Sustainable Development Debate – An In-Class Simulation Exercise

This page authored by Julian Westerhout, Carleton College
Author Profile


This activity is designed to stimulate debate and discussion regarding the widely divergent positions held by various international actors regarding what sustainable development is and how it might be achieved.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications

Learning Goals

The primary goal of this exercise is to get students to think about the different positions international actors have regarding sustainable development, and the incentives and disincentives that affect international cooperation, including the impact of both domestic and international political, social, and economic structures.

Context for Use

This exercise is best suited to a sophomore or junior-level political science class in international relations or comparative politics. A class size of 25-40 students is ideal. No special equipment is needed for the simualtion. It is designed to take place over two 1.5 hour class sessions, with a third class session dedicated to discussion of the experience.

Description and Teaching Materials

The assignment handout gives students an idea of what the simulation will involve (content and structure) and lists the international actors represented in the discussion/debate. Assignment handout (Microsoft Word 25kB Sep18 06)

Teaching Notes and Tips

This simulation is best done following sections on international institutions and development. It is important to emphasize to students that all of them are adopting assigned roles in order to reduce the tendency for personalization of the debate.


The success of the simulation can be judged in part by the quality and content of the short reflective essays students turn in after the excercise is completed, as well as through the debriefing discussion in the class session following the simulation.

References and Resources