By 2050, the UN predicts the global population will be over 9 billion. This explosive population growth will see the addition of nearly 2 billion people in just 32 years. The impacts will be enormous. We will need more food and water, our consumption of natural resources will increase, there will be more young people looking for work.
The world is also changing around us. For the first time in human history more than half of our planet is urban. We have become a planet of cities, teeming with wealth and opportunity, but also inequality and squalor. We drag nets through our oceans, but increasingly those nets are coming up empty. People are looking for work and finding a global economy that has left them behind. As humanity moves forward, to 2050 and beyond, we must consider the impacts that our actions have on our planet. We must develop sustainably.
This year's theme is broken into four interrelated pillars around sustainable development. Only through the incorporation of each pillar can the world sustain itself and its future generations.
Sustainable Communities - Planning for 9 billion in an increasingly urbanized world.
Environmental Sustainability - Feeding 9 billion without destroying the environment.
Economic Sustainability- Employing and engaging 9 billion in a changing economy.
Sustainable Governance - Leading 9 billion.
To begin exploring these concepts, click on one of the following images and jump to a secton. Continuously navigate the site using the anchor menu sidebar.
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More About the Commmonwealth
Click an Image to Jump to one of the four pillars
Who is the Commonwealth?
53 incredibly diverse equal and sovereign states spanning five regions make up the Commonwealths members. For detailed information on these states, visit the link below.
Planning for 9 billion in an increasingly urbanized world.
Urbanization: The process increasing the share of population in urban areas
Urban: Generally, “a concentration of population at a high density” (Statistics Canada 2011). But the term is defined differently by different countries. Canada’s definition requires over 1000 people (Statistics Canada 2011). While India’s requires over 5000 (Census of India 2011).
A Note: Urban can be defined numerically, but also as a state of mind and lifestyle. It can encompass the concentration of business and goods, services, and governmental institutions.
Rural: Variable but generally those living outside urban areas.
Megacity: A city with a population of over 10 million.
Demographics: Statistical data relating to the population and particular groups within it.
Ecological Footprint: The impact of a person or community on the environment, expressed as the amount of land required to sustain their use of natural resources.
Smart City: A broad and hard to define concept. Generally, a city that collects data from citizens and digital infrastructure. It uses this data to manage the city more efficiently and distribute resources more effectively. Because the term is hard to define, learn more here
*Definitions provided by Merriam Webster dictionary unless otherwise noted
Introduction and Outline
In 2008 a fundamental and radical shift world occurred in population demographics.For the first time in history, urban populations exceeded rural ones (UN, 2014). The change was subtle but significant. The increasing urbanization of the global population is concentrating people and all of their problems. Garbage and waste, pollution and traffic congestion, technology and income inequality.
A sustainable community is one that is economically, environmentally, and socially healthy and resilient (Institute for sustainable communities, 2018). It incorporates all other pillars of this theme but focuses on urban planning. Communities need to be designed around sustaining large numbers of people in concentrated spaces, requiring a focus on urban planning and sustainability.
This pillar will first illustrate the context of urbanization and the context of the challenge it poses to the development of sustainable communities. It will then provide a focused look at some case studies of these problems, and examine some potential solutions that you can employ in resolution building.
This section recognizes that it has an urban focus, and addresses that flaw in two ways. First, the problems described in this section are told in the context of an urbanizing world to communicate a message about the problems we face. Readers should consider how these issues apply to a rural context. Consider how problems like infrastructure access and waste management impact rural communities Is it the same? How is it different? Using the information gleaned from this section one can apply solutions that help rural and urban actors, we leave that exploration up to you. Second, you will soon explore further how urbanization is a growing force of influence across the Commonwealth and is thus worth considering for every country.
The Context of Urbanization
Having surpassed the 50% urban threshold, Earth has become a planet of cities, and those cities are still growing in number and in size.
By 2050 there will be 9 billion people on the planet. This, combined with urbanization, will lead to 2.5 billion more people living in cities, 66% of the global population.
