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Article

Environmental sustainability as a topic in international studies is most often considered in the context of sustainable development, a goal-oriented, normative concept that suggests the need to reconcile the often conflicting goals of economic development, environmental protection, and social progress. The concept of sustainable development begs the question of how to promote human welfare and prosperity (development) without undermining the ecological life-support systems on which all prosperity ultimately must depend (sustainability). More colloquially: How can we live well while living lightly on the Earth? Unfortunately, economic and social “development” to date has too often meant a steady increase of activities that have led to air and water pollution, cleared forests, drained wetlands, obstructed rivers, and other ecosystem disruptions. These material transformations alter the structure and function of ecosystems, often destroying the services that ecosystems provide and routinely renew: clean fresh water, healthy air, fertile soils, and the other basics of habitability. When pollution crosses borders, when natural resource depletion and environmental degradation cause people to migrate for survival, when global climate and the world’s oceans are threatened, then sustainability becomes an international concern and necessarily a focus of international studies. Ultimately, the challenge for international studies scholars studying sustainability is to understand how to create an international system imbued with consideration of ecological interdependence and coevolution, a sense of responsibility to future generations, and a capacity to make informed decisions based on ecological rationality. In order to find our way out of the sustainability conundrum, policies must be designed to improve welfare without increasing energy and material throughput. This means investing human resources into alternatives to consumption, such as innovations in simple living, collective action, nonmaterial personal satisfaction, and needs prevention.

Article

Carl Folke

Resilience thinking in relation to the environment has emerged as a lens of inquiry that serves a platform for interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration. Resilience is about cultivating the capacity to sustain development in the face of expected and surprising change and diverse pathways of development and potential thresholds between them. The evolution of resilience thinking is coupled to social-ecological systems and a truly intertwined human-environment planet. Resilience as persistence, adaptability and, transformability of complex adaptive social-ecological systems is the focus, clarifying the dynamic and forward-looking nature of the concept. Resilience thinking emphasizes that social-ecological systems, from the individual, to community, to society as a whole, are embedded in the biosphere. The biosphere connection is an essential observation if sustainability is to be taken seriously. In the continuous advancement of resilience thinking there are efforts aimed at capturing resilience of social-ecological systems and finding ways for people and institutions to govern social-ecological dynamics for improved human well-being, at the local, across levels and scales, to the global. Consequently, in resilience thinking, development issues for human well-being, for people and planet, are framed in a context of understanding and governing complex social-ecological dynamics for sustainability as part of a dynamic biosphere.

Article

At its 2015 General Assembly, the United Nations formulated the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to emergize its Member nations and social workers practicing in these countries to engage in environmentally sustainable social and economic development leaving no one behind. At the core of SDGs is the conviction that protecting planet Earth is possible by working collectively and ensuring that all human beings are able to realize their full potentials. The charges include solving a wide range of environmental, economic, and social problems including poverty, hunger, violence, and discrimination by 2030. The SDGs are inclusive of all people; they have galvanized all Member countries and their policy makers and practitioners, including social workers, to strive toward the common goals. Progress has been made from previous initiatives, but there are still challenges ahead. The first five SDGs are particularly relevant to social workers, who have an important role to play in alleviating poverty, promoting health and education, and empowering women and girls.

Article

Margaret Sherrard Sherraden and Lisa Reyes Mason

Community economic development (CED) is an integrated and community-driven approach to development aimed at generating wealth, capabilities, and empowerment in low-income and low-wealth communities. Nonprofit organizations partner with public and for-profit interests to develop social and economic investment strategies for community economic renewal and revitalization. Social workers in CED engage in interdisciplinary work in community organizing, leadership development, program development and implementation, social-service management, and policy advocacy. To achieve large and sustainable success, CED requires solidarity with and investment in poor communities by society as a whole.

