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SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT - HISTORY & CORE CONCEPTS There are two words about development that have mobilised governments and institutions all over the world; one is ‘sustainable development’ and the other is ‘globalisation’. Both words pretend to define and impose new and possible ways of social and economic structures at the international level and within a global economic coexistence. The history of these words allow to understand the governmental and institutional motivations and intentions from that period as everything that could be deduce from the present and future context of those moments. In the next pages, are described these two development tendencies, as theoretical and political forms established under the influence of different interests and approaches about development. In one hand, ‘sustainable development’, supported mainly for the European Union and seeking for some changes in the traditional economical development. In the other hand, ‘globalisation’, defended basically by US and the multinational centres of economical and financial power, whose projects and interests look for international markets and free trade. In that way, they expect to have a hierarchic and global ‘economical regulation’ that allows the continuity of a stable growing. It’s important to highlight that the phrase ‘sustainable development’ could sound ambiguous and that there are not parameters to establish what will be the aims of the sustainability processes. In consequence, many influent actors supporting globalization say that ‘sustainable development’ is, in fact, an integrated part of the globalization process.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 The Club of Rome and ‘The limits of growth’ UN Conference on Human Environment The Brundtland Report Agenda 21 and the administrative measures of UN Sustainable Development Earth Summit - Johannesburg 2002 What is Sustainable Development? Sources
The Club of Rome and ‘The limits of growth’
At the end of the 60s, the population growth in the peripheries and the environmental problems over many industrialised areas in the western countries were a reason for influent actors to discuss about them and the ways to find stability and a continuous economical development. The Club of Rome, in August of 1970, interested to the Technological Institute of Massachusetts to start a study about the tendencies and interactions of a limited number of factors that threat the global society. After many months of researching there was a world model ready to analyse a big number of conditions and scenarios by an international group of experts. Therefore, in 1972 the Club of Rome published the first report called ‘The limits of growth’. This said that the main problem that our societies were facing was: ‘the Earth capacity to sustain the needs and ways of living of an always growing population, beyond 1985, considering than the industrialised nations consumed most of the world natural resources in benefit of a very
small part of the population, taking themselves to extreme levels of material consume and physical detriment not possible to keep carrying in the long-term’. The results of this research had determined that the population and the global production couldn’t keep growing indefinitely as there were factors that would limit this, as the resources’ progressive ending, the possible increase of mortality and the negative effects of contamination. Thus, it’ll be necessary to reach a level and a balance in the demographic level and in the use, production and consume of the material resources, to avoid a collapse. The conclusions of this report, briefly, were: -If the actual tendencies of world population growth, industrialisation, pollution, food production and ending of resources keep the same, the planet will reach the limits of growing in the next a hundred years. -It was possible to change the growth tendencies and establish then a condition of ecological and economical sustainable balance for a long time. This state of global balance could be design in a way that every human being would satisfy their basic material needs and enjoy of equal opportunities to develop their particular potential. -If human beings put their efforts in the achievement of the second conclusion instead of the first one, its success would depend in the speed in working for that, from the healthy transition of growth to global balance.