This growth will occur most rapidly in Africa and Asia, where 90% of this urban growth is to be concentrated.
The rural population of the world is expected to reach its peak in a few years and begin to decline past 2020.
The bulk of this rural population will remain in Asia and Africa, despite higher rates of urbanization
Latin and North America, the Caribbean, and Europe are already characterized as highly urban. In some places populations will be up to 80% urban by 2050.
Data: United Nations World Urbanization Prospects (2014)
So urbanization is making cities bigger and more numerous, let’s look at that a little more in depth.
In 1990 there were ten megacities. They had a combined population of 153 million people, less than 7% of the global population.
In 2014 there were 28 megacities, with a combined population of 453 million or 12% of the global population.
Most megacities and large cities are located in the global South. India is projected to have seven megacities by 2030, Africa will add another three: One in South Africa, one in Angola, and one in Tanzania.
Data: United Nations World Urbanization Prospects (2014)
Urbanization: A Challenge to Sustainable Communities
Concentrating thousands of people in a small area means that they cannot live off of the resources available to them, vital resources must be brought in, and waste must be taken out. People need transportation, water, food, and luxury items. Beyond essential resources, cities are a hub of consumerism and the impacts of this consumption are felt inside and out of cities. One can conclude, therefore, that as urbanization increases the share of people living in cities there will be increased strain on the world's resources. This section will now examine some of the issues that face sustainable communities. Despite a particular focus on the urban environment, readers should notice that cities cannot exist sustainably on their own, and sustainable communities must incorporate broader sustainable development.
“The global effort for sustainability will be won, or lost, in the world’s cities.”
(Global Footprint Network, 2018).
Examining ecological footprints is an effective way to measure the sustainability of cities. If we examine the ecological footprint of urban areas, we find that it is much higher than rural areas and even national averages. Many major cities are above the national average ecological footprint.
Consider the following mental experiment:
“First, imagine what would happen to any modern city as defined by its political boundaries if it were enclosed in a glass or plastic hemisphere completely closed to material flows. This means that the human system so contained would be able to depend only on whatever remnant ecosystems were initially trapped within the hemisphere. It is obvious to most people that the city would cease to function, and its inhabitants would perish within a few days. The population and economy contained by the capsule would have been cut off from both vital resources and essential waste sinks leaving it to starve and suffocate at the same time.” (Rees & Wackernagel, 2017)
Building Sustainable Communities:
Challenges and Solutions
Use this section as a guide to identify key issues around sustainable communities. Some ideas will be covered extensively, and others touched on more briefly. Remember that the best solutions encompass addressing multiple issues. Be creative and apply the knowledge in this section to your own ideas, country, and resolutions.
Pollution & Waste (coming soon)
Urban Planning Solutions
A sustainable community is one that is economically, environmentally, and socially healthy and resilient (Institute for sustainable communities, 2018).
The biggest risks facing cities -- and some solutions. Ted Talk by Robert Muggah
"Cities are the most extraordinary experiment in social engineering that we humans have ever come up with. If you live in a city, and even if you live in a slum -- which 20 percent of the world's urban population does -- you're likely to be healthier, wealthier, better educated and live longer than your country cousins. There's a reason why three million people are moving to cities every single week. Cities are where the future happens first. They're open, they're creative, they're dynamic, they're democratic, they're cosmopolitan, they're sexy."
"But cities have a dark side. They take up just three percent of the world's surface area, but they account for more than 75 percent of our energy consumption, and they emit 80 percent of our greenhouse gases... In Brazil, where I live, we've got 25 of the 50 most homicidal cities on the planet. And 1/4 of our cities have chronic water shortages - and this, in a country with 20 percent of the known water reserves."-Robert Muggah
Challenge 1: Consumption: The Input Side of the Ecological Footprint
Let’s explore the challenge that consumption poses to making communities sustainable. Go back to that idea of the dome coming in around the city. Not a real concept right? What if fuel prices increase by 10% overnight? What happens to the cost of goods? What if there is a drought and water starts to run dry? These kinds of supply shocks can cause massive disruption. A resilient community can respond to these shocks, but to do so we must acknowledge and examine the role that consumption plays in sustainability. The fragility of cities in your country can be examined in the interactive map linked in a button above. And here.
