Although it has been established that equity, empowerment and sustainability can expand people’s choices, at the same time there are inherent challenges that reveal that these key aspects of human development do not always come together.
This notion, according to United Nation’s Development Programme’s (UNDP) Officer-in-Charge, Mr. Carlos del Castillo, was accentuated in the 2010 Human Development Report (HDR).
However, this year the HDR, which was recently unveiled and officially handed over to the Government of Guyana, has sought to explore the intersections between environmental sustainability and equity.
These factors, according to del Castillo, are fundamentally similar in their concerns when it comes to justice. “Sustainability is valued because future generations should have at least the same possibilities as people today; similarly all inequitable processes are unjust.”
People’s chances at better lives should not be constrained by factors outside of their control.
He said that inequalities are especially unjust when particular groups, whether because of gender, race or birth place, are systematically disadvantaged.
And in order to address this dilemma, next June world leaders will gather in Rio de Janeiro to seek a new consensus on global actions to safeguard the future of the planet and the right of future generations everywhere to live healthy and fulfilling lives.
“This is a great challenge of the 21st century…the 2011 Human and Development Report offers important new contributions to the global dialogue on this challenge showing how sustainability is inextricably linked to basic questions of equity,” del Castillo pointed out.
A summary of the 2011 report identifies pathways for people, local communities, countries and the international community to promote environmental sustainability and equity in mutually reinforcing ways. It was highlighted too that in the 176 countries and territories where the UNDP is working every day, many disadvantaged people carry a double burden of deprivation.
In fact it was amplified that “they are more vulnerable to the wider effects of environmental degradation, because of more severe stresses and fewer coping tools.” Such persons, according to the summary, must also deal with threats to their immediate environment from indoor pollution, dirty water and unimproved sanitation.
Forecasts suggest that continuing failure to reduce the grave environmental risks and deepening social inequalities threatens to slow decades of sustained progress by the world’s poor majority and even to reverse the global convergence in human development.
According to the 2011 report, “major disparities in power shape these patterns, and new analysis shows how power imbalances and gender inequalities at the national level are linked to reduced access to clean water and improved sanitation, land degradation and deaths due to indoor and outdoor air pollution, amplifying the effects associated with income disparities.”
It has also been asserted that gender inequalities also interact with environmental outcomes and can make them worse. However at the global level governance arrangements often weakens the voices of developing countries and exclude marginalized groups, the report outlines.
Moreover, the report points to the fact that there are alternatives to inequality and unsustainability, adding that growth driven by fossil fuel consumption is not a prerequisite for a better life in broader human development terms.
“Investments that improve equity in access for example to renewable energy, water and sanitation and reproductive health care could advance both sustainability and human development.”
In addition it has been asserted that stronger accountability and democratic processes in part through support for an active civil society and media can also improve outcomes.”
The report outlines, too, that successful approaches rely on community management, inclusive institutions that pay particular attention to disadvantaged groups and cross-cutting approaches that coordinate budgets and mechanisms across government agencies and development partners.
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