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Topic 2- Sustainable Development






What is Sustainable Development ?

"Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

Sustainable Development stands for meeting the needs of present generations without jeopardizing the ability of futures generations to meet their own needs – in other words, a better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come. It offers a vision of progress that integrates immediate and longer-term objectives, local and global action, and regards social, economic and environmental issues as inseparable and interdependent components of human progress.
Sustainable development will not be brought about by policies only: it must be taken up by society at large as a principle guiding the many choices each citizen makes every day, as well as the big political and economic decisions that have. This requires profound changes in thinking, in economic and social structures and in consumption and production patterns.

So is it all just about the environment?

Living within our environmental limits is one of the central principles of sustainable development. One implication of not doing so is climate change.
But the focus of sustainable development is far broader than just the environment. It's also about ensuring a strong, healthy and just society. This means meeting the diverse needs of all people in existing and future communities, promoting personal wellbeing, social cohesion and inclusion, and creating equal opportunity.

Nature ?

Development is not synonymous with growth but is a much wider and encompassing concept. To avoid this issue, in this paper sustainable development is understood to mean sustainable growth, and sustainable growth is a growth path that allows future generations to enjoy at least as much welfare as the current generation. In other words, a growth path is sustainable if it does not entail future decreases in welfare. To define optimal growth an objective function that ranks different growth paths is required. In neoclassical growth theory this function is usually a present value utility function that weighs utility levels at different moments in time by a discount factor. Since the discount factor becomes smaller for periods further into the future it is possible to have large welfare costs in the distant future that, once discounted, are not very significant. This possibility violates the ethical rule of intergenerational equity and is the reason why sustainable growth has gained so much attention lately. However, the present value utility function is not the only possible objective function to use in calculating an optimal growth path. If instead, the objective function is of a Max-Min type where the objective is to maximize the utility of the least well off generation then the "optimal" growth path will be sustainable. In that case all generations should have the same consumption level per capita. A key concept for understanding sustainable development is "economic income".income is the maximum amount a country can consume in the present period and expect to consume the same amount in the future. Income is then sustainable by definition. Therefore the relevant question when assessing the sustainability of a growth path is whether economic growth is measuring true income growth.

Finding Ways in 2015

The year 2015 is shaping up to be a momentous one. In September, world leaders will meet at the United Nations in New York to adopt a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a roadmap for social, environmental and economic progress that will re-define development for the next decade and beyond. This is a promising opportunity to build a true charter for the future of people and the planet, and many people have worked tirelessly to make it a reality. The current draft document circulated by the UN contains 17 goals and 169 targets, trying to tackle an enormous array of global challenges — including poverty, inequality, climate change, and the ongoing destruction of our fragile ecosystems.

The SDGs will replace the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals, which expire in 2015, and set the international development agenda for the next 15 years. For the first time ever, the goals could offer new transparency and accountability in how the world uses its water resources. Goal 6 of the proposed SDGs has specific targets related to sustainable and efficient water use, water and sanitation, water quality and protection of critical natural infrastructure.

Beyond a dedicated goal on water, the issue is also mainstreamed across the 17 goals – in goal 3 on health, goal 11 on cities, goal 12 on sustainable consumption and production and goal 15 on terrestrial ecosystems.  These targets will focus political attention, resources and stakeholders on water management more than ever before.

This fall, the international community will finalise the SDGs and the metrics to measure and track water use at a country level. These targets could help hold countries accountable for better water management. Importantly, the SDGs would apply to both developed and developing countries, forcing all countries to “walk the talk.”

An unprecedented opportunity

We can move from a picture of frightening scarcity, uncertainty and competition to one of abundance. Strategies to reduce water stress and use water more efficiently have been successfully applied by countries on virtually every continent. Awareness drives action, and transparency drives accountability.


The international consensus embedded in the new SDGs could be a game-changer. While challenging to implement, the new SDGs could bring unprecedented action to mitigate the world’s water demand and supply crises. And done well, they will foster growth, reduce poverty and build resilient ecosystems – delivering a more sustainable future.

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