ABSTRACT

Changing ideas in development theory are usually, after due passage of time, reflected in the language and rhetoric of development practitioners. The reverse is also true. In recent decades a series of phrases (even slogans) has colonized academic discussion of development having first been adopted widely by development practitioners. One such phrase is ‘sustainable development’ which suffused development discourse in the 1980s and early 1990s following the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (Brundtland 1987) and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development or UNCED (Redclift 1987; McCormick 1989; Adams 1990). Not only has the phrase transformed the way in which established development institutions like the World Bank talk about their task, conferring a green hue to existing and (more arguably perhaps) new policies (Holden 1987; Rich 1991), but it has provided a means through which new institutional actors in the form of non-governmental environmental organizations have sought to have an effective voice in debating the shape of development in the Third World.