Environment and sustainability

This specialisation is one of seven included in our Master in International and Development Studies. These specialisations are interconnected curricula that provide the possibility for you to tailor your individual path.

The specialisation in Environment and Sustainability focuses on global environmental challenges, which lie at the heart of the search for a sustainable human future on earth. It examines the impacts of contemporary political economies locally and at the planetary scale. It takes an interdisciplinary approach to the understanding of the economics and politics of decisions about the environment, from the global scale (e.g. climate change or global ecology) to the local (e.g. agrarian change, biodiversity conservation, urbanisation or mining). 


We strive to provide our graduates with a mix of analytical and practical skills to serve them as future leaders, policy makers, advocates and entrepreneurs for sustainability.
Liliana Andonova
Professor of International Relations and Political Science

Programme details and objectives

Specifically, the aim of the Environment and Sustainability specialisation is to offer a mix of theoretical and practical skills that are needed to address the linked challenges of environment, poverty and justice.

In this specialisation, we draw on material from across multiple regions, and explore practices, forms of governance, ethnographies, economics and scenario developments for sustainability, resilience and a livable planetary future. You will be encouraged to understand how policy is shaped and constrained, and to develop ideas for future policies and strategies to deliver improved human wellbeing, environmental justice and environmental outcomes in the 21st century.

The dynamics of development and international affairs can no longer be understood separately from their environmental dimensions. Environmental and human futures are intertwined in complex ways, and addressing them demands novel forms of interdisciplinary understanding. This specialisation offers you the opportunity to unravel the complexities of contemporary environmental governance, exploitation and conservation, and their significance for human wellbeing.

The courses within this specialisation fall under several distinct themes:  Agriculture and Agrarian Development; Environmental History and Societal Development; Climate Problems and Policies; Conservation and Local People; Environmental Governance, Movements and Institutions; Extractive Industries and Natural Resources. The breadth of topics covered within the specialisation allows you to draw from a wide range of perspectives and approaches in considering the generation and resolution of environmental problems, and the means of creating sustainable solutions.


The range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary courses offers both a grounding in intellectual understanding of environment and sustainability, and a basis for developing engagement with policy. The specialisation offers a portfolio of courses such as:

  • Environment and Society

  • Climate and History

  • Apocalypse Then and Now

  • Climate Science and Policy

  • Agrarian Worlds: Practice, Power, Place

  • Agrarian Transformation and Mobilisation: Land, Labour and Technology

  • Global Food Systems from a Legal Perspective

  • Social Movements and the Environment

  • Global Environmental Governance

  • Extraction, Poverty, and Inequality

  • Environmental Institutions

  • Conservation and Sustainable Development

  • Conservation in the Anthropocene

Opportunities and Career Options

The specialisation offers you the opportunity to develop a critical interdisciplinary understanding of issues and challenges that transcend questions of environment, development and international affairs and the way they have been addressed in policy over time. The aim of this specialisation is to offer the basis for a professional career in the interface between environment and development, in the inter-governmental, governmental, non-governmental or corporate sector.

The diversity of environmental organisations in the Geneva region provides a rich network for developing understanding and contacts. The specialisation provides an excellent background in preparation for work for a range of international and non-governmental organisations with a focus on issues of environment and sustainability, many of which are located in the Geneva area. These include the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the Worldwide Fund for Nature-International (WWF-International). There are also other local organisations of a similar nature, which have a broader agenda, which includes an emphasis on sustainability, such as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) or the World Meteorology Organization (WMO).

The specialisation makes use of these local organisations and their activities in preparing and delivering courses, and encourages you to engage and to understand the range of institutions and agencies working in Geneva at the interface between environment and sustainability.