Reaching a Comprehensive Definition of “Sustainable Development”: The case of Turkey’s Southeastern Anatolia Project

By Selina Carter

Turkey’s ongoing Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) is a development initiative that is allegedly based on ‘sustainable development.’ However, it appears that the GAP’s planners seek sustainability only with respect to technical and infrastructural goals. By failing to adequately address economic, ecological, and socio-cultural aspects, this project falls short of achieving a comprehensive sustainable development approach.

This case serves as a reminder that leaders may use sustainability as a “badge” on development projects when in fact a project may conceptualize sustainability narrowly, often from a technological standpoint. Moreover, the case of the GAP points to a need to review and reflect on sustainability literature in order to reemphasize the still-evolving debate on what sustainability actually means. This case indicates that the lack of an international legal definition of sustainable development has led to the overuse and misuse of the term.

About the Author:
Selina Carter is a triple Public Administration, Economics, and International Relations master’s degree candidate at the Maxwell School, Syracuse University. After receiving her B.A. in International Studies and Spanish from Dickinson College in 2006, she spent 27 months in Ecuador as a Peace Corps Volunteer, working with a local NGO in youth development. She was later a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Portugal. Recently a State Department Critical Language Scholar for Turkish, Selina focuses on Turkish macroeconomic development policy and income distribution. She plans to pursue a career as an economic development policymaker in emerging market countries.

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