Cities consume lots of water. Issues of infrastructure and access are important factors in sustainable use of water resources. Consider once more the supply shocks we discussed earlier and what it means to be resilient. With water, the future is more variable and less dependable. According to the UN, water shortages could affect five billion people by 2050. (Watts, 2018). As climate change increases the variability of rainfall, causing droughts in some regions and floods in others, cities must become resilient and implement sustainable water practices to survive. Infrastructure around sanitation and other water uses are also vital to urban and rural life.
Day Zero: Cape Town Runs Dry
In Capetown, South Africa, water is running out. Day zero is approaching, the day when city officials will be forced to turn off the taps for all but essential services. Though the date has been pushed back; the situation is a case study for how cities are at risk.
Click the water drops for more resources,
like this link to view water footprints by country.
"The overriding story of the coming decade is going to be about how well our institutions deal with the increased rate of change." - Geoff Dabelko
How Could This Happen?
The National Geographic article linked to the photo on the right explains "Why Cape Town Is Running Out of Water, and Who’s Next." Here are some highlights:
"The fundamental problem is the kind of lifestyle we're living. There's almost a sense of entitlement that we have a right to consume as much as we want."
At the same time, as with Mexico City or Jakarta, infrastructure is often inadequate. Water management is unsanitary, leaky, polluted by heavy metals, or not sufficient to deliver enough supply to support demand. "It's simply not up to the task,"
Explore these ideas:
Government: Regulate water usage, develop infrastructure, inform citizens
Individuals: Limit water usage, change the culture of consumption
Technology; new water supply sources and conservation methods
Cities consume energy at an enormous rate. They consume about 75 percent of global primary energy and emit between 50 and 60 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gases (UN Habitat, 2012).
Buildings consume energy when they are constructed and during their lifetimes. The shimmering glass towers rising above the city may look spectacular, but spectacular also is the energy cost to keep them cool.
Urban sprawl, the uncontrolled expansion of urban areas, also increases the energy cost of cities. Inefficient or nonexistent public transportation networks encourage the use of private transport like cars, increasing fuel consumption. The development of better public transit could be a key focus area for sustainable communities.
A decade ago Dubai had one of the largest ecological footprints of any city in the world. By 2050 it wants to have the smallest. Can it get there?
Case study: Dubai, UAE.
Dubai is notoriously wasteful. A city rising in the desert, it takes enormous energy to power. A decade ago, almost all of that energy came from fossil fuels. Now? Dubai is on a quest for sustainability.
What Dubai is doing:
Innovative energy reducing building methods
Long-term planning with measured action and goals
Changing energy sources
Read more about this case here
What if buildings powered themselves? Learn more about the push to reduce the energy consumption of buildings and design them differently. Why take electricity from the grid when you could sell electricity to the grid?
Challenge 2: Pollution and Waste, the Output Side of the Ecological Footprint.
Processing garbage, and human waste, requires logistical organization and innovative solutions. It is a vital service which, once well implemented, can have repercussions on other infrastructure and service programs that municipalities implement
Trash generation will rise from the current 1.3 billion tonnes a year to 2.2 billion by 2025 (Tran, 2012).
In developing countries, waste management is often one of the largest budget items for cities (Tran, 2012).
"Some 98 per cent of cities in low- and middle-income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality limits"(United Nations, n.d).
More than 80 per cent of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality below the standard set by the World Health Organization (United Nations, n.d).
Urban Planning Solutions
Urban planning is the planning and regulation of space concerning its use and the economic, social, and environmental impacts of that use. It often involves data collection, goal setting, long term planning/strategy, forecasting, and predicting consequences of changes. (Fainstein, 2016). Read more.
