WELCOME TO NSCF 2019!
We are so glad you have decided to join us for this amazing event.
Here we have put together a website which will hopefully help you to better understand this year’s theme, Sustainable Communities, and help you to prepare for the forum week worth of discussing and engaging with this very dynamic and extremely important topic.
On this page we have outlined and explained:
some key words and concepts in relation to the theme
some preferred terminology that we will be striving to use at NSCF
the four pillars - social, environmental, economic and governance - into which we have broken down this conversation about sustainability and the development of sustainable communities
Additionally, we have provided you with a collection of further resources for deeper exploration in learning about the theme and about examples of sustainable communities around the globe!
Please feel free to reach out to us with any further questions or concerns you may have in your research! We are always here to support as best we can and assist in your learning!
Happy reading, thinking and discovering! We look forward to meeting you in April!
- Brette, Aspen and Mollie (the theme team!)
As you may have noticed, this site essentially operates as one long page! To navigate this, you can either simply scroll through the entirety of the content, or alternatively utilize the scrolling menu on the right-hand side of the page. Simply click one of the dots to navigate to skip to a new section.
KEY WORDS + CONCEPTS
In this section you can expect to find definitions for a number of words + concepts we're going to be using a lot throughout the site.
We want to stress to you how enormously interconnected you WILL and SHOULD find pretty much everything in this field of research. This interconnectivity is foundational to the discussions and learning we will take on at NSCF and foundational to the kind of resolutions we want to see you writing and passing.
We want you to be looking for these interconnections and hope that you will weave multiple perspectives and narratives into the solutions you engage with. This being said, we encourage you not to be overwhelmed by feelings of “Ahhhh I need to know everything and this relates to everything and everything is so complex and multilayered and ahhhhh, how does my brain fit all of this!” Understanding the world is not at all easy of course, and furthermore, tackling these big issues means tackling the results of so much history on this planet by the minds and actions of billions.
We are not taking on light subject matter here and we acknowledge that, but YAY YOU for being courageous and inspired enough to leap into it. YAY for engaging, daring, delving in and joining us in thinking about and debating these important topics which are so timely, so pressing and so full of potential in the current world, your world, these lives and our collective future!
Do not let interconnectedness of world issues overwhelm you, let it fuel and fire you up in working towards resolutions for solutions as extensive, inclusive and bursting with potential interconnections as the issues that we are tackling.
Made up of 53 member countries, the Commonwealth is an intergovernmental association of states that are, for the most part, former colonies of the United Kingdom. It includes almost all of the UK’s former colonies, the UK itself and, of course, Canada, one of Britain’s former colonies and the host country of this forum for young people.
The Commonwealth’s work includes that of many organizations and initiatives - including several that are entirely youth led! - who take diversely inspiring action to improve people’s lives, protect our global environment and ensure political efficiency and stability for a more peaceful, equitable world. Often described as a ‘family’ of nations and peoples, the Commonwealth encompasses an entire network of institutions and organizations working for democracy, human rights and the rule of law; these latter three values having been formally outlined in the Commonwealth Charter (The Commonwealth, n.d.)
The Commonwealth is the reason we have NSCF, the reason we are coming together for these uplifting conversations in this week of experiencing, adventuring and learning so much!
THE UNITED NATIONS' SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS (SDGs)
A blueprint to achieving a more sustainable future for all life on earth, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (often shortened to “the SDGs”) are a collection of 17 goals laid out by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. Set to be strived for and completed by 2030, these goals are powerful in how they consider such a wide diversity of elements in working towards greater overall sustainability. This makes them highly intersectional and strongly rooted in the multifaceted nature of successful global politics.
Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities speaks most directly, perhaps, to our theme for NSCF 2019, outlining how “There needs to be a future in which cities provide opportunities for all, with access to basic services, energy, housing, transportation and more.” (United Nations Sustainable Development, n.d.). However, we must remember that all of these important goals and their unique focuses are essential to bringing about a more fully sustainable community.
By clicking on the button below, you can read and learn more about the goals as part of your theme prep for NSCF!
“Sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In addition to natural resources, we also need social and economic resources. Sustainability is not just environmentalism. Embedded in most definitions of sustainability we also find concerns for social equity and economic development.”
