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Promoting Sustainability in Developing Countries

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“When you are poor, environmental conservation is a luxury that you cannot afford,”
David Woollcombe – Peace Child International


Environmental and developmental issues have long been considered as opposing parties, but the global society of the present is aware that development depends on resources, which in turn depend on the environment. This is why development has a direct connection to taking care of the environment. The concept of sustainable development was introduced for the first time in the late 1980’s as a concept of development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” and from that first definition the world has been working on becoming more sustainable. But learning to use resources in a sustainable manner can often require a substantial amount of money—money that most of the world’s population does not have. In developing nations, the main concern for much of the population is hunger, and when people are starving, they do not care about conservation of biodiversity or forests, but instead are concerned with basic survival. From this perspective, it is evident why many people say that poverty is the greatest enemy, the greatest polluter of the environment. For that reason, it is an everyday challenge to try to insert sustainable policies in developing countries around the world.
It is undoubtedly necessary that the developed countries take the lead in this campaign for a greener world, and this translates into the complicated task of bringing prosperity to the impoverished by maintaining the natural world around them. In order to meet this challenge according to Agenda 21 of the Rio de Janeiro Convention, nations around the world decided to “establish a new global partnership. This partnership commits all States to engage in a continuous and constructive dialogue, inspired by the need to achieve a more efficient and equitable world economy, keeping in view the increasing interdependence of the community of nations and that sustainable development should become a priority item on the agenda of the international community. It is recognized that, for the success of this new partnership, it is important to overcome confrontation and to foster a climate of genuine cooperation and solidarity. It is equally important to strengthen national and international policies and multinational cooperation to adapt to the new realities”.
In this extensive argument and use of the concept since 1987, there has generally been recognition of three aspects of sustainable development:
• Economic: An economically sustainable system must be able to produce goods and services on a continuing basis, to maintain manageable levels of government and external debt, and to avoid extreme sectoral imbalances which damage agricultural or industrial production.
• Environmental: An environmentally sustainable system must maintain a stable resource base, avoiding over-exploitation of renewable resource systems or environmental sink functions, and depleting non-renewable resources only to the extent that investment is made in adequate substitutes. This includes maintenance of biodiversity, atmospheric stability, and other ecosystem functions not ordinarily classed as economic resources.
• Equity: A socially sustainable system must achieve distributional equity, adequate provision of social services including health and education, gender equity, and political accountability and participation.
Certainly, these elements of sustainable development introduce many potential complications to the original simple definition. The goals expressed are multidimensional, raising the issue of how to balance objectives and how to judge successes or failures. For example, what if provision of enough and adequate food and water supplies appear to require changes in land use which will decrease biodiversity? What if non-polluting energy sources are more expensive, thus increasing the burden on the poor, for whom they represent a larger proportion of daily expenditure? Which goal will take precedence?
In this matter technology transfer has emerged as one of the necessary solutions. Successful transfer of appropriate technologies that contribute to sustainable development is essential to facilitating national and community development and enhancing sustainability, especially in about developing countries and countries with economies in transition. Recognizing this, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development also specifically mentions in Chapter 34 that “States should cooperate . . . by enhancing the development, adaptation, diffusion and transfer of technologies, including new and innovative technologies.”

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