Restoring natural systems and improving natural resource management practices at the grassroots level are central to a strategy to eliminate poverty. The survival needs of the poor force them to continue to degrade an already degraded environment. Removal of poverty is therefore a pre-requisite for the protection of the environment.
While conventional economic development leads to the elimination of several traditional occupations, the process of sustainable development, guided by the need to protect and conserve the environment, leads to the creation of new jobs and of opportunities for the re-orientation of traditional skills to new occupations.
Women, while continuing to perform their traditional domestic roles’ are increasingly involved in earning livelihoods. In many poor households they are often the principal or the sole breadwinners. A major thrust at the policy level is necessary to ensure equity and justice for them.
Literacy and a basic education are essential for enabling the poor to access the benefits offered by development initiatives and market opportunities. Basic education is therefore a precondition for sustainable development. A sizeable proportion (about 60 per cent according to some estimates) of the population is not integrated into the market economy.
Ensuring the security of their livelihoods is an imperative for sustainable development. With increasing purchasing power, wasteful consumption linked to market driven consumerism is stressing the resource base of developing countries further.
It is important to counter this through education and public awareness. Several traditional practices that are sustainable and environment friendly continue to be a regular part of the lives of people in developing countries.
These need to be encouraged rather than replaced by more ‘modern’ but unsustainable practices and technologies. Development decisions regarding technology and infrastructure are a major determinant of consumption patterns.
It is therefore important to evaluate and make development decisions that structurally lead to a more sustainable society Technologies exist through which substantial reduction in consumption of resources is possible. Efforts to identify, evaluate, introduce and use these technologies must be made.
Scientists have a responsibility of communicating the risks and rewards of a new technology to society at large. Several advancements in environment-friendly and cleaner technologies will help in achieving sustainable development.
Globalisation as it is taking place today is increasing the divide between the rich and the poor. It has to be steered so that it serves not only commercial interests but also the social needs of development.
Global business thrives on, and therefore encourages and imposes, high levels of homogeneity in consumer preferences. On the other hand, for development to be locally appropriate and sustainable, it must be guided by local considerations, which lie in cultural diversity and traditions.
Therefore recognition at the policy level, of the significance of diversity, and the need to preserve it, is an important precondition for sustainable development. In an increasingly globalise economy, developing countries, for want of the appropriate skills, are often at a disadvantage in negotiating and operating multilateral trade agreements.
Regional cooperation for capacity building is therefore necessary to ensure their effective participation in all stages of multilateral trade. Mechanisms to safeguard trade and livelihoods, especially in developing countries, must be evolved and negotiated to make globalisation an effective vehicle of sustainable development.
War and armed conflict are a major threat to sustainable development. It is imperative to evolve effective mechanisms for mediation in such situations and to resolve contentious issues without compromising the larger developmental goals of the conflicting parties.
The role of public health services must give preventive health care equal emphasis as curative health care. People should be empowered through education and awareness to participate in managing preventive health care related to environmental sanitation and hygiene.
Most developing countries are repositories of a rich tradition of natural resource- based health care. This is under threat, on the one hand from modern mainstream medicine, and on the other from the degradation of the natural resource base.
Traditional medicine in combination with modern medicine must be promoted while ensuring conservation of the resource base.
Developing and developed countries should also strive together to strengthen the capacity of their health care systems to deliver basic health services and to reduce environment- related health risks by sharing of health awareness and medical expertise globally.
More and more people at community level are thinking about what is happening to their environment and their living levels. There is need for greater public participation. The local institutions must be involved in developing, promoting, and implementing policies at all levels.
It is good governance that will serve as a driving force for sustainable development. Sustained development is about the future, and we can only think of the future when our present is not in crisis.