Sustainable Development: Challenges and opportunities of an unfinished journey – Humphrey Polepole

Abstract: Since the Millennium Development Goals are an unfinished journey, they are still relevant, but there is a need to go beyond the MDGs in order to take into account new and emerging issues and aspirations.nThis article is a part of the Pambazuka Special Issue "From MDGs to SDGs: Claims vs. reality", published on May 29th 2015 as a result of the cooperation between AfricAvenir and Pambazuka.n2015-05-29, Issue 728nTHE JOURNEYnThe concept of sustainable development was conceived by the early environmental movements of the 1950s and 1960s. Back then, the increasing human actions disastrous to the environment started to be of great concern. The year 1962 is seen as a landmark of sustainable development discourse. The book ‘Silent Spring’ by Rachel Carson was the first to enlighten the world on the adverse effect of human actions to the environment. She wrote, “over increasingly large areas of the United States, spring now comes unheralded by the return of the birds, and the early mornings are strangely silent where once they were filled with the beauty of bird songs” (Carson 1962: 103). This book depicts the adverse effects of insect pesticides and DDT in particular to birds’ life in most parts of the United States at that time. Silent Spring raised considerable attention especially in the American society. It laid the foundation on the discourse of sustainable development with environment and human development at the centre stage of the discussions. nTen years after ‘Silent Spring’ was published in 1972, a famous landmark took place: the United Nations Conference on Human Environment. This conference was necessary since environmental destruction was increasingly becoming a pressing issue in different countries. Amongst other things that came out of this historic conference was the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). This conference provided a common consensus that environment and development were two independent but interrelated issues.nAt this conference, the concept of sustainable development and the understanding that nature was an indomitable ally when it comes to human survival on planet earth started to receive international recognition. Principle 2 of the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on Human environment reads: “The natural resources of the earth, including the air, water, land, flora and fauna and especially representative samples of natural ecosystems, must be safeguarded for the benefit of present and future generations through careful planning or management, as appropriate” (UNEP). The conference acted as the breeding ground for the sustainable development concept and discourse. From a sociological view, 1972 was a critical year of international transformation in the sense of understanding the relationship between humanity and the environment.nNow that environmental issues had the UN’s consent and were on the political agenda at UN level, it was time for member states to implement the declaration at the national levels. This could have been managed through putting in place mechanisms that would facilitate the systematic and legal conservation and protection of the environment to secure the livelihoods and welfare of the people. nTaking into account the growing concerns over the deteriorating state of the environment globally and the consequences this had on social economic development, the United Nations General Assembly passed the resolution 38/161 that established the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), popularly known as the Brundtland Commission. This commission published the famous “our common future” report in 1987[1] , outlining the necessary political changes needed to achieve sustainable development.nIn response to this report, the United Nations General Assembly responded with resolution 42/187 that called for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1992. This Conference was the landmark of systematically addressing sustainable development through internationally agreed instruments including the Agenda 21. At the Rio Conference “Sustainable Development” was formally born and the conference produced five major outcomes[2] namely: Agenda 21 (a 10-year action plan for sustainable development that was to be implemented by member states), the Rio Declaration (the main political outcome of the conference), two UN bodies (the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention on Climate Change), and a set of forestry principles that were to pave the way for a forestry convention (Taking Action, UNEP).nTHE POST 2015 DEVELOPMENT AGENDA CONSULTATION PROCESS IN TANZANIAnThe Tanzania process involved three layers of consultations. The first layer involved consultations at the grassroots level in seven zones covering all regions of the mainland, with vulnerable groups such as women, elderly and youth. The second layer was consultations with a group consisting of the private sector, higher learning and research institutions, and public sector officials. nConsultations with government officials, higher learning institutions, local government officials, non-state actors and vulnerable groups were also held in Zanzibar. In addition, parallel consultations were also held by civil society organizations including youth groups. Furthermore, the government of Tanzania co-hosted the regional thematic consultations on energy. The final layer of consultations was at the national level for validation, prioritization and approval of the findings.nThe broad message coming out of the consultations is that, since the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are an unfinished journey, they are still relevant, but there is a need to go beyond the MDGs in order to take into account new and emerging issues and aspirations. nThe results arising from the