- McGill University, “What is Sustainability?”
Sustainability is a large and complex topic with so many unique and intersecting facets. In our discussions at NSCF 2019 and beyond, we want you to consider it as a fundamentally intersectional, interconnected concept in which we must always consider a wide variety of factors for a wide variety of solutions.
Urbanisation is the process by which populations become situated more densely in cities instead of living rurally and more spread apart. Today half of the world’s population inhabits urban centres and this is a continuing trend, with urbanisation rates the highest in Asia and with future growth projected to be primarily in this aforementioned continent, as well as across Africa (McGranahan, 2015). These two continents alone include 26 of the Commonwealth’s 53 member states, nearly half of the entire Commonwealth (The Commonwealth, n.d.). And urbanisation is also a major wave sweeping across the rest of the world too! Here in Canada, according to federal statistics, the proportion of Canadians living rurally has been on a steady decline for the past 160 years with the staggering proportion of over 80% of Canadians living in urbanly today (Statistics Canada, 2016).
CASE STUDY: THE GLOBAL FAST FASHION INDUSTRY
In talking about creating a more sustainable fashion industry one might start by talking about how cheap, fast fashion industries create extensive waste and use toxic materials in making products that will soon be destined for landfills. That is environmentally unsustainable for sure!
This cheap nature of the industry also carries over to conditions for workers in factories and how exploitatively unsustainable these conditions are, often killing or disabling workers in short periods of time. Then, one cannot talk about these workers’ rights (or lack thereof) without talking about the patterns of heightened discrimination against women. These abused workers are often primarily women. If these women’s health is unsustainable due to their work, then one might think to propose better education systems and a focus on educating more women to help them have brighter opportunities to lead more safely sustainable lives. Likely, however, schooling is too expensive for these women to sustainably afford.
This would lead to discussions of the larger scale issue of poverty, of how poverty is socially unsustainable and how it is likely a prevalent problem in these women’s community due to a weak and unsustainable local economy. This economy could be unsustainable, in part at least, due to a corrupt and weakened government. This unsustainable government could be weakened, in part at least, due to the financial strain of depleted resources, which environmental destruction and climate change could be causing. This takes us back to the extent of toxic waste being produced by this overall unsustainable and exploitative industry with which we began this thread of thought. (Made in Bangladesh, 2013).
This example is just one possible situation that shows us, in various ways, why sustainability is key and essential to the thriving success of all of these things - environment, society, economy and governance - they are indelibly interconnected.
(A CONTEXTUAL EXAMPLE)
With increased urbanisation also comes the emergence and growing of megacities, cities generally defined as having populations greater than 10 million people (UN Dept of Economic and Social Affairs, 2018). A Review of the Main Challenges to Urban Sustainability in the International Journal of Urban Sustainable Development states that;
“….the rapid rates of urbanisation have led to the growth of megacities of over 10 million in developing countries. In 1975, there were three megacities in the world: Tokyo, New York and Mexico City. In 2005, there were 20 such cities, 16 of which were located in the Global South.”
UN-Habitat estimates that about 45% of the urban population in the Global South live in ‘slum’ households. Slums are often extremely lacking in safe water conditions, any forms of sanitation, safe waste disposal/removal, adequate space, solid construction and privacy/security measures which endanger the already impoverished and vulnerable populations who inhabit them (McGranahan, 2015). Slums are not sustainable in so many ways and yet a recent UN report warns us that;
“Short of drastic action the the world’s slum population will likely increase by 6 million annually to reach nearly 900 million by 2020.”
Slums and the extreme poverty that they embody tie back to economic inequality. The rising levels of that polarising phenomenon can be connected to rising levels of desperation and a rise in slum dweller populations.
“Economic inequality is the unequal distribution of income and opportunity between different groups in society. It is a concern in almost all countries around the world and often people are trapped in poverty with little chance to climb up the social ladder. But, being born into poverty does not automatically mean you stay poor. Education, at all levels, enhancing skills, and training policies can be used alongside social assistance programs to help people out of poverty and to reduce inequality.”