This is a key focus towards sustainability, think about how it connects to water and energy challenges, the growing populations of urban centers, and waste management. But do not just think that the solution is a resolution that calls for increased urban planning. Instead, be specific in your goals and innovative in your idea process. The concept of urban planning can be a springboard for your resolutions and resolution ideas, it doesn't have to be the resolution itself!
Robert Muggah’s Ted Talk (the same as shown earlier, 11 minutes in) has a great discussion of urban planning and the key solutions cities need to pursue to attain sustainability. All five of his principles incorporate urban planning in some manner. Here are his principles:
Cities need a plan and a strategy to implement it
Invest in integrated and multi-use solutions.
Build densely but also sustainably. The death of all cities is the sprawl.
Steal. The smartest cities need tomorrow's technology today, and they're going to leapfrog to get there. (The concept here is sharing information between cities).
Building Cities that interact sustainably with the natural environment
Sustainability through nature. Using biological design in human design.
Click the image to hear about healthy urban planning from The World Health Organization.
Case Study: Singapore and Smart Cities.
The idea is simple. More information means better planning. Using sensor-equipped objects like streetlamps, traffic lights, harvesting data from citizen smartphones, and installing hundreds of camera's and sensors, Singapore has created a real-time data monitoring system that allows for short and long-term planning and problem-solving.
In Singapore, this "city brain" is being used to manage traffic congestion, increase the level of care for the elderly, monitor weather impacts, and gather data on long-term planning needs (Hamblen, 2016).
Click the image for an excellent interactive map of "Smart Nation Singapore"!
Click the image for an article and video on "Smart City Singapore"!
Sustainable fisheries and agriculture: Developing environmentally sustainable food security for 9 billion.
Monoculture: The cultivation or growth of a single crop or organism especially on agricultural or forest land
Cash crop: A crop produced for its commercial value rather than for use by the grower.
Bycatch: The unwanted fish and other marine creatures caught during commercial fishing for a different species.
Aquaculture: The rearing of aquatic animals or the cultivation of aquatic plants for food.
Systems approach: Tackling a problem through the holistic view of all the systems in interaction with that problem.
A Note: In the case of agriculture this would be incorporating the systems of production, processing, transport, storage, consumption, and waste recovery.
*Definitions provided by Merriam Webster dictionary unless otherwise noted
Introduction and Outline
As the global population approaches 9 billion, increasing demands are being placed upon the world's food supply. Food security and agricultural development is an important issue. Island and coastal nations have a particular interest in promoting the sustainability of small fishing communities considering that around 30% of global fish stocks are overfished (Link). Discussion of food security should address best practices and innovation regarding increasing production while reducing environmental impact.
This section will discuss how sustainable development relates to food security through sustainable
fisheries and sustainable agricultural. It will illustrate the problems and solutions associated with both. This will be followed by a discussion around changing the way we consume, and a systems approach to facilitate change of our food system. (Coming soon!)
A helpful way to understand how food security, agriculture, and fisheries, relate to sustainable development.
Over three billion people worldwide rely on fish for their primary source of protein (Fox, 2018). But with declining fish stocks worldwide, humanity is straining this natural resource to the brink of destruction. By 2050 we may not be able to provide fish for the today’s population levels, let alone the 9 billion expected. Here is a snapshot of the global situation, what’s causing it, and what we can do.
According to a 2016 UN Fisheries and Agriculture Organization report:
11% of stocks are underfished, with room for expansion.
58% of stocks are fully fished, with no room for expansion.
31% of stocks are overfished, with production levels that cannot continue at current levels.
All this, while estimates indicate a 50% increase in fisheries production to be needed by 2050 to feed global populations sufficiently. When factoring in overall projected impacts of climate change this number climbs to 66% (Rice, 2017).
Impacts of Overfishing
The impact on food security is clear, but the impact of overfishing is more pronounced. Environmental impacts include:
Ecosystem collapse and/or change
Destruction of vital marine habitat on ocean floor
Bycatch destruction of multiple species
There are a number of solutions to preserve the marine environment while meeting demand for fish. We will examine two of these schools of thought in greater detail.
