This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Sustainable Development in the Philippine Context
1.1. A Retrospect: Evolution of SD as a Concept
The concept of sustainable development (SD) has its early beginnings in the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm where the alarming state of the environment first received global attention. Widespread concern over the health impacts of environmental deterioration was prominent in the discussions. At that time, the ill effects of pollution and massive depletion of natural resources resulting from large-scale economic expansion and industrialization, took the center stage. This event could have been precipitated by the publication of "Limits to Growth" by Meadows, et. al. which painted a dire scenario for man's future prospects for development and very survival, given patterns of environmental decay around the world. The Stockholm Conference should have instilled greater awareness of the threats of environmental degradation but sadly, it hardly made waves in actually arresting the high rates of environmental misuse and abuse across the globe. Awareness and acceptance of the disturbing reality did not lead to action commensurate to the problem. More than a decade after that conference, the world was in no better shape as environmental degradation continued to escalate, threatening not only human health but undermining the development prospects of nations around the globe. Ironically, the momentum of development has conceivably overstepped the urgency of caring for the environment on which its future prospects ultimate depend. In response to this alarming situation, the United Nations created in 1984 the Brundtland Commission also known as the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) to examine the links between environment and development and find ways to bridge these two seemingly opposing forces. In 1987, the Commission published its report entitled "Our Common Future" where the notion of sustainable development was introduced. It was defined in general terms as "meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". As it turned out, the book transcended environment and development concerns but embraced the whole spectrum of development issues confronting countries all over. It put forward the idea that the intricate web of development challenges can only be addressed through a recognition of the interconnectedness and inextricable links of the different dimensions of development and the different peoples around the world.
In fulfillment of its mandate. through a consensus building process. the differences in the view of what sustainable development means is borne out of the differences in the development context that each country/locality or individual finds it/himself in. building on the report of the Brundtland Commission. some people have been missing the real point about SD. Conventional development has failed to secure for everyone the fundamental right to a decent standard of living. Significant economic success has been achieved in many countries but development by and large failed a lot of people in a lot of respects. prospects of a different tomorrow for the whole world. known as the Agenda 21. at a time when pervasive poverty. the United Nations launched an agenda for change.Countries welcomed the idea of sustainable development with great enthusiasm and hope. The process of generating a full understanding and advocacy of sustainable development would require dispelling these various myths. the government established the Philippine Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) to oversee the implementation of the country's Agenda 21 commitments and formulate policies and programs that are supportive of sustainable development. Too often. Rather than being an inherent or conscious misunderstanding of the concept. At the same time. and more significantly. Sustainable development may mean different things to different people. In a variety of ways. Sustainable development breathed optimism and hope for meaningful change. the PCSD coordinated the formulation. In 1992. of a national agenda and blueprint for sustainable development now known as Philippine Agenda 21 (PA 21). The Philippines was one of the first countries that swiftly responded to the calls made at the Earth Summit. it has been easy to mistake the sustainable development movement for something other than what it really is. a UN Commission on Sustainable Development was created to chart the course of sustainable development at the global level. Three months after the Summit. Sustainable development brought with it the promise of a new kind of development. There have been a number of myths surrounding efforts to advance sustainable development in the Philippines. widespread social unrest and moral degeneration were realities that existed side by side with unprecedented economic growth and while quality of life was increasingly being impaired by the health impacts of environmental degradation. at the Earth Summit or UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro. We see opulence in the midst of increasing despondence and desperation wrought by acute poverty and injustice. Brazil. .
