Loughborough University
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The ambiguities of sustainable development and conflicts within environmental governance in Central America: the case of the Mesoamerican biological corridor

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posted on 2011-02-01, 09:58 authored by Chloe J. Hill
This thesis is an exploration of the debates surrounding the concept of sustainable development. Specifically it examines the ways in which the concept has been defmed and adopted within environmental governance in Central America. The concept of sustainable development is intended to provide a framework for decision-makers and planners working on environment and development issues. However, sustainable development is commonly poorly defined and so broad in scope in most policy documents that it has become a highly ambiguous concept. This lack of clarity has led to different actors operating within the environment/ development arena interpreting it in a multitude of different ways. Such ambiguities in how the concept can be and is interpreted by such actors have led to conflicts over how sustainabihty can be achieved. This thesis demonstrates the manifestation of such ambiguities and how these then impact upon environmental governance and the direction of sustainabihty initiatives. The ambiguities associated with the concepts of sustainable development adopted by actors within Central America are demonstrated through an exploration of the relationships amongst, and impacts of, three concurrent regional initiatives which all strive towards achieving "sustainable development"; the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, the Plan Puebla Panama and the Dominican-Republic Free Trade Agreement. Through exploring the nature of these three initiatives, the thesis reveals how a neoliberal interpretation of sustainable development has become the dominant discourse that is serving to influence their direction. It is also demonstrated that neoliberal ideologies have not only permeated and influenced the environment/ development agenda at the regional level but also at the national and local levels within the Central American region. With the neoliberal discourse dominating sustainability agendas within regions of the world such as Central America, this research shows how the concept of sustainable development by no means offers a clearly defined policy agenda. The thesis concludes by questioning the future viability of the concept as a whole and whether or not the term can continue to be used as a reference frame for decision makers.



  • Social Sciences


  • Geography and Environment


© Chloe J. Hill

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en

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