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Despite governmental commitments and promises, the decade following the 1992 World Conference on Environment and Development has not given rise to development policy or practices built on a more intimate integration of poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability. Moreover, globalization, while generating considerable material benefits for certain social groups North and South, has not placed sustainable development at the centre of its economic policy prescriptions or accompanying institutional reforms. This article examines the underlying tensions between neoliberal reforms, driven primarily by the interests of advanced economies of the North, and the requisites of promoting poverty alleviation and protecting environmental assets in rural areas of developing countries. It concludes that policy makers face difficult trade–offs that must balance the pursuit of short–term economic gains of export–led growth against longer–term benefits of social cohesion, environmental stability, and steady productivity gains associated with sustainable development. The article concludes by affirming that, amidst the growing influence of corporate and northern interests shaping the development process, civil society North and South must play an expanded role in reshaping current policies and practices to support sustainable development.