Health for Export? A WPR and World-Systems Analysis of the OECD’s Construction of Pharmaceutical Pollution

University essay from Lunds universitet/Statsvetenskapliga institutionen

Abstract: The issue of pharmaceutical pollution has recently gained attention on the international political agenda as several actors have raised concern for its negative impact on ecosystems, human health, and livelihoods in emerging economies where an increasing share of the pharmaceutical production is located due to the cheaper labor and less stringent environmental regulations. In 2019, the OECD published a report with policy recommendations on how to manage pharmaceutical residues in freshwaters, being one of the first international actors to address pharmaceutical pollution from manufacturing as a problem. This study seeks to understand how the problem of pharmaceutical pollution has been constructed by the OECD and to scrutinize how their problem representation affects global environmental and social inequalities. By employing Bacchi’s methodological approach What’s the problem represented to be?, the OECD report is analyzed through the theoretical lens of the world-systems theory and the concept of environmental load displacement. The study has shown that pharmaceutical pollution predominantly is understood as a threat to global health and that the report, by disregarding the systematic unequal distribution of environmental load, might contribute to reinforce the environmental and social inequalities caused by pharmaceutical pollution.

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