Allow the poor to define their future | Olav Kjørven

02 Jan 2012

  For growth to be inclusive, it must be sustainable and equitable. Photo: UNDP

Over one billion of us live without many of the basics that the other six billion take as given. In the least-developed countries, conflict, disaster and broader human insecurity impose structural limits on efforts to move from crisis to risk reduction and from growth to sustained development. Significant and sustained progress will require faster and better efforts. Beyond the critical issues of 'carbon footprints', 'low-carbon development',' green economy' and the economics behind saving the planet, we must draw attention back to the continuing challenge of ensuring that growth and development deliver for and with the poor and vulnerable. In its many forms - energy poverty, lack of access to water and sanitation, malnutrition or insecure access to food and lack of access to education and health - the scale and scope of global deprivation call current development policy and practice into question.

How can we achieve sustainable development?               

“For growth to be inclusive, it must be sustained and sustainable and that, for it to be sustained and sustainable, it must also be equitable", concludes the special issue of the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) Poverty in Focus magazine (pdf).  Growth, gender, poverty and the environment can no longer be treated as loosely connected components of development. Recognising their interdependence is at the core of improved and sustained development for all.

In view of the high expectations placed on the Rio+20 meeting, let us remind ourselves that 'social sustainability' will be built on the foundations of productive and social inclusion. Too often, the focus has fallen largely on productive inclusion, with limited effort to address the structural factors that cause and sustain exclusion and marginalisation, be they related to gender, political processes, property rights for the poor and so on.

Inclusive development will need to leverage 'social technologies' such as political innovations and true engagement, making a clear case for a strong, representative State and the complementary roles of civil society and the private sector in defining and achieving socially sustainable development.

Growth, equity and sustainability are mutually compatible, if efforts are given enough time and resources, are responsive to underlying structural causes and encourage the vigorous participation of the poor, allowing them to define their futures. What follows illuminates the complexity of inclusiveness as a development outcome and highlights bold action in and by the Global South. Ours is an age of political convulsions, global economic shifts, inexorable climatic change and stubborn poverty. Informed and catalytic strategies are needed now more than ever before.

Talk to us: What does sustainable development mean to you?

Click here for the original article posted on Al Jazeera in full length.

UNDP Around the world