Healthy, green ecology vital

A healthy and stable environment is vital for survival of humanity. It matters to all – from the air they breathe, the water they drink, to the way they earn living and feed their families. A clean and safe environment should be seen as a right, not a privilege.

Sustainability is imperative, not a choice. It has to address economic, social and environmental aspects. There has never been a better time than now to embed sustainability into the way in which economies run. Global trends show a growing recognition that sustainability is about economy: opportunities to invest, create jobs, improve people’s health and well-being while reducing violence, terrorism and crime in the society.

The international community set pivotal tracks for sustainability by adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris agreement on climate change, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development – demonstrating a unity of purpose that place us more firmly on the path to sustainable future.

The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world. It is an agreement for the people to end poverty, hunger, inequality and exploitation; an agenda for the planet to reduce pollution, degradation of environment, improving healthy ecosystems, increasing resource efficiency and sustainability; agenda for shared prosperity, peace and partnership. It is rooted in gender equality and respect for the rights of all. Above all, it pledges to leave no one behind.

The 2016 data shows that about one in eight still lived in extreme poverty, nearly 800 million people suffered from hunger, the births of nearly a quarter of children not recorded, 1.1 billion people live without electricity while water scarcity affected more than two billion people.

Fulfilling the basic needs is an essential part of expanding capabilities but is insufficient to enable people to reach their full potential. Identifying those who have been left out of the progress in human development such as the poor, the marginalised and vulnerable groups — including ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, refugees and migrants — and mapping their locations, help in their development by formulating special plans and their implementation.

Poor people and environmental damage are often caught in a downward spiral. Past resource degradation deepens poverty, which forces poor people to deplete resources to survive.

Over-exploitation of natural resources such as land, water, forest etc degrade ecosystems and diminish the services they provide like food, water, pollination and climate regulation. Climate change presents the single biggest threat to development, and its widespread, unprecedented effects disproportionately burden the poorest and the most vulnerable.

The SDG-13 calls for urgent action not only to combat climate change and its impact but also to build resilience in responding to climate-related hazards and natural disasters. It is at the root of violence and sufferings across the world, war over water, fire and floods destroy livelihoods displacing a large number of people. It is the greatest challenge of our time and we must recognise that this is about justice and human rights as much as about environment.

Many developing countries experience both disasters and conflict at the same time. The interaction between the two creates and perpetuates vulnerabilities that place communities at risk, further entrenching poverty and inequality. Disasters are increasing in frequency and intensity. While the number of people affected varies greatly from year to year, an average of 83,000 people died and 211 million were affected annually as a result of natural disasters occurring between 2000 and 2013.
Threat-vulnerability nexus plays a vital role in proving that environment is under real danger.

Ecosystem integrity is crucial for the population‘s sustainable livelihood. Therefore, certain environmental conditions - often resulting from environmental change, “such as pollution depletion, or natural disasters” — can pose an acute threat to security.

Environmental degradations and climate change increase an individual‘s vulnerability. Environment is linked with international security as it becomes evident that national solutions to environmental problems would not be sustainable in the long-run without international cooperation.


Human dignity

Human dignity is inviolable. Let us enable everyone to live a life in dignity. Exclusion breeds violence. Peace can only last where human rights are respected and equity and justice prevail. The drivers of violence are complex and thus call for a multi-pronged approach. In an integrated world, human rights require global justice. Lack of access to finance has been identified as a major constraint to an inclusive growth process.

Financial services can be a bridge out of poverty and vulnerability. Voice and autonomy have become more important, not only in their own right, but also as critical instruments for the empowerment and well — being of those who are farthest behind. Let us not squander this momentum.

Sustainable development is imperative for reducing violence of poverty, hunger and inequality. Urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts would reduce disasters and conflicts killing an average of 83,000 people and affecting 211 million each year. Conservation and sustainable use of marine ecosystem would support over 780 million people at very high risk. Sustainable management and use of terrestrial ecosystems would save 23,000 species of plants, fungi and animals from extinction.

Promoting peaceful and inclusive societies based on respect for human rights, the rule of law and transparent, effective and accountable institutions would facilitate ending of violence within societies and improve human security in personal and community life. Building capacity at all levels would facilitate preventing violence and combat terrorism and crimes.

It is a daunting task to achieve sustainable development with peace and prosperity but now is not the time to falter. The world has the resources, the technology, the expertise and commitment to overcome human deprivations and unsustainability. In spite of heated debates leading to bitter gridlock at various levels, through the rubble the tender shoots of a global consensus are emerging to ensure a sustainable world for future generations. Let us not squander this momentum.

(The writer is president, Utthan: Centre for Sustainable Development & Poverty Alleviation, Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh)

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