UN Conference on Human Environment
In a more representative sector of the world, in 1968, there was created interest in UNESCO to include the theme of environment protection in the agenda of the XXIII UN General Assembly. The General Assembly decided that the UN General Secretary collect all the possible data and propose a concrete plan with measures to protect the environment. The result of this was the report ‘The man and the environment’. This took in May of 1969 to organise regional meetings for the next two years, as preparation for the UN World Conference on environment. The sessions before the Conference in Stockholm about the human environment, composed by experts from 27 countries, showed the different and even opposed positions between different States and regions, according to its greater or fewer level of industrialisation. For the developing countries, the environmental worry started in the developed countries seemed to hide a new tactic to ensure the use of natural resources, under the excuse of pollution and the exhaustion of prime resources, and stop the industrialisation that all the countries less favoured aspired to. Therefore, the ecological groups which promoted the Conference found their position weak and with little credibility in front of the underdeveloped countries representatives. Despite of all this, it was elaborated the ‘Inform Founex’ in June of 1971. The UN Conference on Human Environment occurred in June of 1972 in Stockholm and it was focus mainly to analyse: -The social and cultural needs to plan the environmental protection. -The limits and the problems around the natural resources. -The ways to use to struggle against pollution. The Conference approved a final statement of 26 principles and 103 recommendations, with an initial political proclamation, that could be seem as an ideal vision of the world, divided in seven principles and that briefly express the next: -The human being product and artificer of the environment where he obtains his material sustain has reached a stage where, thanks to the science and technology fast acceleration, obtains the power of transforming, in many ways and in a scale without precedents, everything that surround him. That new human environment, the natural and the artificial, it’s supposed to provide with welfare to the man and the satisfaction of his fundamental needs.
-The protection and improvement of the human environment is a fundamental issue, in the national and in the global level, and it’s supposed that the economic development in the entire world will take that issue in account, at the level of population and governments. -The human being transforms what surround him; this transforming capacity can give to all groups of people the benefits of development or cause immeasurable damages to the human kind and its environment. -Most of the environmental problems in the developing countries are motivated because of underdevelopment. For this, these countries should address their efforts towards development, keeping in mind their priorities and the need of guard and protect the environment. With this aim also, the industrialised countries should reduce the distance between them and the developing countries. In the industrialised countries, the environmental problems are in relationship with industrialisation. -The natural growing of population sets continuously problems in relation with the environment preservation, and there should be adopted norms and accurate measures to face these problems. At the same time, the human beings are the ones that promote social progress, create social richness, develop science and technology and with their work, transform continuously the human environment. With the social progress and the advancements in production, science and technology, the man capacity to improve his environment is increased. -It’s been reached the moment in history when we all should guide our acts everywhere towards the defence and making better the human environment for the present and future generations, established within peace and social and economic development all over the world. -To achieve this goal, it’ll be necessary to mobilise citizens and communities, enterprises and institutions, in all matters, within the responsibilities that concern them and where all participate equitably in the common labour. Between the ecological recommendations, the most relevant are: -Preservation of natural ecosystems’ representative samples in the called ‘genetic banks’. -Protection of endangered species, especially the big oceanic cetaceous. -Maintaining and making better the Earth capacity to produce vital renewable resources. -Planning of the places where the human being settles, applying urban principles that respect the environment. -Avoid the pollution in all levels, establishing the lists of the most hazardous polluters, as the ones whose influence could be irreversible in the long-term. -Give place to create a World Programme on Environment, sponsored by United Nations and destined to ensure at the international level, the environment protection. Despite of the opposed criterias for controlling population growth, all the Conference participants subscribed that ‘…the natural growing of population sets continuously problems in relation with the environment preservation, and there should be adopted norms and accurate measures to face these problems’. With the world character recognition of the consequences about the ecological system, it is insisted in the need ‘…of a wide collaboration between nations and the adoption of measures by the international organisations, in benefit of all’. Considering the disparity of criteria between the delegates, the Final Statement had to include measures applicable to the underdeveloped countries, where: -It is condemn racial segregation and colonial oppression, -It’s recommended better stability of prime resources prices, -It’s recognised the sovereign right to exploit the natural resources,
-It’s recommended the accelerated development in those regions and the necessary financial and technological transferences to solve the environmental problems borned from the own underdevelopment. Despite of its limitations, The Stockholm Declaration is an important document of reference about the human development problem. It recommends simultaneously measures to reduce pollution and the accelerated development of industries in the Third World countries. However, it doesn’t define or go deeper in the fact that industrialisation, precisely, was and is the cause of pollution and of the natural resources’ exhaustion. And these issues didn’t invalidate the thesis sustained by the poorest countries’ representatives: ‘…the worst pollution is poverty and environmental protection demands to make participants to all members of the human family within the so called ‘quality of life principle’. The Stockholm declaration plus other publications in the next years were getting a better influence on the public opinion in the industrialised countries. The consequence was to judge the viability of the continuous economical and industrial growing as main target. In the UN is created the Environmental Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi (Kenya), to basically motivate and inspire the increase of the action level in favour of the environment, arise conscious in all society levels and co-ordinate the governmental and non-governmental organisations work with the UN agencies in all related to the environment. In 1982, UNEP called the attention about the environment progressive detriment and the third world situation. Then, in 1983 is created The World Commission for the Environment and Development, under the direction of Gro Harlen Brundtland, chief of the opposite party in Norway.
