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Sustainable city in the global North and South: goal or principle?

Md Masud Parves Rana (Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Rajshahi University, Bangladesh, and Department of Geography, National University of Singapore, Singapore)

Management of Environmental Quality

ISSN: 1477-7835

Article publication date: 7 August 2009




This paper aims to provide a conceptual framework to analyse whether the global concept of sustainable city, generally produced as a goal in the cities of the global North, will be equally suitable in the cities of the global South or not.


Research has been based on a review of the literature, which has been collected from books, journals, reports and soft‐materials of the internet. A simple descriptive analytical approach is followed to examine the argument. The paper argues that a sustainable city should not be a goal, but a principle of effective service provisions based on social equity and justice.


Despite the main premise that a sustainable city is to achieve environmental, social and economic sustainability, the concept is widely criticised due to its disputable application in the cities of the South. The paper suggests that the sustainable city discourse does not include the main problems of the cities in the global South, even though, as a goal, it is efficient and effective in the developed countries of the global North. Thus, the paper concludes that a goal‐based sustainable city discourse of the global North will be misleading and inappropriate for the sustainable urban development in the cities of the global South.


Despite the widespread application of the sustainable city concept in developing countries, cities are facing numerous social, economic and environmental problems. Realising this fact, it is imperative to investigate the root‐causes of the problems. In line with this thinking, the paper offers a conceptual framework to analyse urban development policies in the cities of the global South.



Parves Rana, M. (2009), "Sustainable city in the global North and South: goal or principle?", Management of Environmental Quality, Vol. 20 No. 5, pp. 506-521.



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Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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