Sustainable Development and Inclusive Growth must be on the agenda of government by effectively addressing the three main pillars: economic, environmental, and social. These three pillars are informally referred to as people, planet, and profits.
It is essential to understand that the implementation of sustainable development is not limited to government. Inclusive growth must be a joint commitment of business, civil society, international and local donor organizations, and of course the national and local governments.
But let’s go one step further: the successful implementation of the three pillars—people, planet, profits—also hinges on communities or societies that want to pursue sustainability.
The following six principles of sustainability can help a community ensure that its social, economic, and environmental systems are well integrated and will endure:
Maintain and, if possible, enhance, its resident’s quality of life
Quality of life or livability differs from community to community. It has many components: income, education, health care, housing, employment, legal rights on the one hand; exposure to crime, pollution, disease, disaster, and other risks on the other. Each locality must define and plan for the quality of life it wants and believes it can achieve, for now and for future generations. And this applies to rural and urban communities. In addition to reducing poverty, it is also important to amplify the resilience of Filipinos. Bringing poor people just above the poverty line may not be enough if they can easily be pushed back below it if another crisis hits.
Enhance local economic vitality
A viable local economy is essential to sustainability. This includes job opportunities, the provision of infrastructure and services, and a suitable business climate. A sustainable economy is also diversified, so that it is not easily disrupted by internal or external events or disasters. Especially in the rural environment, the introduction of agricultural supply chains is essential, a clear area where big business can help develop sustainable agriculture by taking the middle-man out.
Promote social and intergenerational equity
A sustainable community’s resources and opportunities are available to everyone, regardless of ethnicity, age, gender, cultural background, religion, or other characteristics. Further, a sustainable community does not deplete its resources, destroy natural systems, or pass along unnecessary hazards to its great-great-grandchildren. Again, looking at the agricultural sector, we must make efforts to keep the children on their farms, providing technology and finance for them and helping them to see opportunities in the agri supply chain, by avoiding the detrimental influence of “middlemen.”
Maintain and, if possible, enhance, the quality of the environment
A sustainable community sees itself as existing within a physical environment and natural ecosystem and tries to find ways to co-exist with that environment. It does its part by avoiding unnecessary degradation of the air, oceans, fresh water, and other natural systems. It tries to replace detrimental practices with those that allow ecosystems to continuously renew themselves. In some cases, this means simply protecting what is already there by finding ways to redirect human activities and development into less sensitive areas. But a community may need to take action to reclaim, restore, or rehabilitate an already-damaged ecosystem. The vision of a Blue Philippines carries the need to protect the environment of fishermen.
Incorporate disaster resilience and mitigation into its decisions and actions
After the recent flooding in many parts of Luzon, we must understand that a community is resilient in the face of inevitable natural disasters like typhoons, earthquakes, floods, and drought if it takes steps to ensure that such events cause as little damage as possible, that productivity is only minimally interrupted, and that quality of life remains at (or quickly returns to) high levels. A disaster-resilient community further takes responsibility for the risks it faces and, to the extent possible, is self-reliant. Part of the process is to introduce insurance (life and non-life) to poor communities.
Use a consensus-building, participatory process when making decisions
Participatory processes are vital to community sustainability. Such a process engages all the people who have a stake in the outcome of the decision being contemplated. It encourages the identification of concerns and issues, promotes the wide generation of ideas for dealing with those concerns, and helps those involved find a way to reach agreement about solutions. It results in the production and dissemination of important, relevant information, fosters a sense of community, produces ideas that may not have been considered otherwise, and engenders a sense of ownership on the part of the community for the final decision.
As mentioned above, there is the need of government (national and local) to work closely with business, civil society, and communities in achieving the changes needed to create sustainable development and inclusive growth. And the time to do this is NOW! In this context, it is good to see that more than 100 Philippine mayors gathered the other day to push their good governance drive and, vowing to uphold the rule of law, human rights, and start an anti-corruption campaign!
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