The Brundtland Report
In 1987 is published the report ‘Our Common Future’, known as ‘The Brundtland Report’ also. Here are put in evidence the environmental problems derived from the industrial and economic development, as the greenhouse effect and the extinction of species, as other problems of social character like the ones in the third world. The report advised that humanity had two choices: change its life style and the commercial interaction or face an era with unbearable human suffering and ecological degradation. These new ideas confronted the group of people directing the world economy and their ideal of continuous growing; therefore, it was impossible that the renewal intentions in favour of sustainability could obtain any real purpose without the support of that influent group. It’s within this discussions that appeared a conciliate proposal, which combined the production increase with the respect to the environment. This means, join two elements incompatibles at first sight, sustainability and development, and then set rules for something that will be define as sustainable development. The Brundtland Commission declared that sustainable development was possible and that should be applied for a better management of the economy, technology and natural resources, which required some changes in the goals of the societies. According to this report, sustainable development means ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. In this report also, it is indicated that developed countries, with the 26% of the world population, consume the 80% of energy, steel, other world metals and materials, and around 40% of all the food. The Brundtland Report, revealed by the press to the world, was the beginning for the debate that happened between June 3rd and 15th in 1992, in the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, more known as The Earth Summit. This Conference gathered representatives from 179 countries and gave as result The Rio Declaration and the Programme 21 or Agenda 21.
Agenda 21 and the administrative measures of UN
Agenda 21 should start to run from the moment that the conference documents were signed and be applied by the governments, development organisms, UN organisations and groups of the independent sector in all the areas where human economical activity has effects on the environment. The Agenda’s fundamental worry –indicating that humanity was in a decisive moment of its history- was in: -The present policies, that perpetuate the economical differences between and within the countries, -Increase poverty, hunger, illnesses and illiteracy in all the world, -Because the continuous detriment of the ecosystems we depend on to sustain life in the planet. The fundamental goals of Agenda 21 looked for: ‘achieve a fair balance between the economical, social and environmental needs of present and future generations, and set the basis for a world association among the developed and developing countries, as among the governments and the civil society sectors, on the base of the common needs and interests’ comprehension’. Within this wide action plan, are analysed different measures to be applied to reach a sustainable balance, which try to harmonise the social, economical and environmental dimensions. After the Earth Summit it was created the Sustainable Development World Commission, with the purpose of support, encourage and supervise to the governments, the UN organisms and the principal groups about the measures to be adopted to apply the agreements achieved. This Commission meets annually in New York, presents reports to ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) and elaborate recommendations to the UN General Assembly. Its work consists in examine the application of the achieved agreements in Rio, give normative orientation to the Governments and to the representative groups, creating new strategies when is necessary. In 1993, at the UN, is created a High Level Consultative Board on Sustainable Development, by recommendation of the Earth Summit, and in 1995 the Intergovernmental Group on Forests, for the sustainable order of the forests and the application of the agreements on this topic adopted in Rio. In June of 1997, the Sustainable Development Commission met in New York to examine the accomplishment of the commitments adopted in Rio, after five years (Rio+5). The results summarised what had happened in the last five years in a report. This one wasn’t encouraging. The conclusions made clear than the situation was pretty similar or even worst to the ones studied as reference for the Rio agreements. This lead to a high pessimism in the International Community, which was accentuated after US didn’t want to ratify the Kyoto Protocol2. The activities meant to integrate the environment in the development plans and in the decisions’ adoption processes at the national level didn’t go too far in the next years. Many environmental problems became worst, as the ozone depletion, the climate change, the increase of waste without recycling, the distribution and existence of drinking water and the degradation of forests. This situation was justified by the industrialised countries’ governments, that indicate are in an economical recession, which doesn’t allow them to implement the alternative models for development. The patent pessimism within the International Community has been increased because of US reactions, after September 11th, 2001, as from that moment this country justifies the use of direct violence through wars and conflicts to ‘end the world terrorism’ anywhere in the planet.
