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A Law to Save the World?

Lund University

Sustainable development – in its 2015 UN General Assembly “Agenda 2030” instantiation – seeks to halt climate change, create sustainable patterns of production and consumption, stop the decrease of biodiversity, to end poverty, and more. It is seen as an effective method for mobilization around a set of global social priorities but has also been criticized for being a futile attempt to save the world without transforming it.

This PhD course brings all three spheres of sustainable development - the economy, the environment and “the social” into focus. Across these spheres, the course explores three questions in particular: The question of the viability or futility of the sustainability agenda’s approach of incremental change; the question if there is harmony or conflict between the different goals and the legal regimes on which they extensively rely and, finally past and present critiques of the sustainability agenda with a view to alternative ideas for saving our world.

Material from a range of disciplines - history, politics, economics, and law is used for a better understanding of where Agenda 2030 is coming from and where the world it brings into being is heading. While being interdisciplinary in both outlook and reading material, the course focus in particular on the relationship between sustainable development and our existing global legal order. 

The course is offered at the Faculty of Law as part of the interdisciplinary Lund University Agenda 2030 Graduate School.


Teaching Language:  



Course aims:

The course fosters the ability to critically analyze the sustainable development goals and the discourses and interests they serve. The course further aims to cultivate the ability to problematize different research designs by exposing how they are linked to broader political and ethical dimensions of research in sustainable development.


Teaching and assessment:

After an introduction to the general framework of analysis of the course, the three areas follow in sequence: the economy, the environment and “the social” (focusing in particular on migration). 

Teaching is in the form of 2-3 intensive reading workshops for each of the three focus areas. To the substantive questions at offer for each seminar is added a methodological reflection, connected to the readings. It can be, for example a specific approach to policy analysis or more general questions such as the role of history for understanding global relationships of power or something else.

The course is examined through active participation in seminars. A student that fails to attend a seminar will be given the opportunity to make up for it through a written assignment.

Seminars are scheduled to take place in Lund but possibilities to follow the course remotely (video-link) will be provided.


Fee and elegibility:

The course is free of charge. The course is an optional course within the Agenda 2030 Graduate School at Lund University. It is open for Agenda 2030 PhD students as well as other PhD students from inside and outside of Lund University.


Contact information:

Markus Gunneflo, Senior Lecturer in Public International Law (



Course dates
02 November 2020 - 17 January 2021
Course organizer
Markus Gunneflo
Faculty of Law
Lilla Gråbrödersgatan 4
222 22 Lund
7.5 ECTS