the environmental dimension will necessarily be. For modern and advanced countries that have reached the pinnacle of economic and social progress. The reality of massive poverty in many places around the world. for many people and countries. sustainable development may be rightfully viewed as a matter of the environment. Environmental issues are intertwined with many development issues and are intricately woven with the poverty situation in the country. Sustainable development offered the compromise solution. effective solutions are . Given the foregoing. In a paper published by the UNDP in 1997. Environment might indeed be the only " missing link" in their development efforts with their populace already receiving their fair share of the benefits of economic and social development. To the extent that international discourse on SD is dominated by these countries. At the annual sessions of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. Understandably so.2 Missing the Point: Myths about Sustainable Development Myth 1: Sustainable development just means environmentally responsive development. a convenient jump-off point for sustainable development discussions. Therefore. makes the argument quite indefensible if not incomprehensible. Sustainable development is often associated with environmental protection. Another view is that sustainable development probably emerged as an 'antidote' to the extreme ecocentric or purist views of environmentalists which emerged in the 1970s. The environment also brings out the importance of the systems perspective on development. it illustrates the shared and collective responsibility of all countries in pursuing sustainable development not only at the global level but also in supporting national SD efforts. environment inevitably comes out to be at the center of the SD agenda. sustainable development strategies in industrialized countries are still mostly environmental in their focus. often dominated by environment ministers. it has been observed that except for some notable exceptions.1. Many national sustainable development strategies. that everything has a cause and effect. The proponents of this perspective argues that environment must be protected at all costs. however. The environment effectively brings out the interrelated nature of development decisions and highlights the need for integrated decision-making. this is evidenced by the lopsided representation of delegates. These views propagated the idea that environment would need to be preserved at their pristine state and that development was proving to be an antithesis to environment preservation. The emphasis on environmental aspects can likewise be illumined by the fact that sustainable development was brought to worldwide prominence by a body created by the United Nations to explore the linkages between environment and development. There is perhaps nothing that is utterly wrong in this perspective. With environment transcending territorial boundaries. plain and simple. particularly in industrialized countries are essentially "green plans". It was the World Commission on Environment and Development which advanced the notion of sustainable development. sustainable development is typically equated with environmentally responsive development.
However. It may be a side-effect of economic marginalization. but by looking at the root causes of development problems. People can easily identify with environment issues considering its direct impact on people's health and their prospects for livelihood. Hence. having roofs over their heads and getting safe water to drink. environmental issues are just symptomatic of deeper. embracing sustainable development would involve organizational development and reform which demands leadership and political will more than substantial infusion of incremental financial resources.drawn not by merely addressing effects. The environment is clearly an important dimension of sustainable development. a propensity in traditional development approaches. Viewed as a program. social unrest and political inequities. albeit not the only one. support for PA 21 implementation suffered a major setback. it may therefore be grossly misguided to equate sustainable development with environment because to this day the development challenges that country faces are far more complex and multifaceted. viewed from a strictly environmental point of view. It was seen as yet another burden that overextends already limited human resources in all governance levels. the whole government budget would represent financing for sustainable development. Often. But the nature of the reforms required by sustainable development goes beyond adding new projects that call for incremental funding and other resources. many local stakeholders had a project view of sustainable development. Myth 2: Sustainable Development is but a set of new. moral and spiritual sensitivities and the Filipinos' unique aspirations. Hence. The country is at a stage where rights to even the most basic economic and social benefits of development have not been secured for all its citizens. This is reinforced by the fact that for every international conference. . Overall. specialized programs or projects. institutions operating within the scheme of budget ceilings. For a developing country like the Philippines. culture. The practice of 'localizing' practically all development initiatives following devolution and decentralization efforts and a budgeting system that is driven by programs and projects have probably misled people into thinking that sustainable development is yet another program or project. the reality is that for a lot of people. clamored for additional resources to finance new activities when asked to support sustainable development efforts. there are other dimensions as well that are considered of real importance such as governance. sustainable development often loses its appeal among those who consider meeting more urgent basic needs as the more primordial concern of development. While it would be desirable to get environmental stewardship intrinsic to the Filipino psyche. Considering the heavy expenditures needed to correct environmental ills of the past. the quest for development is still a matter of filling up their stomachs. larger development problems that are not too obvious. as efforts went underway for localizing PA 21. focus on environment is open to question by those who direly need resources just to survive. the government simply comes up with new additional programs that are brought down to the local level. there is a tendency to simplify implementation by projectizing reform initiatives. when sizeable budget appropriations were not forthcoming. If the Philippines will actually embrace SD as its governing development paradigm. Beyond that.