Governance: Protecting our oceans
Innovation: Changing the way we harvest our oceans
Governance: Protecting our Oceans
One way to protect ocean environments is to designate areas as protected; closing them to fishing. These solutions require enforcement and strong institutions to enforce, but can be very impactful. Other governance solutions include reducing quotas for fish catches, shortening seasons, and engaging more strict enforcement of exsisting laws.
Case Study: Baja Mexico
In small communities in Baja Mexico, fisherman took it upon themselves to increase the sustainability of their fisheries. They established self policed, self studied areas of marine protection. These areas, tiny in comparison with most marine reserves, are hotspots of marine biomass and diversity.
Fishermen also self regulate their fishing seasons, opening later, and closing earlier, than the Mexican government officially allows. These two policies have resulted in increased harvest and wealth for fishermen. “Today Abreojos and a few like-minded Baja communities following the same strategy catch more than 90 percent of Mexico’s abalones”
“The idea is to have like a savings account,” says José Manuel Rondero, a 35-year-old fisherman who has watched lobster and fish populations plummet.
Now he is watching them rebound. Can Baja be a model for global fisheries?
Read the whole case study here
Innovation: Changing the way we harvest our oceans
Some authors argue that reducing the amount of fish we harvest, and protecting marine areas, can't work because of the growing demand for fish and especially because of the economic and social implications of fishing around the world (Rice, 2017). An alternative then, is to change the way we harvest. This can be done through changing fishing practices, shifting to aquaculture, and focusing on small scale fisheries.
One solution to the destruction of fish stocks is to harvest more from aquaculture. Already aquaculture provides almost half of all fish for human consumption, but there are environmental risks to this approach as well.
Read a good analysis on risks and benefits here.
Find tons of resources on aquaculture here
Solutions include (click the fish for more!)
Diversifying catch species
Designing new fishing gear that limits bycatch, bottom drag (reef destruction).
Gear like selective traps and nets
The oceans alone cannot provide the food for 9 billion people, agriculture is vital in achieving this goal. But modern agricultural practices are often environmentally degrading. Only through incorporating sustainable agriculture will we truly be able to develop sustainable to meet our future needs.
The problems with agricultural practices are extremely broad, and go beyond environmental impacts. To better understand this concept, consult the mind map below on unsustainable agriculture. Click the photo for a link to the full map if you have difficulty seeing it. This section will focus on the environmental impacts
"Sustainable agriculture integrates three main goals — environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity" (Feenstra, n.d).
The environmental impacts of agriculture fit broadly into categories: Water, crops/practices, and land. We will discuss the first two, use the knowledge from these sections and the citations provided to evaluate the third yourself!
Many areas of the world will experience acute water shortage by 2050, as discussed in the sustainable communities section. Agriculture consumes vast amounts of water. It takes 40 gallons of water for a slice of bread, and 4650 gallons for a beef steak. Agriculture draws 70% of total global water use. There is a clear risk of water scarcity affecting agriculture, and efforts must be made to reduce water consumption.
There remains another problem with water use, however, one that stems from having too much water. Runoff from farms carries fertilizer, sediment, and pesticides into natural waterways. Typically this occurs when substances are applied excessively or just before rainfall (EPA, n.d). Here these chemicals and sediments impact the natural environment in a variety of ways.
Excessive nitrogen from fertilizer can cause algae blooms. These blooms use up all of the oxygen in the water, choking out natural life (EPA, n.d).
Sediment buildup clouds water, blocking out sunlight, and can clog fish gills (EPA, n.d).
Pesticides can be toxic to human and marine life. (Aktar, Sengupta, Chowdhury, 2009).
Agricultural runoff is even “one of the most significant threats to the long-term health of the Great Barrier Reef” (Queensland Government, n.d).
Matching substance use to crop needs: Maximizing the efficiency of say, nitrogen fertilizer use, can ensure that crops receive enough fertilizer that they can absorb it all. This reduces excess substance available for runoff.