Sustainable Development Earth Summit Johannesburg 2002
The result of this summit –August 24th to September 4th, 2002- can be summarised in its political declaration
and its suggested plan to apply it. These documents just re-affirm the commitment in pro of sustainable development and the will to: -‘Build a humanitarian, equal and generous world society’, -‘Promote at the local, national, regional and world level the economic and social development and the environmental protection, interdependent and synergic pillars of sustainable development. As the major problems to be solved are mentioned: -The unsustainable standards of production and consume. -The deep gap that divide human society between poor and rich people. -The constant detriment of the world environment. -The economy globalisation. -The risk that the disparities above become chronic. It’s recommended the ‘Plan of application for the Decisions at Earth Summit’ to the UN General Assembly. This Plan looks for: -Poverty eradication. -Modification of the unsustainable ways of consume and production. -Protection and management of natural resources. -Protection and management of the social and economical development. -Sustainable development in a world towards globalisation. -Health in sustainable development. -Promote regional initiatives in: Africa, Latin America and Caribe, Asia and the Pacific, Western Asia and the European Economic Commission. With no more relevant differences concerning to the ones already set by Agenda 21, in Rio in 1992, is broad the opinion that the ‘Earth Summit on Sustainable Development’ in Johannesburg just gave a poor political declaration and the recommendation of a plan that urge to all developed countries to put in practice the stipulated in Agenda 21.
What is Sustainable Development?
The idea of sustainable development has been defined in many ways, but the most familiar definition remains that given in the Brundtland report (see above). Another definition, from the Real World member Forum for the Future, sees sustainable development in this way: ‘Sustainable development is a dynamic process which enables all people to realise their potential and improve their quality of life in ways that simultaneously protect and enhance the Earth’s life-support system’. The core concepts behind the term that now have wide acceptance say that: -the environment, globally and locally, must be protected so that the critical life support services it provides are maintained for present and future generations; -environmental policy and economic policy must be integrated if this is to happen; -the main goal of economic development should be to create conditions for people to enjoy a better quality of life, not simply the pursuit of quantitative growth in the economy;
-the pursuit of sustainable development must include policies to eliminate poverty, in the industrialised and developing worlds alike; -all parts of society must be involved in decision-making about the measures that will bring about the transition to sustainable economic and social systems over the coming decades. Sustainable development is a political process. It requires judgements and trade-offs about what counts as essential environmental ‘capital’ and what does not, and how much of the Earth we are prepared to share with other species. Thus, it is full of contested ideas and ethical dilemmas, as well as being concerned with techniques for assessing our environmental impact and evaluating risks and choices in as objective a way as possible. Sustainable Development is about seeing the planet and its people holistically, with a view to the future and even considering all we have in the present as a legacy we have borrowed from the future generations.
What is Development? Sectional Development & Integral Development. RODRIGUEZ, Julio Alberto. 3rd version: 20/05/04 – University of Gotemburgo, Sweden The Real World Coalition. From here to sustainability: Politics in the real world. London, Earthscan, 2001 Retrieved from "http://sustainable.a.wiki-site.com/index.php/Sus-dev"
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