sustainable development has been placed at the forefront of development discussions in the Philippines. values and traditions that are consistent with the essence sustainable development. many of the indigenous cultural groups continue to apply the sustainable practices and principles that they have observed for hundreds or thousands of years. such as respect for nature as an inseparable aspect of life.SD interventions should not be separate and distinct from what government agencies. One trailblazing aspect of sustainable development is in the process of governance and decision-making required by the inextricable links between and among the different dimensions of development. Today. hence. a great sense of community as evident in tribal communities. spirit of sharing with and caring for fellowmen. It has given the impression that sustainable development is a program that is implemented as part of a wider development effort. It comes across as a virtual unknown. As the original PA 21 emphasized. It is a state or a process that we should strive for . The use of the phrase implementing sustainable development may also have contributed to a misunderstanding of what sustainable development actually is. it was quite difficult for . the elements of sustainable development have been practiced by earlier generations of Filipinos but was somehow lost in the subsequent generations' aggressive pursuit of industrialization and modernization. Many of the new activities could be in the form of advocacy and knowledge enhancing initiatives which may not require huge budgets. seek or pursue. without any exception. The ideal situation would be that everything an agency does. there could be reluctance in readily adopting the idea. Inadvertently. Our ancestors have observed principles. Development and for that matter. sustainable development is not something that is implemented. additional set of development activities. should be contributory to and in the spirit of sustainable development. SD simply changes the nature and character of the development programs and the ways of doing them. etc. Hence. however. acting on the pretext that there is no prior established knowledge about it. Rather than being an entirely new and innovative view of development. strong moral and spiritual beliefs. It does not necessarily call for a new. Myth 3: Sustainable Development is an entirely new development idea. Since the 1992 Earth Summit. Myth 4: Sustainable Development is primarily geared towards meeting Philippine commitments in international conferences and agreements such as the Earth Summit. The problem with sustainable development being viewed as a completely new idea is that some development practitioners may postpone effort to support it while they wait for a comprehensive guide to do it. embracing sustainable development is to a great extent bringing Filipinos back to the some of the positive values and traditions that have shaped early Philippine society. advocacy strategies might have put across an impression that sustainable development is being pursued for the sole purpose of meeting international commitments. for instance. would normally do. It is actually a sense of what matters to us as a people in our pursuit of development.
Nonetheless. responsible governance. 1.3 Getting the Point: Uncovering the Essence of Sustainable Development Since 1987 when the United Nations Commission on Environment and Development introduced the notion of sustainable development.a majority of stakeholders to identify with sustainable development because international agreements and commitments can be far too divorced from their daily struggles. For someone who even has to struggle just to put a decent meal on the table. it has taken on a lot of meanings. without adapting it to its own peculiar situation. The essence of sustainable development has been defined in PA 21 as the "harmonious integration of a sound and viable economy. providing little practical guidance. there seems to be a point of consensus. . it could be difficult and perhaps not advisable to come up with a universally applicable or acceptable definition of sustainable development. it must be rooted in the context of Philippine reality and aspirations. The framers of the Philippine Agenda 21 came up with a definition of sustainable development that is uniquely suited to the development reality in the Philippines. then the misconceptions arise. it should not be viewed as the raison d'être for pursuing SD in the Philippines. While the meaning of sustainable development emanates from global discussions. When a country just "imports" another country's definition. The differences in the concept of sustainable development across countries suggest the diversity of the development reality that countries find themselves in. which is emphasized in the Philippine Agenda 21. Discussions have advanced from purely theoretical and cerebral exercise to the practical underpinnings of sustainable development. This is to be expected because sustainable development is a normative concept and is thus context based. The real essence of sustainable development lies in the breath of its scope and in its fundamental nature as a paradigm. meeting Philippine commitment in international conferences may not be the most convincing argument for joining the SD bandwagon. The pursuit of sustainable development should not be couched on substantiating Philippine participation in international conferences and agreements but should be primarily motivated by our inherent desire to secure a better life for Filipinos. The ultimate aim of development is human development now and through future generations". Given the numerous perspectives on SD. While global citizenship is an intrinsic component of SD. social cohesion and harmony and ecological integrity to ensure that development is a life-enhancing process. The fact that countries differ in their development context has animated global and national discourse on what sustainable development is all about. that sustainable development must be rooted in the national context. This definition is very appealing in its broadness and depth but has unfortunately come across as too academic. philosophy and approach.