Optimize irrigation: This solution reduces the runoff that carries harmful substances. Farmers and ranchers can reduce runoff by 20% - 90% using practices to decrease the flow rate of water and keep soil in place (EPA, n.d). Irrigation techniques like drip irrigation can reduce water use, and constant monitoring can optimize use. This has implications for water consumption and runoff.
Reduce substance use: A simple, yet impactful, solution: use less of the substances and there will be less runoff. The implications of reducing substance use are wide-reaching. Consider the economic and health implications for small farmers in particular. “In Tanzania, where annual per capita income is less than $1600, it costs 500 000 Tanzanian shillings (more than $300) to buy enough fertilizer and pesticide to treat a single acre.” (Folger, 2014).
Crops/Practices: One of the biggest agricultural methods worldwide is the monoculture when farmers grow one singular type of crop. This method has significant environmental impacts, many of which can tie back to the runoff issues.
Limited diversity of crops means less varied insects and other natural components of an ecosystem. This lack of natural diversity leaves crops vulnerable to pests as natural pest control methods are eliminated - necessitating pesticide use (Open Permaculture Magazine, 2017).
Specific nutrient requirements of certain crops deplete soil and destroy valuable cropland over time (Open Permaculture Magazine, 2017). Pesticides also contaminate soil (Aktar et al, 2009).
Pesticides are thought to be a significant cause of the collapse of pollinator colonies like bee’s worldwide. Read more here. They also adversely affect birds and mammals.
Diversifying Agriculture: Planting more varied crops is economically viable and environmentally friendly. Decreasing reliance on artificial substances, and lowering risk of pests destroying an entire livelihood, makes variety an attractive input for farmers - when they are given knowledge of best practices. Planting refuge fields filled with plants pests like can actually reduce damage to key crops.
Natural Controls: Increasing diversity has the added effect of biological pest control, as natural predators and more diverse species create a balanced farm environment in which no population is likely to grow uncontrollably. Farmers can take steps to actively encourage this control by planting specific crops.
For an interesting case study of these practices in the Commonwealth country of Tanzania, check out this national geographic article.
Agriculture matters to millions worldwide who depend on it for subsistence and livelihood. As global populations grow, increased strain will be put on our agricultural resources. Yet already today there is significant environmental harm in farming practices; how we choose to address this issue will ultimately determine whether or not we can develop sustainably into the future.
I ask how important cassava is to him.
“Mihogo ni kila kitu,” he replies in Swahili. “Cassava is everything.” (Folger, 2014).
In a global economy dominated by online interactions, how will governments prepare their citizens?
GDP: The total value of goods produced and services provided in a country during one year.
Mobile Money: The use of a mobile phone in order to transfer funds between banks or accounts, deposit or withdraw funds, or pay bills. This term is also used for the broader realm of electronic commerce; it can refer to the use of a mobile device to purchase items, whether physical or electronic (Business Dictionary).
*Unless otherwise specified, all definitions provided by Merriam Webster.
Introduction and Outline
“Conventional economics is a form of brain damage”
- David Suzuki.
The crux of David Suzuki’s controversial statement and his entire argument is that sustainable economic development is about more than just GDP growth or dollars in the bank. Sustainable economic development should be forward focused, it should incorporate the environmental impacts of its decisions. It should focus on economic growth to be sure, but different focuses are needed for industrial and small-scale actors. Who profits from economic growth is also of vital concern, economic inequality on a local and global scale presents an interesting look at the sustainability of economic development.
This section will first address discuss the challenge of economic inequality. It will then discuss sustainable economic growth, focusing on industrial actors, and small-scale actors. It will outline the challenges they face and presents ideas and solutions for you to draw on.
Economic Inequality and Poverty
Quick Facts on Global Inequality: (Inequality.org)
More than 70 percent of the world’s adults own under $10,000 in wealth.
