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Sustainability of Sustainable Development in Least Developed Countries

A Requirement for the Course

‘Social and Economic Development’
Submitted to

Professor Andreja Jaklič
(Course Coordinator and Instructor)

University of Ljubljana
By

Berhanu Gebremichael (Ph.D. Student)
School of Local Development and Global Dynamics University of Trento gb.challa@email.unitn.it or berhanu24@yahoo.com

November 2009 Trento, Italy

” The Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism is designed in part to assist participating developing countries “in achieving SD. and other aspects of development work (Franks. 2009 SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT (SD) has been evolving for more than 37 years. and the Statement of Forest Principles (UN. policies are being pursued that are making excessive demand on limited resources and the carrying capacity of fragile eco-systems. and should. (2008). about half the world’s population subsisted on less than $2 a day in 2002. heads of state and world leaders committed to implement Agenda 21 and decided to carry out a plethora of partnerships to promote SD. a program of action governing human activities with an impact on the environment. which has many aspects. In addition. Its challenge is to ensure that society moves along a social trajectory that avoids both the pathways that lead to a direct deterioration of the social state and those that lead to a situation from which further progress is impossible. As World Bank (2006) indicates in Rogers et al. social issues. 1987. Where environmental abuse leads to loss of arable land. World Bank (2004) indicates. The Brundtland Report also suggests that creating separately existing environmental institutions is not enough because environmental issues are an integral part of all development policies. In many areas. 2002). article 4 of the UN Climate Change Convention provides that “the Parties have the right to. The next milestone. including economic and financial. the effects are felt in declining incomes and a diminishing quality of life to result in chronic poverty.” At the 2002 World Summit on SD held in Johannesburg. About 44 percent of all households in Africa and 31 percent of people in South Asia lived below the $1-a-day poverty line. The 1972 United Nations (UN) Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm. In such regions. severe soil erosion. 1996). Due to the catastrophes in the least developed countries (LDCs). as well as social.Sustainability of Sustainable Development in Least Developed Countries…Berhanu Gebremichael. promote development. contributed to this evolution by emphasizing that protection of the human environment is a crucial element in the development agenda to explore the connection between quality of life and environmental quality. 1 World Commission on Environment and Development. UNTN. and declining productivity.” 1 This definition established the need for integrated decision making that is capable of balancing the economic and social needs of the people with the regenerative capacity of the natural environment. 1 . and even local climate change. wildlife and water supplies. in the UN Climate Change Convention and the Kyoto Protocol. population pressure is pushing farmers onto marginal lands and causing deforestation. They are crucial to economic considerations and sector policies and should be integrated as part of energy decisions. However. a situation of inequality depression-the dividend world (Meadowcroft 1999). embracing a future that is sustainable. political transformations and economic restructuring. the Earth Summit-giving equal importance to the environment and development-endorsed Agenda 21. Eighty percent of the LDCs soils are fragile. and its aim is to include environmental considerations in the steering of societal change especially through changes to the way in which the economy functions. it was not until 1987 that the term “sustainable development” was defined as “development that can meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. and average rainfall varies by 30 to 40 % per annum. SLD. All the efforts demonstrate that the promotion of SD is about visioning these alternative futures through attitudinal and value changes. environmental and ecological. policy innovations. the task of providing an operational context for the concept of SD and identifying practical policy guidelines for its realization has never been more urgent. That is why Roseland (2000) shows that the chief focus of SD is on society. South Africa. It also endorsed the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. Sweden. 47 % of the land is too dry to support rain-fed agriculture.