environmental. what happened over the years was a slow. and Mother Earth . in advocating sustainable development.Sustainable development is a broader and more holistic view of development. more than anything else is a rethinking of what development ought to be. The PA 21. what difference it ought to make in the lives of our people. come up with a notion of a true and more holistic. Recent history has taught us the folly of going after short-term gains. good governance was seen as another crucial factor in development process. and posits that development would also have to be viewed on moral. The vast environmental resources used to be considered infinite and mostly free. cultural and political grounds. social. brings out succinctly the things that should matter to the Philippines as a nation in its quest for development. a broadening of the concept of development as new learning come about and as experience gains more ground. meaningful development. Long-term Development Wealth creation knew no limits in the past. It goes beyond the three pillars of development-economic. PA 21 definition reveals the many facets of development and points out that all the dimensions of sustainable development are equally important and interrelated. Sustainable development. One cannot be achieved without the other. spiritual. The proponents of sustainable development effectively brought all these efforts together. As countries achieved high economic growth rates amidst social turmoil or rising social ills. It is therefore no longer a question of "economy or environment nor of tradeoffs". Sustainable development is therefore a kind of development that does not bask in the glory of a high GNP growth on one level or a high HDI on another level but in the supreme dignity of citizens enjoying all the elements of a decent standard of living. the importance of the social dimensions figured in development efforts. to once and for all. It is principally a broadening of the way we see development. Multidimensional development Sustainable development is not some conceptually idea as some people are wont to assume. Political decisions often raises social and moral questions. Nevertheless. Debates over the appropriate kind of development is way past the quantity versus quality impasse. widespread environmental degradation begun to undermine growth prospects and human health. It has led to overconsumption of natural resources and disregard for the assimilative capacities of the environment for waste because of its focus on serving the welfare needs of the present generation. The doctrine of capitalism has encouraged growth maximization almost without any regard for what it holds for the future. To a great extent. As a holistic development approach. It focuses attention on the quality of life instead of level and quantity of development. It is now generally accepted that the perpetuation of the human species. Then in the 1970s. Decisions on the economic dimension will inevitably have an impact on the environment or culture. SD takes a long-term perspective on development. In the more recent times. incremental reorientation in development thinking. environment was seen as another important dimension that need to go into the development equation. Subsequently. the concept of development has gone beyond the traditional standpoint of economic development.
inevitably depends on what we do now. without prejudice. environmental degradation and patterns of unsustainable development" . Equitable Development It is development founded on the value of sharing. short term benefits over long term benefits (intertemporal equity). It is development that "builds a humane. vi . benefit all. Hence. its benefits will not only accrue to the present generation but all generations to come (intergenerational equity) and it does not prefer immediate. children. including women. vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. Certainly. equitable and caring society cognizant of the need for human dignity for all". Sustainable development posits that development should. Sustainable development is a kind of development that does not favor only a few or only those who have the clout to influence development decisions but gives equal opportunity to all members of society (intragenerational equity). intra-generational and intergenerational equity in development. Sustainable development is about giving our children new hope for a better world. the global definition of sustainable development presupposes the importance of inter-temporal. youth. "a world free of indignity and indecency occasioned by poverty. Some of the effects of actions done now only show up years or decades later. one should not be satisfied with a development that enriches the present generation while impoverishing the future because that is tantamount to jeopardizing the future of one's own children and his children's children.
social harmony. value systems and theoretical foundation that guide the way a person conducts his life.Sustainable development is a paradigm. policy-making. Values-Driven and Principled Development As a philosophy. It advocates a process of development that is participatory. Stripped to its substance. development cannot be considered sustainable just because a country has a rising GDP. Multi-stakeholder Decision-making As a development framework. and other development processes a little better by means of an integrated and inclusive manner of decision-making. The pursuit of sustainable development must permeate the beliefs. SD is therefore inconsistent with sector-oriented decisionmaking. Primacy of Human Development As a paradigm. . human development. it would need to be delivered as a whole package. moral and spiritual development as the mutually reinforcing and supportive pillars of a lifeenhancing development. how a government conducts its affairs and how the private sector conducts their business. It views development as a shared goal and therefore a collective responsibility of all sectors of society. multi-stakeholder and pro-active. philosophy and framework of development . It advances that the ultimate purpose of development is . It advances the view that everything is interconnected and as such development cannot be sold on a retail basis. a comprehensive set of social welfare projects or environmental projects. sustainable development prescribes a new system of governance. highlighting the value of consensus-building and partnerships. After all. a new approach for development decision-making. It recognizes ecological integrity. economic development. consultative. programming. community based. It proposes a pattern of development that is guided by a set of well-defined principles. or environmental projects cannot be pursued independently of each other nor is it enough to have a set of projects/initiatives separately for each dimension. This implies that economic. sustainable development is driven by a set of core values. One has to ensure that the impact of one on the other does not negate overall welfare gains. These values are imbedded in the PA 21's set of principles and parameters of sustainable development (see Chapter III & IV). precepts or tenets. a high GDP does not mean much for sustainable development if it does not translate in the improvement of the lives of the majority or if economic oppression deprives them of their sense of dignity and human potential. social. above all. Therefore. sustainable development redefines our model or standard of development. responsible governance. thus. PA 21 in effect advocates a systems perspective on development that considers both the causes and effects of development actions. Sustainable development is development for and by the people. sustainable development as an approach is about making planning.