The world’s wealthiest individuals, those owning over $100,000 in assets, total only 8.6 percent of the global population but own 85.6 percent of global wealth.
In 2016, the top 10 Forbes billionaires owned $505 billion combined.
People who make over $30 million make up 0.004% of the global population. They control 12.8% of wealth
Over the past quarter of a century, only America’s most affluent families have added to their net worth. Nobody else saw significant growth.
The overall persistent high level of poverty in the EU suggests that poverty is primarily the consequence of the way society is organized and resources are allocated (European Anti Poverty Network)
Why does Inequality Matter and What can we do about it?
Impacts of Inequality:
Social Impacts: Inequality is related to diminished health outcomes, lower life expectancy, reduced literacy rates, reduced public trust, increased crime, and a host of other social problems. Read more here and watch the Ted Talk below
Economic Impacts: Inequality actually has a negative impact on economic growth. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been warning that increased inequality is a risk to global economic growth. They found that:
If the income share of the top 20 percent increases by 1 percentage point, GDP growth is reduced by 0.08 percent in the following five years, suggesting that the benefits do not trickle down. Instead, a similar increase in the income share of the bottom 20 percent (the poor) is associated with 0.38 percentage point higher growth (Era et al., 2015).
"Sustainability Needs Greater Equality" - Richard Wilkinson Ted Talk
What can we do?
Culture Change: Wilkinson suggests we need to "increase company democracy", give more input to workers, increase accountability of leadership, and do away with "bonus culture". If business is to be a driver of economic growth, then it must be a booster for everyone involved.
Regulatory Change: End tax avoidance and tax havens, change taxation practices. Most importantly, governments must invest in social programming. Another Ted Talk, this one by Jan Tobochnik, discusses varying forms of taxation and their impacts on inequality. The conclusion? "the type of taxation doesn't matter. What matters is what we do with it".
Inequality is a measure of how society distributes resources, addressing it doesn't necessarily mean increasing or changing taxation. Instead, spread economic benefits across society.
Special Piece: Inequality on the Local Level. Slum Ecology.
Inequality on the global scale is a daunting issue, and as you can see the solutions are not clear. By focusing in on inequality on a local level, this section hopes to allow you to contextualize inequality and see some of the local based solutions you could apply. Think back to the sustainable communities pillar!
A slum is an urban area characterized by overcrowding, and inadequate infrastructure (lack of access to water or sanitation). Because the term is not exact in definition, learn more on page 10 of this UN report.
Urban poor, and marginalized people, are the primary occupants of slums.
The regions are often "locally unwanted land uses", regions prone to flooding, near prisons, sewage plants, airports, etc.
These regions often do not receive the infrastructural requirements or city support that wealthy districts would receive.
The predominance of ‘informal’ economies, including recycling, petty production, scavenging, domestic labour, and sex work.
Slums are the perfect example of a group left behind. Nobody is listening to their problems, no meaningful economic generation.
Just like global inequality, you can't just tear down the slum (or the system) and start all over. Two reasons for this: First, you haven't actually solved the problem that led to the creation of the slum. Second, people have built their lives in these places.
Explore solutions in a case study of the Makoko slum, in Lagos Nigeria. Click the images for more.
Sustainable Economic Growth
Youth makeup 28% of the total population of The Commonwealth, and the average youth unemployment rate in Commonwealth countries is 22.9% (The Commonwealth, 2013). Growing the economy is important, who gets to participate in that growth and prosperity is equally important - as we explored in our section on inequality. Let's focus on some of the issues that industry, and small-scale actors, face in economic development, and what approaches can be used to sustainably develop a strong economy for all.
Small Scale Actors
Sustainable economic growth isn't just about growth of business. The ability of individuals to access personal finances, make payments, store money, and network with other individuals and business's, all have vital impacts on economic growth. This section will examine some global trends that highlight the following issues and solutions for small scale economic development
Access to Financing
Access to technology
Tools and education
A force that is shaping the way economic growth and development is happening worldwide, mobile money has been facilitated by the adoption of the mobile phone.
