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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
May 2024
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Book description

This original book analyses and reimagines the concept of sustainable development in international law from a non-Western legal perspective. Built upon the intersection of law, politics, and history in the context of Africa, its peoples and their experiences, customary law and other legal cosmologies, this ground-breaking study applies a critical legal analysis to Africa's interaction with conceptualising and operationalising sustainable development. It proposes a turn to non-Western legal normativity as the foundational principle for reimagining sustainable development in international law. It highlights eco-legal philosophies and principles in remaking sustainable development where ecological integrity assumes a central focus in the reimagined conceptualisation and operationalisation of sustainable development. While this pioneering book highlights Africa as its analytical pivot, its arguments and proposals are useful beyond Africa. Connecting global discourses on nature, the environment, rights and development, Godwin Eli Kwadzo Dzah illuminates our current thinking on sustainable development in international law.


‘This book offers a constructive critique of contemporary sustainable development narratives, unveiling overlooked complexities, challenging assumptions, and urging for nuanced and contextualised reassessments. Emphasising inclusivity, it prompts transformative thinking that redefines sustainability by exploring other legal realities and alternative cosmologies, often neglected but very pertinent. It is an important resource for academics, policymakers and all seeking grounded and innovative solutions for people and the planet.’

Patricia Kameri-Mbote - Director, Law Division, UNEP, and Professor of Law, University of Nairobi

‘African perspectives on global environmental governance remain underexplored in the literature. Dr Dzah’s study achieves a tour de force in bringing to bear, on the mainstream - including TWAIL - discourse, African eco-legal philosophies not only to criticise but to reconceptualise sustainable development.’

Jorge E. Viñuales - Professor of Law and Harold Samuel Chair of Law and Environmental Policy, University of Cambridge

‘Sustainable development as a proposition seems unassailable; and yet the notion is fundamentally intertwined with many of the problematic legacies of a Western-centric international law. Godwin Dzah invites us to a brilliant reimagination of what an Afro-centric and pluralistic conception of the notion would entail. His intellectual voice is powerful and distinctive, and it will resonate with those concerned that reform merely repeats in the context of a planetary ecological crisis.’

Frédéric Mégret - Professor of Law and Hans & Tamar Oppenheimer Chair in Public International Law, McGill University

‘Legal scholars have critiqued sustainable development as a greenwashed version of the growth-oriented development paradigm that has destabilized the planet’s ecosystems while increasing poverty and inequality. In this groundbreaking book, Godwin Dzah presents a radically different conception of sustainable development grounded in African legal philosophies yet applicable globally. This book is a must-read. It demonstrates the importance of taking seriously the knowledge and cosmologies of the Global South. I highly recommend the book to scholars, students, and practitioners.’

Carmen G. Gonzalez - Morris I. Leibman Professor of Law, Loyola University Chicago School of Law

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