~ IZA World of Labor, “Key Topic: What is Economic Inequality?”
The world is experiencing rising levels of income inequality at a global level, a trend that is a major challenge for sustainability currently and will continue to be a challenge for future populations’ well-being and sustainability. Income inequality means less access and more monopolisation of resources. Less access means fewer resources and opportunities to ensure the well-being of the many, while excess resources are available to the most privileged few. The most acute consequences of unsustainable lifestyles fall on the most vulnerable of populations, harming them unjustly for the unsustainable practices of more economically privileged people. In the Commonwealth and in our Model CHOGM, the idea of economic inequality is taken very seriously and sensitively. Neither details of financing, nor numbers and figures of money are ever brought into discussion or debate at CHOGM. Due to the recognition that the Commonwealth is vastly diverse economically and that colonial histories - in which the Commonwealth is, undeniably, rooted - have impacted economies of each and every Commonwealth country, such details are respectfully refrained from, absolute consensus is required to pass any resolution and the Commonwealth strives for inclusivity, adaptability and a strong focus on fighting rising levels of economic inequality that are destructive of sustainability in the Commonwealth.
According to Merriam Webster, the definition of community is…
1: a unified body of individuals: such as
a: the people with common interests living in a particular area broadly : the area itself the problems of a large community
b: a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society a community of retired persons
From the entirety of the Commonwealth, population 2.4 billion (The Commonwealth, n.d.) to the outport fishing village of Keels, Newfoundland, Canada, population 51 (Statistics Canada, 2016), communities range widely from border-crossing intergovernmental organisations of states, to countries, big and small, to smaller divisions like provinces, to regions, counties, cities, towns, villages, hamlets, neighbourhoods, schools, organised groups and gatherings of people in collective interest and often - but not always - in shared space. In our discussions, we will be inclusive of communities big, small and of different kinds, but your focus should be most specifically rooted in community development oriented initiatives for greater sustainability. Be sure to consider community as an interconnected whole. For example: is your resolution building greater sustainability in one part of community while causing something unsustainable to happen in another way? We want you to consider sustainable community development strategies that are transferable between unique communities, strategies that address a common challenge and yet are adaptable and favourable to success considering the resources, social realities and spaces of very different places. This is the kind of strategizing we hope you extend beyond the realm of the country you represent, beyond the realm of your country’s communities and to being inclusive and considerate of all kinds of communities from across the vast and diverse Commonwealth.
UN SDG #11 - SUSTAINABLE
CITIES AND COMMUNITIES
According to a UN data booklet titled The World’s Cities in 2018:
“By 2030, urban areas are projected to house 60 percent of people globally and one in every three people will live in cities with at least half a million inhabitants. Understanding the key trends in urbanization likely to unfold over the coming years is crucial to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including Sustainable Development Goal 11, to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.”
Indeed this is true, for cities have become home to so much of the world’s population and, it seems, will only become more of so. Moreover, as the aforementioned International Journal of Urban Sustainable Development ‘s Review of the Main Challenges to Urban Sustainability tells us;
“Cities are by far the largest contributors to GHG* emissions. They consume 75% of the world's resources and produce 80% of CO2 emissions (UN-Habitat 2005, UN-Habitat. Financing urban shelter: global report on human settlements, London: Earthscan. [Google Scholar]). It is, therefore, at the city level that greatest efforts must be concentrated to reduce GHG emissions and tackle pressures of climate change.”
*GHG stands for greenhouse gases, heat trapping gases and the gases whose presence and prevalence are causing climate change.
If cities are communities that house and will house the majority of the population and are the geographical source points for the majority of GHG emissions, then they are a key point of focus we must study and work with in writing resolutions to build more sustainable communities.
Development work, which inherently involves complex power dynamics and relations between many different types of countries, is incredibly nuanced, meaning there are a lot of grey areas, and it's nearly impossible to say any given solution, term, or issue is entirely good or bad.
