1st Interdisciplinary Symposium on Sustainable Development

Which transition for our societies?

31st January and 1st February 2013, Namur, Belgium

Call for Papers


Our societies are currently in the grip of a systemic crisis. We are indeed witnessing an environmental crisis, with climate change caused by human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, an unprecedented loss in biodiversity and an overall depletion of natural resources. The world is also undergoing an economic crisis, with tensions in the long-term supply of raw materials and energy, an amplification of the financial crisis affecting both banks and States and an increased number of bankruptcies. Finally, all this is amplified by a social crisis, with fears of not obtaining permanent jobs and growing worries about the quality of life.

The nature and magnitude of this crisis raise several questions and call for an in-depth reflection on the functioning of our societies and their transition towards a more sustainable path. More particularly, this implies conceiving new ways to use and to produce energy and a complete rethink as to land use, housing and transportation means. Also worth considering will be what forms farming, finance, computer technology, chemistry, teaching, research and collective modes of organisation will take on in a post-carbon society.

Science alone cannot solve all the challenges brought about by this crisis. However, it can provide accurate data on the situation and point out the critical zones; study and assess the parameters of alternative scenarios; analyse and conceive technologies as well as political, legal and social devices which would allow society to initiate the required transition.

In this perspective, the present symposium aims to:

  • encourage scientific approaches which are likely to offer breakthroughs along different aspects of the systemic crisis through their far-reaching vision of sustainable development and a critical positioning regarding the present dominant paradigms;
  • promote an interdisciplinary approach in general and the opening of economics to other scientific disciplines in particular. Innovation actually requires cross-fertilisation between disciplines as well as a systemic approach;
  • enhance the recognition of scientists working on sustainable development.

Symposium themes:

The overarching theme of the symposium is to analyze how the concept of transition ties in with the notion of sustainable development. Accordingly, contributors will be asked to address at least one of the following questions in their manuscript: What are the issues that justify a transition? Which kind of transition and how to put it in place? Is it scientifically, economically and socially achievable? What are the barriers? What positive experiences are there?

More specifically, contributions must tie in with one of the six areas proposed for the parallel sessions:

A. Specific sessions
  1. Global commons: Energy, climate, biodiversity (particularly stock-based versus flow-based economy; energy thresholds and peaks in resources – fossil fuels, rare earths, metals, phosphorus, wood, fishing resources; implications for production patterns and our lifestyles – consumption and transport; prevention of and adaptation to systemic crises; management of public goods …)
  2. Food, agriculture and animal farming: (human and environmental health; organic food; fossil fuel free farming; interdependence between living organisms; relationship to the biosphere ; promotion of producer-to-consumer schemes; access to land; urban agriculture, …)
  3. Housing and land-use planning: (transport, renovation of existing buildings, transition towns, housing location regarding access to services, gentle mobility, intermodality …)
B. Cross-sectoral sessions
  1. Transition models: Sustainable development (SD), prosperity without growth, green capitalism or degrowth? (drawbacks and shortcomings of each of these concepts; role of indicators, currency and finance; SD and social justice ; ethical issues).
  2. The role of public authorities in the transition: What kind of governance? How to induce behavioural changes? Which policies for supporting technologies? Law and public policy developments (legislative assessment, impact assessment, integration principles, advisory councils; embedding SD into national constitutions and international treaties; SD and fundamental rights).
  3. Transition and non-governmental actors: Role of the various stakeholders: citizens, consumers, workers, large institutions, social movements; scientific research, education, culture, media; participatory democracy and modes of collective intelligence.

These parallel sessions will last 3 hours. Presentation of the papers by one the authors will be followed by a discussion involving at least one person active in the field.

Submission guidelines:

Abstracts should be 2 pages long (Arial, 11pt) and must be submitted in Word format to They should provide the following elements:

  • Author’s name, e-mail and affiliations
  • Author’s scientific background
  • Theme chosen from the six proposed themes
  • An indicative reference list

Abstracts should also address the following four aspects:

  • theoretical frameworks
  • diagnosis
  • explanation of data (such as indicators)
  • mention of successful experiences.

Echoing the main title of the symposium, interdisciplinary contributions will of course be favoured. If relevant, specific attention to the North-South dimension is welcome. Abstracts will be reviewed by two referees. Upon acceptance, authors will have to submit their full paper in accordance with the standards that prevail for scientific articles. Papers should have a length of minimum 5000 words and maximum 10000 words. It is also possible to submit a proposal for the poster session (to be mentioned in the submission). For this specific session, special attention will be paid to submissions by young researchers. A collection of all the contributions will be distributed in paper format to the participants at the beginning of the symposium. The scientific committee is considering selecting the best papers in view of a collective submission to a peer-reviewed international journal.

Important dates:

Abstract submission deadline: 1st June 2012
Notification of acceptance: 2nd July 2012
Full paper submission deadline: 1st October 2012

In the weeks following the full paper submission, minor modifications may be requested from the authors with reference to their publication in the aforementioned collection.

General information:

The 1st Interdisciplinary Symposium on Sustainable Development is organised with the support of the Walloon Minister of Sustainable Development and Research. This symposium is co-chaired by the Professors Jean-Pascal van Ypersele (Université catholique de Louvain) and Marek Hudon (Université libre de Bruxelles). This is an international scientific symposium which also seeks to encourage the participation and the involvement of both decision makers and civil society.

Scientific Committee: Pr. Christian Arnsperger, Pr. Isabelle Cassiers, Dr. Gauthier Chapelle, Pr. Johan Eyckmans, Pr. Marek Hudon, Pr. Pierre Lannoy, Dr. Kevin Maréchal, Pr. Sybille Mertens, Pr. Delphine Misonne, Dr. Pierre Ozer, Pr. Jean-Pascal van Ypersele et Pr. Edwin Zaccai.

The academic secretariat of the symposium is coordinated by Dr. Kevin Maréchal.

For further information, please look at the symposium website or write to

To read this in French click here.

3 Responses

  1. Dear Sir,
    I am a principal Research Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture in Tanzania.I would like to present a paper titled”Living without Forest Serrvices in the Context of Land Degradation and Poverty Alleviation in Tanzania.Give me further guidelines.
    Best regards,
    Fabian Bagarama
    Tumbi Agricultural Research Institute,Tabora,Tanzania

  2. Sir, I am Ph.D Student of Environmental Law at University of Karachi-Pakistan,
    I intend to submit my research paper on the topic: “THE HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION IN THE CONTEXT OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS OF PAKISTAN” kindly guide me for further process.
    Liaquat Ali Abro
    for contact: 92-300-3593273


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