Creative social unity and harmony can only occur from a respect and appreciation of the mutually enhancing perspectives and roles of key actors and ultimately in their free choice to collaborate towards achieving the higher common good of society. It rejects over-centralization of decision-making and advocates for the development of synergies through the coordinated actions of the three key actors in sustainable development. representing the three realms of modern society: economy. . Sustainable result is the result of government. united by a common purpose to seek a better life for all Filipinos". are interacting. practice has informed the further evolution of the concept. business. concept has dictated how sustainable development should be practiced and vice versa. 1. The foregoing attempt at elaborating people's otherwise notional views suggests that sustainable development is as much a process as it is a desired goal and state of development.4 The Antithesis: What is Unsustainable Development? Knowing what sustainable development is should make it easier to recognize unsustainable patterns of development. business and civil society. Three-folding view of Society Sustainable development recognizes that the key actors in sustainable development are the government. dynamic and complementary components of an integrated whole. rootless (in the realm of culture). there must be an interplay of market forces. Mainstreaming sustainable development does not necessarily call for developing new development programs but implores reform in decision-making processes and structures in order to change the way we do development. the process is not a unidirectional process. It maybe noted that even without a unified conceptual understanding. civil society "acting together. polity and culture. The Philippine Agenda 21 states that these realms and actors. Such initiatives are what have served to enrich our conceptual understanding of SD. and civil society participation. Hence.SD involves harmonizing otherwise conflicting policies and programs by finding innovative ways of resolving conflicts and minimizing trade-offs. many have responded to the imperatives of SD and have pursued programs and activities or individual actions that are supportive of SD in whatever means they have seen fit. PA 21 characterizes unsustainable development as jobless and ruthless (in the realm of the economy). while functionally different. It is not about co-optation of the corresponding roles of these actors but forging creative and collaborative partnerships. This suggests that in order to humanize development . state intervention. futureless (in the realm of nature) and voiceless (in the realm of polity) vii. It must be emphasized that this conceptual enrichment has been borne out of the extensive practice and experience in implementing SD through various means and modalities.
crime erodes cultural values harbors a general feeling of low well-being and hopelessness among constituents Worsening environment wrought by: ƒ ƒ ƒ ƒ misuse and abuse and disregard for carrying capacity considerations pursuit of short-term selfish interests by influential segments of society attitude of apathy and failure to accept environmental protection as a personal issue and responsibility misplaced values that fail to recognize the spiritual connection of man with his environment A weak governance system characterized by: ƒ ƒ ƒ lack of political will to deliver development. political patronage and dynasties heavy sector orientation and lack of coordination structures among the different sectors leading to compensating effects that negate welfare gains highly centralized structures for decision-making .Unsustainable development is characterized by the following undesirable forms or patterns of development: A weak economy that is manifested by: ƒ ƒ ƒ ƒ ƒ ƒ ƒ ƒ ƒ boom-bust economic cycles unmanaged budget deficits high indebtedness and trade imbalances pursuit of limited sectoral interests with substantial negative impacts on the other sectors serving the interest of only a few or a small segment of the population suffering the costs instead of benefiting from globalization widening gap between the rich and the poor displacement of people from their source of livelihood and cultural roots marginalization and exclusion of some sectors of society from benefiting from development An uncaring social system that: ƒ ƒ ƒ ƒ ƒ is unable to provide for the basic needs of everyone breeds social tension and conflict due to overt inequities breeds social ills such as drug addiction. iniquitous political structures. prostitution. massive corruption.
ƒ general lack of transparency and accountability among institutions .
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.