Article

Priya Kurian and Robert V. Bartlett

The fundamental conflicts and contradictions between environment and development, and various theoretical and practical efforts to reconcile them, have been a prominent part of the history of development thinking since environmentalism emerged as a significant political phenomenon in the 1960s. The idea of development as change for the better resonates perhaps with all civilizations and across time. All civilizations have development myths which reflect a self-awareness that a particular culture had at some time in the past advanced from a more primitive, less developed state. But these cultural myths of development are only incidentally material or economic. More pronounced concerns over the environment and development emerged during the 1960s and the 1970s. These decades were marked by the emergence of widespread public concern about environmental problems of air and water pollution, and the growth of the environmental movement led to national environmental policy developments and international efforts on the environmental front. In addition, development, environment, and sustainability are all normative concepts with implications for ethics and justice. The vast literature on sustainable development has spawned a range of critiques from a variety of theoretical and disciplinary perspectives. The environmental justice literature developed after early sustainable development literature, and raises questions about intragenerational equity.

Article

A new approach to education has been proposed, called Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), with the goal of developing education in order to foster individuals who will contribute to the realization of a socially, economically, and environmentally more sustainable society. From the beginning of the 21st century, this has given rise to discussions and practices on related themes all over the world, including in Asia. While the environment surrounding education is markedly changing in Asian societies, with educational reforms actively pursued in many Asian countries and regions, their situations greatly differ depending on the context in which they find themselves. Today, departing from the conventional modes of teaching and learning that focus on the acquisition of an already systematized body of knowledge and skills, the field of education the world over is now shifting its focus to what is called key competencies, adopting and experimenting with new teaching and learning styles to develop abilities referred to as 21st-century skills. Based on these theoretical and conceptual discussions, a number of initiatives have been adopted as policies, school curricula, and educational practices in order to promote ESD in Asian countries. It is possible to divide Asian countries into three groups based on the place of ESD in their countries, as well as their degree of socioeconomic development and the popularization of school education: (a) countries that have accumulated experience in the practice of environmental education or development education; (b) countries that have been witnessing growing environmental consciousness and its rapid institutionalization in recent years, with varying degrees of implementation of environmental education; and (c) countries in which the elimination of poverty and inequality remains the most pressing issue and ESD is promoted in connection with development issues. Although the introduction of ESD is greatly affected by each country’s socioeconomic situation, it is important for all countries in Asia to promote equitable and sustainable education in order to realize a sustainable society. Thus, Asian countries need to form a social consensus to promote ESD, which requires the participation and responsibility of the whole of society.

Article

Juliana Svistova, Loretta Pyles, and Arielle Dylan

As awareness has grown about the damage being done to the natural environment, limits of the earth’s finite resources, and the realities of climate change, environmental advocates have demanded sustainable development practices so that future generations will be able to meet their needs. Meanwhile, the widespread exploitation of workers in the industrial sector triggered the labor movement’s fight for social-economic justice. This focus on socio-economic justice that characterizes the labor movements is enlarged in the “sustainable development” framework which articulates triple bottom line practices that emphasize the interconnectedness of people, planet, and profit. The social work profession has joined these efforts, expanding its notion of the person-in-environment as it advocates for the needs of individuals, families, organizations, and communities. However, some scholars have problematized “sustainability,” questioning what exactly is being sustained, how sustainability is measured/evaluated, and who benefits.

Article

The challenge of providing education that is inclusive and seen as equitable for all children is one that has exercised policy makers and education professionals in most countries throughout the late 20th and early 21st centuries. International agreements such as UNESCO’s 1990 Jomtien Declaration and 1994 Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education were instrumental in promoting debate about the rights of children who were denied access to an appropriate schooling and who, in some instances, had no opportunity to obtain any formal education. The Education for All Goals, which were used to prioritize the development of universal primary education, and more recently the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Education Goals, which reiterated a commitment to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” (Goal 4), have increased the focus upon developing inclusive education. This has encouraged governments around the world to re-examine the ways in which they provide schooling for their children and young people. With such a plethora of initiatives, agreements, and advice, it is only to be expected that most national administrations have felt it necessary to respond and to demonstrate that they are taking action towards improving educational opportunities for all. However, the relationship between policy and practice is complex; and in some instances, the development of legislation has failed to provide increased equity in the manner that was intended. This article considers two distinctly different routes towards achieving inclusive education and discusses those factors that have either supported or inhibited success. In drawing upon examples from current developments in India, it additionally proposes that researchers who conduct investigations in international contexts should invest time in understanding underlying policy and cultural and historical factors that may impact upon the ways in which we interpret meaning from data.

