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Sustainability, Development and Inequality

Sustainability, Development and Inequality
Master programme in
International Development Studies * / Global and Development Studies / European Master in Global Studies
Type of activity


Teaching language
Study regulation

Sign up for study activities at STADS Online Student Service within the announced registration period, as you can see on the Study administration homepage. When signing up for study activities, please be aware of potential conflicts between study activities or exam dates.

The planning of activities at Roskilde University is based on the recommended study programs which do not overlap. However, if you choose optional courses and/or study plans that goes beyond the recommended study programs, an overlap of lectures or exam dates may occur depending on which courses you choose.

Number of participants
Responsible for the activity
Malin Nystrand (malinn@ruc.dk)
Head of study
Study administration
ISE Studyadministration (ise-studyadministration@ruc.dk)
Exam code(s)
Overall objective

This course provides students with an in-depth understanding of the causes and consequences of sustainability, development and inequality, including their social, environmental, economic, historical, political and spatial dimensions. Students are familiarised with different theoretical debates and cases relevant to the study of sustainability, development and inequality. Students acquire skills in how to apply these theories in order to critically understand and evaluate questions of sustainability, development and inequality, including their local, national, international and global dimensions. Students are enabled to interrogate diverse outcomes and understandings of sustainability, development, and inequality, allowing them to think of these topics in new ways and explore future pathways.

Detailed description of content

This course starts by presenting the history of the concept of sustainability focusing on its environmental, economic and social dimensions. The Brundtland report and the notion of Sustainable Development are an important component of this history. The course then presents the Sustainable Development Goals as the current iteration of sustainability, and the history of this framework, the role of frameworks and the characteristics of this particular global framework. The next session goes into more detail on the new actors, structures and processes that are part of sustainability as defined in the sustainable development goals. This includes the key actors that are involved, such as business, government, civil society, international organizations and the general public, as well as the funding mechanisms envisioned and the accountability measures in places. The following five sessions are case based and linked to different SDGs. One session must discuss global inequality, but otherwise, the order and composition of these sessions can change from semester to semester. In each case-based session, the students will be introduced to causes, consequences and relevant approaches. One of these sessions will include an SDG related fieldtrip.

The order and composition of session 4-9 is up to the involved instructors.

The history of the concept of sustainability focusing on its environmental, economic and social dimensions (Brundtland, Sustainable Development)

Global Goals: The Sustainable Development Goals (the role of frameworks, governing by indicators, management logics)

New actors, structures, processes (business as a key actor, new funding mechanisms, new accountability measures)

Poverty, hunger and inequality (SDG 1, 2 & 10)

Gender inequality (SDG 5)

Working conditions and responsible consumption (SDG 8 & 12)

Climate Action (SDG 13, 14, 15)

Indigenous rights (SDG 2 & 4)

SDG related excursion


Course material and Reading list

Brightman, Marc and Lewis, Jerome (eds) 2017. The Anthropology of Sustainability: Beyond Development and Progress. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Büscher, B. (2019). From ‘Global’ to ‘Revolutionary’ Development. Development and Change, 50(2), 484–494. https://doi.org/10.1111/dech.12491

Chimhowu, A. O., Hulme, D. & Munro, L.T. (2019). The ‘New’ national development planning and global development goals: Processes and partnerships. World Development, 120, pp. 76-89. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2019.03.013

Davis, K. E., Fisher, A., Kingsbury, B., & Merry, S., E. (2012). Governance by indicators: Global power through quantification and rankings. Oxford University Press [in association with] Institute for International Law and Justice, New York University School of Law.

Fukuda-Parr, S. (2016). From the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals: shifts in purpose, concept, and politics of global goal setting for development. Gender & Development, 24(1), 43–52. https://doi.org/10.1080/13552074.2016.1145895

Fukuda‐Parr, S. & McNeill, D. (2019). Knowledge and Politics in Setting and Measuring the SDGs: Introduction to Special Issue. Glob Policy, 1, 5-15. https://doi.org/10.1111/1758-5899.12604

Fukuda-Parr, S., & Muchhala, B. (2020). The Southern origins of sustainable development goals: Ideas, actors, aspirations. World Development, 126, 104706. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2019.104706

Hickel, Jason (2019) The contradiction of the sustainable development goals: Growth versus ecology on a finite planet. Sustainable Development 27(5)

Horner, R. & Hulme, D. (2019). From International to Global Development: New Geographies of 21st Century Development. Development and Change, 50(2), 347–378. https://doi.org/10.1111/dech.12379

Horner, R. (2020). Towards a new paradigm of global development? Beyond the limits of international development. Progress in Human Geography, 44(3), 415-436. https://doi.org/10.1177/0309132519836158

Mawdsley, E. (2018). ‘From billions to trillions’: Financing the SDGs in a world ‘beyond aid.’ Dialogues in Human Geography, 8(2), 191–195. https://doi.org/10.1177/2043820618780789