2009 In the LDCs. for example. affecting flood-prone and irrigation-dependent croplands. In this regard. Data from the same source “Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the losses of environmental resources” .Target 9 of the UN’s MDGs. illiteracy. Thus. and population management.Sustainability of Sustainable Development in Least Developed Countries…Berhanu Gebremichael. among other development sectors. degradation. which was launched in 2000 and demands that environmental conservation should be an integral part of any economic and development policy. causes of poverty like resource depletion and degradation in perpetuity should be tackled. 1991). control over common property. According to Rogers et al. consequently. SLD. other unwanted consequences arise through. natural lakes. and improvement in the ecosystems and the sociofabric on which development depends (Leach. and climate changes needs to be broken if development is to be sustainable. This is exacerbated by sedimentation and siltation of irrigation channels. water. Projects must be assessed for their impact upon the environment and society as the data on some cross-country indicators of poverty and environmental change indicate that poor countries are much more dependent on natural resources as assets than rich countries and the ratio of people to forested land is more than three times higher in LDCs than in high income countries. a strategic assessment of policies and plans must be under taken. the amplitude of fooddrought cycles increases. UNTN. and Mearns. unsafe drinking water and environmental degradation. but unsuccessful in effect. to minimize the environmental and social consequences of development. productive employment. Thus. communications. That is why Melnick et al. They argue that achieving environmental sustainability requires carefully balancing human development activities while maintaining a stable environment that predictably and regularly provides resources and protects people from natural calamities. species. 2 2 . including soils. What is more. or misuse and overuse. and offshore waters. Present use degrades the natural resource base to the detriment of the current generation in subsequent years and of generations into the indefinite future. questioning SD. They are still in poorer conditions in all aspects. (2008). hunger. reservoirs. UNEP (1995) stresses that poverty must be reduced by meeting basic needs: health. which may consequently affect the extent of environmental quality. substantial growth is needed in output and productivity in LDCs. Shortcomings in the forestry sector will spill over into agriculture. the use of fertilizer and a substitute fuel. factors of development that leads to resource depletion. environmental protection is weaker than when the reverse is true. the issue of deforestation further illustrates some of the complex linkages between soil and water in the matter of resource depletion. In these countries. When those benefit from environmentally degrading economic activities are powerful relative to those who bear the costs. to achieve SD. gender inequality. Degradation or destruction of forests causes soils to be rapidly diminished in their productive capacity because time does not permit their restoration and technical remedies are out of the reach. The core challenge to the development agents. education. As argued by Boyce (2003). the LDCs are the focus of attention as they are thought hey will be unable to meet the targets set until 2015. is to provide productive work and a good quality of life for the existing 2. hydro-power potential. This objective has been met through Target 9 of the UN Millennium Development Goals 2 . public health. Furthermore. and gene reserves. Similarly.8 billion people now living on under $2 per day while absorbing the two to three billion people who will be added to the world’s population in the next 30-50 years. and fisheries. shelter. (2005) highlight the critical importance of achieving environmental sustainability to meet the MDGs with respect to poverty. of the total forest resource negatively affects other natural resources. robbing soil of fertility to the extent of an estimated minimum of 20 million tons per annum. “social and economic inequalities can influence the distribution of the costs and benefits from environmental degradation and the extent of environmental protection. The analysis suggests that socio-economic inequality leads to environmental inequality. energy. the use.

whose collective wealth is greater than the combined wealth of the poorest half of humanity of over three billion people. Some 97% of the population growth will occur in LDCs (DGVN. 2009 indicate that the ratio of the 20 richest countries to the 20 poorest has doubled in the last 30 years. According to UN 3 . there is a group of countries that are under stress. Their contribution to world trade (1. 80. By contrast. According to estimates made by the UNDP. Crop yields are expected to decline in most tropical and subtropical regions as rainfall and temperature patterns change with a changing climate (IPCC 2001b: 84). high conflict. 17 have been engaged either in civil. 2005: 2). Thus. 94. and 80. This bracket also accounts for 81. What is even more alarming is that. The countries in these regions do not have the capacity to mitigate the problems by their own. another great challenge associated with the global task of SD is without doubt the strong and regionally very uneven growth of the world’s population. Low-income families and regions are more vulnerable not only to human-induced environmental hazards but also to natural disasters and environmental risks. and changes in rainfall and temperature associated with climate change will likely make this scarcity worse. Such military conflicts bring down development benefits and corrode social structure. such as malnutrition. participation. The extent of population growth and the unequal spatial distribution of the human race will trigger off or reinforce global change and may cause strong emigrational pressures. Even if income is discounted as an accurate indicator of well-being. or children under the age of five that are underweight. There is also some evidence that disease vectors such as malaria-bearing mosquitoes will spread more widely (IPCC 2001: 455). are falling behind socially and economically. of the 33 LDCs. ethnic. the adverse impact of environmental change will be most striking in LDCs because of their high dependence on natural resources. There has been low growth.6% of domestic savings. Estimates of the effects of climate change on crop yields are predominantly negative for the poor countries in tropics. A recent study (Cavanagh and Anderson. The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that land suitable for rain-fed agriculture may shrink by 11 percent in developing countries by 2080 due to climate change (FAO. and yet have not been at the center of global public attention.2% of world trade. Due to higher surface temperatures on land and increasing water stress. This has an important impact on food production and food security in LDCs where food production barely keeps up with population growth. pollution. and inequality. the key factors governing SD are poverty.5% of domestic investment. close to the 1. confirm the number of the poor—about 900 million people. even when adaptation and direct effects of CO2 on plant processes are taken into consideration. 2004) indicates that there are now 497 billionaires in the world.7% of the total global income. the growth rate in these poorest countries has been minus 1%. other measurements.0%) and commercial lending (0. policy and market failures.2 billion that now earn $1 a day. From another angle. and prevention and management of disasters. Indeed. the wealthiest 20% of the global population earns 82. which taken together have undermined development gains. 1992). much of it in the developing world. The inadequate construction and exposed locations of poor people’s dwellings often make poor people the most likely victims of such disasters.Sustainability of Sustainable Development in Least Developed Countries…Berhanu Gebremichael. SLD. but because the LDCs have not experienced any growth. Global warming may bring an increase in severe weather events like cyclones and torrential rains. To mention some more examples in LDCs.6% of commercial lending. Rogers et al. The number of poor people remains unacceptably high. and it has doubled not so much because the rich countries got richer.4%. followed by Sub-Saharan Africa and then the Middle East and North Africa. (2008) also state that most of the poor live in South Asia (550 million). UNTN. population. may be subjected to moderate to high water stress. As Gupta and Asher (1998) indicate. by 2025. or border wars since 1990. as much as two-thirds of the world population. the share of total global income of the poorest 20% is a mere 1. It seems that this threat comes more from the developing countries.2%) is statistically negligible. Water scarcity is already a major problem for the world’s poor.