In the Commonwealth and in our Model Commonwealth Head of Governments Meeting (CHOGM), the idea of economic inequality is taken very seriously and very sensitively. Neither details of financing, nor numbers and figures of money are ever brought into discussion or debate in CHOGM. Due to the recognition that the Commonwealth is vastly diverse economically and that colonial histories - in which the Commonwealth is, undeniably, rooted - have impacted economies of each and every Commonwealth country, such details are respectfully refrained from, absolute consensus is required to pass any resolution and the Commonwealth strives for inclusivity, adaptability and a strong focus on fighting against rising levels of economic inequality that are destructive of sustainability in the Commonwealth.
That said, there are some terms within the realm of development that have been used in the past that are avoided now within development studies and practice. Mostly, these terms are no longer in use because of how they intrinsically perpetuate inter-country power dynamics and dependencies.
Below, we have outlined several groups of terms in order to clarify which ones we will be using and which ones we will be avoiding at NSCF, along with justifications for each.
THE "THIRD WORLD" AND THE "FIRST WORLD"
These terms are outdated to a global political landscape that, while we can see its relevance to our world today, no longer exists in the same way. These terms stem back to the Cold War era, and even further back to the French Revolution and the “tiers monde” or the “Third Estate,” the poorest portion of French society at the time. During the Cold War, the so called “First World” was the pro-capitalist, US driven, Western bloc and the pro-communist Soviet/Eastern European was the so called “Second World.” The so called “Third World” was the non-aligned movement, made up of many resource deprived former colonies, still reeling from the violent and exploitative legacy of colonialism and holding no great interest in these intense ideological struggles. This “Third World” was often manipulated into alignment by the other two bloc preying on “Third World” vulnerability. Created by and boosting the ego of the so called “First World,” these terms obviously place them on a top tier over their enemies the “Second World” and their former colonies, the “Third World” which they continued to grossly manipulate and exploit for their own interests (Greene, 1980).
From this historical context, we conclude that the terms “First” and “Third World” are rooted in colonial legacy, domination politics, and a tiered concept of the world that ranks and divides countries when our focus needs to be in politics of greater equality and more collaboration.
"DEVELOPING" AND "DEVELOPED"
These terms are problematic in how they suggest that development is something with an end goal and that so called “developed” countries have attained this non-existent state of perfect development while so called “developing” states are striving to copy them in achieving it for themselves. Development is an ongoing process with no specific end and it needs to be ever adaptable, conscious and in-tune in order to truly be sustainable. Indeed, some of the richest, most highly industrialised, highly consumptive and most so called “developed” countries have some of the absolutely most unsustainable practices that are leading causes in climate change, worldwide resource deprivation and directly exploit and hinder positive growth and development for so called “developing” countries. If all countries consumed at the levels that so called “developed” countries do, the already enormous strain on our natural environment would grow exponentially.
Assuming these terms does not critically, open-mindedly look at how we can best sustainably develop. They further an “us” and “them” narrative and unjust oversimplifications of countries being “good” or “bad,” “rich” or “poor,” “successful” or “unsuccessful,” “stable” or “struggling.” These terms feed hegemony while legitimising exploitation and neo-colonial practices.
"GLOBAL SOUTH" AND "GLOBAL NORTH"
These terms, while not perfect, are those that we will be encouraging you to use when you feel the need to make these distinctions in your discussion and debate at NSCF and beyond.
Generally accepted as the least divisive, the less wrought with discrimination and injustice as the above two examples are, Global North and Global South might be best we currently have to describe the highly unequal distribution of wealth across our global political landscape. The north of the world, generally, is, in large part, where many of the world’s richest economies lie and the south half where many of the poorest can be found. This being said, more than half of the continent of Africa - where most all countries still face the very dire economic consequences of brutal colonial and continuing neo-colonial exploitation - is located in the northern hemisphere while the world’s 9th largest economy in 2018 - Brazil (World Economic Forum, 2018) - is located primarily in the southern hemisphere. Really, perhaps the imagined line when using this terminology, would be more of the northern third of the hemisphere and the southern two thirds, however, no simple lines can be drawn that will ever adequately sum up the complexities of global economics. Regardless of such details, irrelevant to the larger discussion to be had here, the terms Global North and Global South speak to the historically and presently true reality of mainly northern based economic thriving and hegemony, too often built at the expense of more southern based societies, peoples and economies.
