Sustainable development discourse and development aid in Germany: tracking the changes from environmental protectionism towards private sector opportunities
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionSchojan, F., Machin, A. M. & Silberberger, M. (2023). Sustainable development discourse and development aid in Germany: tracking the changes from environmental protectionism towards private sector opportunities. Critical Policy Studies. https://doi.org/10.1080/19460171.2023.2265988
‘Sustainable Development’ can be understood as a widely used discourse that has become even more prominent since the publication of the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development in 2015. In this paper we analyze the way sustainable development discourse unfolds within the context of development aid in Germany by undertaking a discourse analysis of reports on development policy published 1973–2017 by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Our analysis reveals that the sustainable development discourse is characterized by distinct components and storylines that change over time. We detect, in general, a shift away from a focus on environmental protection toward an emphasis on the role of the private sector in leading sustainable development. We argue, therefore, that although development is now only legitimate if it is ‘sustainable’, the discourse apparently facilitates the uneven allocation of development aid. The concern that arises here is that although Agenda 2030 pledges to take “bold and transformative steps’ to secure the planet and to leave ‘no one behind” the least developed states who cannot provide ‘private sector opportunities’ or fulfil ‘national self-responsibilities’ for sustainable development are indeed being ‘left behind’.