May, 18-20

The Ghent Centre for Global Studies, together with the Governance in Conflict Network, invites participants for a spring seminar series on post-development, with reading groups (in February, March and April) and a 2,5 day seminar in May, with workshops and debates with keynote lecturers Jason Hickel (LSE), Lata Narayanaswamy (Leeds University) and Pavel Lopez (Università di Milano ‘Bicocca’). You can find the full program and registration information, here.

Call for applications – Erasmus Mundus Master Global Studies (EMGS)

The 2020 application round for the two-year Master program in Global Studies (EMGS) and the Erasmus Mundus grant is now open and we would like to encourage all suitable candidates to apply. 

EMGS combines approaches from Global History, International Studies, as well as Cultural Studies, Area Studies, Social Sciences and other disciplines. It is an interdisciplinary, research-based programme offered by a Consortium of six European universities: Ghent University (Belgium), Leipzig University (Germany), the London School of Economics and Political Science (UK), Roskilde University (Denmark), the University of Vienna (Austria) and the University of Wroclaw (Poland), in partnership with nine leading non-European universities in the field of Global Studies: Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia), Dalhousie University (Canada), Fudan University (China), Jawaharlal Nehru University (India), Macquarie University (Australia), Otago University (New Zealand),  University of California at Santa Barbara (USA), University of Stellenbosch (South Africa), University of Yaoundé I (Cameroon). 

The deadline for applications is February 15, 2020 for all applicants who want to be taken into consideration for the Erasmus Mundus scholarship and for admission to the programme, which starts in fall 2020. 

Further information on the programme is to be found under: www.globalstudies-masters.info as well as under: https://www.facebook.com/europeanmasterglobalstudies/ The direct link to the application website is: http://gesi.sozphil.uni-leipzig.de/joint-projects/emgs/application/  Please do not hesitate to contact Mrs. Konstanze Klemm for any question related to the application process: em@uni-leipzig.de

Public Lecture Houria Bouteldja – December 13, 2019

The Struggle for Decolonisation in France

On December 13, the French-Algerian political activist and writer Houria Bouteldja will speak on anti-racism, anti-imperialism, islamophobia and decolonisation at Ghent University, at the invitation of the Ghent Centre for Global Studies, the Middle East and North Africa Research Group, the Dept. of Conflict and Development Studies, the Governance in Conflict Network, TAPAS – Thinking About the Past, and the Centre for Research on Culture and Gender.

Friday December 13 – 18:00 – Academieraadzaal, Volderstraat 9.

Justice not aid for the global south – EADI blog

The European Association for Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) has published the essay “Justice not aid for the Global South” on its blog Debating Development Research. The blogpost was authored by Koen Bogaert, Marlies Casier, Brecht De Smet and Bernard Mazijn, of the Department of Conflict and Development Studies of Ghent University, and Dorien Van den Boer, coordinator of the international Governance in Conflict Network, and Julie Carlier, coordinator of the Ghent Centre for Global Studies. The blogpost is part of a broader debate on “Thinking post-development.” Check out the other contributions on the GiC network blog. The original extended Dutch version of the essay was published on MO*Magazine.

SDG lecture – October 15, 2019

The participation of indigenous peoples in the United Nations political process on climate change

Indigenous peoples from different parts of the world participate in multi-scalar processes that shape changes in public policy concerning global commons, such as the atmosphere and oceans. They have managed to deepen the recognition of collective rights and generate new political and legal instruments. How do they work to achieve this? What is the impact of their action? What does it teach us about contemporary politics?


Deborah Delgado Pugley is Professor and Researcher of Sociology at PUCP (Peru).  Her research focuses on global environmental politics, sustainable development policies and environmental issues at the community level. Recent projects include the impact assessment of oil spills in amazonian communities and local universities involvement in climate policies. She is interested in indigenous social movements, human and environmental rights, natural resources management, climate change policies related to forests (REDD) and development. She holds a PhD in Development Studies and Sociology at the Université Catholique de Louvain and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales of Paris. She is currently a visiting researcher with the Governance in Conflict Network at the department of Conflict and Development in Ghent.