Merry, S. E. (2019). The Sustainable Development Goals Confront the Infrastructure of Measurement. Global Policy, 10(S1), 146–148. https://doi.org/10.1111/1758-5899.12606

Rist, Gilbert. 2008. "The Environment, or the New Nature of 'Development'." Chapter 10 in The history of development: from Western origins to global faith, 171-196

Scheyvens, R., Banks, G and Hughes, E. (2016). The Private Sector and the SDGs: The Need to Move Beyond “Business as Usual.” Sustainable Development, 24(6), 371-382. https://doi.org/10.1002/sd.1623

van Zanten, J.A. & van Tulder, R. (2018). Multinational enterprises and the Sustainable Development Goals: An institutional approach to corporate engagement. Journal of International Business Policy, 1(3-4), 208–233. https://doi.org/10.1057/s42214-018-0008-x

Overall plan and expected work effort

ECTS points for this course: 5 ECTS, i.e. ca 135 hrs work effort.

Course sessions: 9 x 2= 18 hrs

Excursion: 8 hrs

Written take-home exam: 30 hrs

Preparation, reading, self-study: 79 hrs



Evaluation and feedback

The activity are evaluated regularly regarding the study board evaluation procedure. The activity responsible will be orientated about a potential evaluation of the activity at semesterstart. Se link to the study board evaluation praxis here https://intra.ruc.dk/nc/for-ansatte/organisering/raadnaevn- og-udvalg/oversigt-over-studienaevn/studienaevn-for-internationale-studier/arbejdet-medkvalitet- i-uddannelserne/


See detailed description and Moodle

Overall learning outcomes
  • Students acquire state-of-the-art knowledge and skills regarding the causes and consequences of sustainability, development and inequality, including their social, environmental, economic, political and spatial dimensions.

  • They develop understanding of different theoretical debates and cases of sustainability, development, and inequality in their local, national, international, and global dimensions.

  • They acquire an advanced understanding of different theoretical debates related to these subjects and develop skills in selecting and critically applying relevant theories and methods, including in choosing relevant approaches in order to investigate a problem area. They also develop skills in communicating and discussing theories and empirical results.

Form of examination
Individual written take-home assignment.

The character limit of the assignment is: maximum 14,400 characters, including spaces.
The character limit includes the cover, table of contents, bibliography, figures and other illustrations, but exclude any appendices.

The duration of the take-home assignment is 48 hours and may include weekends and public holidays.

Assessment: 7-point grading scale.
Form of Re-examination
Samme som ordinær eksamen / same form as ordinary exam
Type of examination in special cases
Examination and assessment criteria

Describe, summarise and critically discuss causes and consequences of sustainability, development and inequality

Illustrate and exemplify how these theoretical tools can be used when discussing specific cases

Select, compare/combine and apply theoretical perspectives, tools and methods in relevant problem areas.

Formulate convincing and academic arguments on the relevance of the chosen approach(es) in investigating a given problem area.

Exam code(s)
Exam code(s) : U60117
Last changed 27/05/2022

lecture list:

Show lessons for Subclass: 1 Find calendar (1) PDF for print (1)

Friday 09-09-2022 08:15 - 09-09-2022 10:00 in week 36
Sustainability, Development and Inequality (GDS, EMGS)

Friday 16-09-2022 08:15 - 16-09-2022 10:00 in week 37
Sustainability, Development and Inequality (GDS, EMGS)

Friday 23-09-2022 08:15 - 23-09-2022 10:00 in week 38
Sustainability, Development and Inequality (GDS, EMGS)

Friday 07-10-2022 08:15 - 07-10-2022 10:00 in week 40
Sustainability, Development and Inequality (GDS, EMGS)

Friday 07-10-2022 10:15 - 07-10-2022 12:00 in week 40
Sustainability, Development and Inequality (GDS, EMGS)

Friday 14-10-2022 08:15 - 14-10-2022 10:00 in week 41
Sustainability, Development and Inequality (GDS, EMGS)

Friday 28-10-2022 08:15 - 28-10-2022 10:00 in week 43
Sustainability, Development and Inequality (GDS, EMGS)

Friday 04-11-2022 08:15 - 04-11-2022 10:00 in week 44
Sustainability, Development and Inequality (GDS, EMGS)

Wednesday 09-11-2022 12:30 - 09-11-2022 14:30 in week 45
Sustainability, Development and Inequality - Study visit to the Danish Institute for Human Rights (GDS, EMGS)

Friday 11-11-2022 10:00 - 11-11-2022 12:00 in week 45
Sustainability, Development and Inequality - Study visit to Gladsaxe Municipality (GDS, EMGS)

Friday 18-11-2022 08:15 - 18-11-2022 10:00 in week 46
Sustainability, Development and Inequality (GDS, EMGS)

Monday 09-01-2023 10:00 - Wednesday 11-01-2023 10:00 in week 02
Sustainability, Development and Inequality - Exam

Wednesday 22-02-2023 10:00 - Friday 24-02-2023 10:00 in week 08
Sustainability, Development and Inequality - Reexam