The number of mobile phone users is expected to surpass five billion by 2019.
"Mobile adoption in West Africa has nearly doubled from 28% at the turn of the decade to 47% last year." (Kazeem, 2018).
"According to GSMA, mobile money accounts in West Africa grew 21% last year to reach 104.5 million.
The total value of transactions last year also reached $5.3 billion."
What are the impacts?
The issue at play is a lack of access to financial infrastructure,
Banking access is important for personal finance, but also for securing money to business development. Loans, payment services, and network connectivity, are also important business functions served by banks.
Described as "a boon for financial inclusion," Mobile money is becoming somewhat of a substitute for these institutions.
Thanks to expanding agent networks and more enabling regulations, there are now 13 times more active mobile money agents in West Africa than the total number of bank branches and ATM"
These services are typically provided by telecommunications companies like "Safaricom", with their "Mpesa" money service and "Orange" with their "orange money" service.
Click here for a link to an info-graphic about how SMS messaging is changing the development world
"Mobile money is the key to growing Africa’s banking sector." (Dahir, 2018). Link.
With so many interacting systems, how, and who, will lead the 9 billion?
Collaborative governance: A strategy used in planning, regulation, policy making, and public management to coordinate, adjudicate, and integrate the goals and interests of multiple stakeholders (Ansell, 2012).
*Unless otherwise specified, all definitions provided by Merriam Webster.
Introduction and Outline
Commonwealth secretary-general Patricia Scotland
This pillar is all about who makes the decisions around sustainable development, and which actors assume leadership on them. All levels of government play an important role in addressing societal problems. Increasingly in many areas of the world, regional governments are taking the mantle of leadership on national and international issues.
The concept of collaborative governance between governments of varying levels and other organizations (corporations, NGOs, etc) leverages combined resources to address issues. It is also a key tenant of the Commonwealth with it's consensus-based decision making and collaborative approach.
In examining this pillar, we will emphasize the systems approach that we discussed in the environmental pillar and collaboration between various actors in society. You may find it helpful to consult the “so now what” section before or after reading this.
A Systems Approach to Problem Solving
Nothing exists in isolation.
We discussed in the sustainable communities section the idea of a city in a bubble. That city would quickly die, disconnected from the outside world. The city relies on transport of food, water, people and goods. In and out of the area.
Similarly, the environmental sustainability pillar showed connection throughout. When we look at the fishing industry and the threat it faces, we again see that we can’t just ‘put a bubble’ around it. We can’t just stop fishing - too many people rely on it for money and food. Solutions need to incorporate the environment, the fishing industry, the growing demand for fish, and much more.
In terms of economic sustainability, there are many reasons we cannot look at the issue in isolation. The economy does not exist outside of the natural world. Environmental impacts matter. Who benefits from economic growth matters. And certainly, economic growth matters.
So we lead back to the systems approach. Tackling a problem through the holistic view of all the systems in interaction with that problem.
“We need to stop layering simple solution upon simple solution trying to solve complex problems. We need to stop sustaining the unsustainable.”
An absolutely brilliant Ted Talk by Leyla Acaroglu titled: "why we need to think differently about sustainable development".
In it, Leyla describes the law of unintended consequences: That any action has a possibility of a positive, negative, or perverse, unintended outcome. She goes on to describe several examples. The discussion starts at 5:00 minutes in.
“Good intentions can often result in far bigger problems. When we don’t understand the consequences of the choices we make, these consequences can ripple across multiple areas." This kind of thinking is key to sustainable development.
The very beginning of this theme website said that solutions would have to incorporate every pillar. We recognize how daunting that is. Instead, use systems thinking to visualize and consider the impacts of your proposed solutions.
How will this decision impact other actors? How will it impact other natural systems? Go beyond the simplest solution. Think deeply about a complex issue and you may find a solution that creates lasting change. Think short-term and you may find the outcome of your decision does more harm than good.
You will have realized by now that the biggest challenges to sustainable development are not easily solved.