Here, we'll get into the four pillars of this year's forum theme of Sustainable Communities. These pillars are social, environmental, economic, and governmental.
Click on any of the word boxes below to be taken to its corresponding pillars section, where you can find further information about that specific pillar - including case studies, past-present-future context, and how to incorporate it into this year's NSCF.
PILLAR 1: SOCIAL
The social pillar covers how truly sustainable development is rooted in a model of sustainably structured society. This looks like a society where all members of it have their needs adequately met and have spaces to grow, thrive, and contribute their passions, perspectives and strengths back into it.
From ready access to education to fully inclusive social service provision and increased empowerment for marginalised persons and groups, the social pillar is about how the holistic well-being and fulfilled potential of people is absolutely fundamental to the sustainability of their community.
Societies hold a key role in the success of the other pillars of sustainable communities. They need to become better informed, mobilised into action and united in their cooperation to engage and advocate in governance, to build sustainable economic models based on needs and expertise and, perhaps most fundamentally, to coordinate environmental protection upon which their societal well-being depends.
The University of Calgary was named 2018 Campus of the Year by Fairtrade Canada at the Canadian Fairtrade awards. These awards are given to recognize sustainable leadership of communities and campuses across the country. They are based upon the availability, engagement, education, purchasing policies and innovative initiatives about Fairtrade that these spaces are taking on. This example demonstrates social sustainability in showing how spaces of society can become more conscious of exploitative trade practices that exist and have the direct, accessible ability to make consumption choices to ensure greater social justice and equity for the societies from which their products are made possible (University of Calgary, 2019).
The Barefoot College, located in the village of Tilonia, Rajasthan, India works for sustainable community development through programming that educates participating Indian villages - and primarily, women from these communities - to install, build and repair their village’s own solar energy systems and water pumps. Additionally, the centre has adapted children’s academic curriculum for greater relevance to rural life, created an enrichment program specifically focused on female entrepreneurship and they provide training and local services in several healthcare sectors. Collaborating to welcome participation from some African and Fijian villages, construction of the same concept is underway in Fiji now too. Rooted in nurturing the basic societal need for relevant education, increased access and female engagement, the Barefoot College builds human capacity for more sustainable community development (The Barefoot College, 2019).
PILLAR 2: ENVIRONMENTAL
Earth’s environment is the basis of all communities. As the sole provider of the space and resources that communities are built upon, humbling recognition and profound respect for the environment’s role in community are fundamental to sustainability.
Environmentally sustainable communities know that the earth’s resources are finite. They work creatively and consciously to minimise human environmental impacts, adapt closed systems consumption and strive for greater overall energy efficiency. If environmental protection, sensitivity and sustainability are not prioritised, the results are drastically destructive to community wellbeing, especially to the most vulnerable of community members. Today, we see climate change catastrophes and resource deprivation happening at alarming rates. These complex issues can, in large part, be tied back to unsustainable communities and a lack of coordinated community, and cross community, action that truly works for environmental sustainability.
There is no hope nor basis for the other three pillars of community without sustainable approaches to our interactions with and reliance upon the natural environment we call home.
Rwanda’s Green Fund is a ground-breaking environment and climate change investment fund. It is the engine of green growth in Rwanda and serves as an example for what’s possible - in Africa and around the world. The fund invests in the best public and private projects that have the potential for transformative change and that align with Rwanda’s commitment to building a strong green economy. The Green Fund also provides expert technical assistance to ensure the success of its investments.” - FONERWA, For a Green & Resilient Rwanda. Through what is locally known as FONERWA, Rwanda has approved 42 projects in 20 diversely holistic focus areas that increase access and well-being for Rwandans facing the effects of climate change, sustainably support the thriving of a Rwandan economy and, at its core, protect and nurture the rich and radiant natural environment of Rwanda (Government of Rwanda, 2019).
Opening the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre in collaboration with higher education institutions from around the world, Jamaica is establishing itself as global leader in building systems management approaches to climate change resilience. Focussing on sustainable tourism practices on the whole as well as how to build better resilience against large scale storms and environmental changes, these are key topics and concerns for many small island states where tourism is so central to the economy and vulnerability to climate change is so high. This centre is focused on developing research, professional capacity and innovative techniques as well as enhanced collaboration to be able to share findings, best practices and jointly, well communicated, real time collaboration in protecting the sustainability of these communities’ environments at all times (Caribbean Journal, n.d.).