consultations are classified into the following ten key goals and targets that should be considered in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.n1. To eradicate extreme poverty, hunger and inequality with possible targets being linked to (a) reduce poverty (b) reduce hunger (c) ensuring food security and nutrition and (d) reduce income inequality. The severity in impact on overall human development progress makes this goal as relevant as in the MDGs. But in its focus on advancing income inequality, it goes beyond the MDGs with a focus on advancing income equality which has not been considered in the MDGs. Key to achieving this is the promotion of inclusive growth (pro-people centred development), that benefits all rather than a selected group of the population. n2. To achieve decent and productive employment with possible targets being linked to (a) overall employment, (b) youth employment, (c) women‘s participation in the labour market and (d) women‘s share in total employment. While some issues such as achieving decent and productive employment have been a part or parcel of the MDGs, there wasn’t much attention on this target. Unemployment, in particular youth unemployment, has gained momentum in recent years and has been a major concern particularly of youth in Tanzania. The consultations also emphasized the importance of creating decent employment. The more educated group‘s demand was for growth with structural transformation that generates employment. The issue of applying science, technology, innovation and research and development to transform the economy to a competitive one through productivity improvement came up in a number of different ways during the consultations. n3. To ensure quality service delivery with possible targets being linked to (a) health, (b) education, (c) water and (d) sanitation. A strong voice was heard during the consultations on the need to focus more on quality rather than on quantity, especially with regard to health and education. While Tanzania is most likely to achieve the education goal (MDG 2), quality of education has been a great concern for all and was reflected in the national consultations at all levels. Lack of skills and access to quality education were considered a pressing issue by the youth and civil society organizations. Similar concerns relate to health, water and sanitation as well. Access to quality health services is considered vital for reducing maternal and child mortality and in reducing poverty. It is in this light that the need to go to the next step of ensuring increased access to quality basic services in the Post-2015 agenda is felt strongly in the United Republic of Tanzanian consultations. n4. To eliminate gender inequality with possible targets being linked to (a) equality in education, (b) employment, (c) gender based violence, (d) female genital mutilation and (e) assets ownership. The issue of gender inequality came up very strongly, especially voiced by the civil society organizations and women‘s groups. The discussions went beyond eliminating gender gaps in education and employment to considering gender based violence, patriarchal cultures over assets ownership and customs such as female genital mutilation all of which tend to hinder women‘s progress in human development. In Tanzania, the ongoing constitutional review process is another opportunity to reinstate women’s rights and their protection constitutionally. n5. To combat diseases with possible targets being linked to (a) Malaria, (b) HIV/AIDS, (c) Tuberculosis (TB), and (d) non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Tanzania has made considerable progress in combating diseases such as TB, Malaria and HIV/AIDs during the MDG process. But the threat of diseases to vulnerable groups, in particular infants and some regions, is still a concern. Furthermore, non-communicable diseases affecting our people are considered an emerging issue that needs greater attention. Greater attention could also mean to provide a kind of safety net to vulnerable groups in our country.n6. To reduce child and maternal mortality with possible targets being linked to (a) infant mortality, (b) child mortality, and (c) maternal mortality. Child and maternal mortality was considered a hindrance to development and poverty alleviation by civil society organizations. While progress has been made in infant and child mortality, the rate of maternal mortality is still very high although the United Republic of Tanzania made gains reducing maternal mortality in recent years.n7. To promote sustainable development with possible targets being linked to (a) environmental management – in particular ensuring undertaking environmental impact assessments (EIAs) on projects, (b) natural resource management (c) population growth, (d) sustainable energy use and (e) adaptation to the effects of climate change. Environmental issues have not been taken into consideration seriously in the MDGs, but climate change and sustainable development have been emerging as serious concerns since. In particular the threat of a rise of the sea level is considered a serious issue to sustainable development. nThe need to promote measurements for reducing the effects of climate change and for the adaptation to climate change was considered vital. While environmental degradation was a concern for the youth, sustainable development featured well in the dialogue with civil society organizations and higher learning institutions and other groups. The need for the effective management of natural resources was a particular concern of most consultative groups. Universal access and sustainable use of energy were considered key priorities by participants at the thematic consultations on energy. n8. To improve governance with possible targets being linked to (a) rule of law and law enforcement, (b) anti-corruption, (c) freedom of expression, (d) participation and