the current generation can choose to end poverty provided that we are able to mobilize resources from the developed world.3 billion in 2004. (2008) mentions that the share of world resources devoted to helping the poor has declined for decades and is a tiny fraction of what the US has repeatedly promised. it is believed that the most serious missions for both civil society and nation states is to establish the best institutional. increasing gaps between the rich countries and the poor countries. 2009 documents. and failed to give.7 million. the number of millionaires in the world has soared to 7. policy and governance frameworks that will enable societies to move forward on the contentious issues of global resource sharing. The need to make micro-macro policy links between local level rural livelihoods and national level poverty reduction efforts represented by Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) is also very crucial in the LDCs. the number of millionaires in the world now stands at 9. The global income distribution and disparities drawn up by UNDP in 1992 and 1999 Human Development Report (HDR) suggests that global income inequality has worsened since then. and Merrill Lynch and Capgemini (2007): Eleventh Annual World Wealth Report DGVN – Deutsche Gesellschaft für die Vereinten Nationen (1992): Weltbevölkerungsbericht 1992.Sustainability of Sustainable Development in Least Developed Countries…Berhanu Gebremichael.7% of their GDP for international assistance to reduce poverty. most industrialized countries have failed to fulfill their global commitment of 0. failed states. (2004) Economic Development Futures Web Journal (June 2004). A more recent (2007) UN report says. leave SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT.1 billion (in 1992) to 1. Die Welt im Gleichgewicht. REFERENCES Boyce. where is the sustainability after three decades of SD conventions and ten years of the MDGs? What should be emphasized taking into account these concerns? To conclude. What is more. According to Sachs. there are pessimist views that surround action failures and genuine responses for achievement. These are absolute prerequisites for moving the planet to a sustainable state by the end of the next century. J. SLD. Current resource allocation for addressing the plight of the poor by the US is only 0. Except for a few developed countries of the world. However. Rogers et al. Cavanagh. Increased polarization between the rich and the poor is leading to increased terrorist violence.5 million. Theses plans and realities call for more actions and genuine collaborations from all the international governing bodies to save the world from the catastrophes that the world may face if the problems persist for the coming 30 to 40 years. deforestation. and Anderson. "Aid. further deterioration of the environment.15% of its GDP. Conditionality. and mass migrations for economic survival and environmental reasons. University of Massachusetts at Amherst. in accordance with commitments made at the Earth Summit held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro and reiterated by the World Summit on SD held in 2002 in Johannesburg." Working Papers wp70. (2003). UNTN. So. J. this brief paper has tried to touch upon the core concerns in SD in LDCs. Political Economy Research Institute. and War Economies. food and water shortages and global warming are likely to call the sustainability of the planet into question. 4 . S. The discussion highlights that the most serious indicator of losing the way on the path to a sustainable future would be an increase in absolute levels of poverty in the world. Hence. Bonn: DGVN. and the number of poor people earning less than a dollar per day increased from 1. population growth and urbanization.

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