PILLAR 3: ECONOMIC
The economic pillar covers how sustainable economies help foster stable, healthy spaces for sustainable communities. Economies must place just and equal valuation on all when considering human beings and aspects of the environment from which to build their growth.
Models of exploitative yet so called “successful” economies have too long been guilty of diverting real costs of production to their own benefit. Many facets of mainstream economy rapidly and brutally extract raw material resources while simultaneously expelling highly toxic and extensive pollution into that environment upon which they depend. This clearly demonstrates their thoughtless disregard for sustainability.
Violating human rights, grossly underpaying workers, and failing to adequately honour and prioritise the natural environment, such economic processes only further inequality and weaken inclusivity and overall sustainability. Economies rooted in a greater sense of sustainability possess more material resources and creative human energy to be funnelled into holistic community betterment.
In early 2019 New Zealand’s Massey University was granted $400,000 from the government’s Provincial Growth Fund to help establish a Rural Innovation Lab in the Manawatu-Whanganui region. This is a region dominated by agriculture and the growth lab will directly engage farmers and growers to foster new ideas, optimise sustainable land use and experiment with various emerging techniques that mitigate effects of climate change. With a specific focus on rural needs and set up at Massey’s Palmerston North campus, a wealth of knowledge, experience and locally accessible understanding will be brought together through this project. Working to support New Zealand’s agricultural future, this Rural Innovation Lab is an exciting example of sensitive and streamlined focus on a local economy’s needs can lend to the sustainability of its future and through that the future of the entire regional community (Massey University, 2019).
The Seychelles government has created a Blue Economy Strategic Framework and Roadmap in collaboration with Commonwealth experts in the field of ocean and natural resources management. In establishing this exciting roadmap - putting the goals of the Commonwealth Blue Charter into concrete, Seychelles specific planning - the country and Commonwealth communities brought together varied perspectives from energy, tourism, trade, entrepreneurship, fisheries, ocean transport economic sectors and more to build the most comprehensive and conceivable plan considering the local economy’s supply and demand. As this example demonstrates, economically sustainable community development can draw from the knowledge and resources of intergovernmental bodies of which they are a part to build the most thriving possible economy in the context of their needs and challenges (The Commonwealth, 2018).
PILLAR 4: GOVERNANCE
Governance plays an immensely important role in the success of community sustainability. Simultaneously serving people, their societal well-being and the natural realm of the environment upon which the entire future of all earthly life depends, good governance is multifaceted and well rounded.
It holds to the potential to provide inclusive and empowering social services. It can lead forward thoughtful creation and enforcement of environmental policy. It has the ability to make informed investments in sustainable economic potential.
To achieve these things, governance needs to be driven by a diverse set of perspectives and an interconnected approach to understanding. Including free, fair and frequent elections, rule of law, human rights protective measures and promotion of democracy, good governance is essential to the peace, security and sustainability of the Commonwealth as a collective entity.
THE UNITED KINGDOM
The city of London in the United Kingdom has combined sectors that are typically separated in municipal governance. These include such sectors as traffic control, public transit, taxi service, railways, and road management. In this way, London is making a holistic effort to understand how improving all of these services together can create a more sustainable city, with regards to accessible transportation for Londoners as well as overall maximised environmental protection. Creative new approaches to governance allow us to be open minded, flexible and conducive in efforts to build more sustainable communities (Haughton and Hunter, 2003).
Bangladesh’s Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives alongside the country’s Efficient and Accountable Local Governance (EALG) project hosted a Local Governance Issues workshop March, 2019. This brought together young people from public universities across the country whose research on local governance issues has been supported through grant money by this national strategy. Greater youth participation in Bangladesh’s local governance was called upon as key to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals. When young academics are involved and supported in understanding and building better systems of local community governance, they are more likely to stay, invest and thrive in these more sustainable spaces they are a part of helping to create (Dhaka Tribune, 2019).
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