inclusiveness, and (e) social protection. Good governance, an area missed in the MDGs, was considered by all consultative groups a key concern for sustainable development. Capacity building in these areas at national and local levels is vital. n9. To enhance effective development cooperation and possible targets being linked to (a) commitment to and timed delivery of aid, (b) ensuring effectiveness of implementations and development aid, and (c) transparency and accountability. Consultations also emphasized the need for aid to be pertinent and meet recipient priorities. All stressed the need to have a strategy to reduce aid dependency and make more effective use of domestic resources for development. n10. To promote peace and security with possible targets being linked to (a) promoting democracy, (b) political accountability, justice and fairness. Most consultative groups, particularly the more educated group, considered peace and security as pre-requisites for economic development and for attaining a future all Tanzanians aspire. Good governance, both at national and global level, is considered fundamental in this regard. nThe need to avoid a “one size fits all” approach, perhaps with separate targets at global, regional and national level, must also be considered for greater effectiveness of the agenda. The need to address global and local level monitoring and evaluation is paramount in keeping track of inputs versus outputs in the post 2015 development agenda.nEXCURSUS: THE DEFINITION OF POVERTYn“Any fundamental human need that is not satisfied reveals poverty” — Manfred Max-Neef. nThis statement reveals what has been seemingly a myth to most development technocrats, that every human being is entitled to the fundamental human needs: food, shelter and clothing. Poverty has been defined and redefined in many contexts and locations but an underlining fact is that we need the fundamental human needs met first, in order to see sustainable development becoming a reality to the people. Development signifies the absence of poverty and since inaccessibility of the fundamental human needs reveals poverty, development comes when people are entitled to fundamental human needs in direct proportion with, what I would call “supplementary human needs”, including access to health services, quality education and social security.nIt is widely agreed that the relationship between poverty and education operates in two directions: poor people are often unable to obtain access to adequate social services such as education and health care, and without adequate social services people are often constrained to a life of poverty. nThe concept of poverty has many dimensions and does not merely entail low levels of income or expenditure. Poverty can be defined as a condition that results in an absence of the freedom to choose, arising from a lack of capability to function effectively in society. This multidimensional interpretation moves far beyond the notion of poverty as being solely related to a lack of financial resources. I would consider adequacy of social services as an indicator for development while inadequacy of the social services is an indicator of poverty.nWhen the fundamental human needs as well as supplementary needs are adequately and continuously delivered to the people and there is no harm to the environment and natural resources caused by this delivery, I would use the term sustainable development.nCONCLUSIONnNational plans need to align to the people’s fundamental needs (mainly food, shelter, education and health care) as well as supplementary needs, and at the same time demands of civil society [in this era of globalization] need to be aligned to country government plans for funding purposes as the Paris declaration demands (Lonnqvist: 2006). Sustainable Development will stay a myth if global trends are not analysed thoroughly, adhered to and implemented in order to see equity of resources to the majority poor at local levels.n“One of the fundamental prerequisites for the achievement of Sustainable development is broad public participation in decision-making.”—Agenda 21, Chapter 23nIn the course of realization of sustainable development, information is a key issue especially for the ordinary people. We all know that information brings knowledge, and knowledge is power. Power comes through being present, presenting one’s opinion and a strong sense of value which I consider effective participation. When our people in developing countries achieve effective participation in the making and execution of decisions that shape our development, only then will they be able to conquer poverty and have sustainable development a reality.nWhen development technocrats, policy makers, decision makers and the ordinary majority poor sit around a huge table united in one spirit, common interests and issues, when they effectively prioritise together what is best for our people – only then sustainable development will become a reality.nEND NOTESn[1]http://tinyurl.com/mtpt4pun[2]http://publications.gc.ca/Collection-R/LoPBdP/BP/bp317-e.htmn* Humphrey Polepole is a Tanzanian trained as a development professional at Kimmage Development Studies Centre (Ireland) and the University of Dar es Salaam. For the last 15 years he has been active in the CSO movement in Tanzania and globally. He is a former Director of Tanzania Youth Coalition (TYC), former Chairperson of the African Youth Panel of the Danish Africa Commission, former Chairperson of the National Council for NGOs in Tanzania (a statutory umbrella body for CSOs in Tanzania). Polepole has served as Commissioner of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) that was charged with a responsibility of drafting a new Constitution for the United Republic of Tanzania.nWith the friendly support of the Landesstelle für Entwicklungszusammenarbeit and Engagement Global

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