Article

World Heritage and Sustainable Development are connecting, complex, and inseparable global concepts operating at the local levels of World Heritage sites in developing nations. World Heritage is defined as cultural and natural sites considered to have outstanding universal values (OUV) and are legally protected by international treaties, in this case the 1972 World Heritage Convention, which provide the criteria for inscribing such sites and for keeping them on the World Heritage List. World Heritage promotes conservation of such heritage for the benefit of humanity. Sustainable Development, however, refers to development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, and its implementation is largely directed by guidelines and principles endorsed by a broad range of stakeholders. Both concepts, World Heritage and Sustainable Development, have present and futuristic functionalities, but the former appears to be more emphasized than the latter in their application to heritage management. The present and futuristic functionalities of these two concepts constitute a complex but continuously evolving relationship that remains topical in the 21st century and beyond. As such, and in order to deepen our understanding the relationship between World Heritage and Sustainable Development, empirical analysis of their respective implementation at the local levels is a continuous process. Advancing the localization of World Heritage and Sustainable Development, including reducing theory into practice for the benefit of both conservation and the well-being of society, remains a mutually beneficiary process for both concepts. While conservation is premised on maintaining and retaining the significance of a heritage site, the well-being of society is driven by efforts toward meeting society’s diverse and growing needs on a daily basis. The balancing of World Heritage, Sustainable Development, conservation, and the well-being of society remains a contested but unavoidable engagement. All these aspects are still yet to find full acceptance and a localization matrix in the geo-socioeconomic and cultural contexts of Africa. Conservation and socioeconomic development for the well-being of society are viewed as issues that are as old as humanity itself. Both are embedded in the traditional management systems that guided protection of heritage and utilization of both renewable and nonrenewable resources available to communities in Africa. Therefore, these issues are a local phenomenon before becoming issues of global concern. While solutions from outside the context of these local phenomena may assist and bring good practices for World Heritage and Sustainable Development, they cannot be effective without being infused with local input and adaptation of local experiences to improve policy implementation. Understandably, the well-being of society has always been in existence and remains a priority; however, what is changing is the scale, diversity, and urgency of the needs of society due to multiple factors. Continuous research is required to find a balance between global processes and the local needs of society at World Heritage sites in Africa. The future of World Heritage in Africa lies in its adaptive ability to embrace continuously emerging local dynamics of sustainable development, offering alternative and creative solutions, embracing an inclusive stakeholder governance approach, and quantifying the contribution of heritage to development targets. World Heritage has to be part of a broader localized solution to local socioeconomic challenges in Africa.

Article

M. Leann Brown

Sustainable development (SD) is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This definition is articulated in Our Common Future, a political manifesto published in 1987 by the United Nations’ World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). SD promises to resolve in a positive-sum manner the most daunting economic, environmental, political, and social challenges the world is currently facing. However, it has also become a much contested concept, mainly due to the comprehensiveness, ambiguity, and optimism inherent in its underlying assumptions. Ongoing debates within the literature deal with how to define, operationalize, and measure SD; how economic development and environmental protection are conceptualized as mutually supportive; how “nature” is treated in the literature; equity and overconsumption challenges to SD; and the governance, social learning, and normative transformations required to achieve SD. Reaching some consensus on definitions and operationalization of the multiple aspects of SD will lead to standards by which to assess development and environmental policies. Among the most urgent issues that must be addressed in future research are the roles and influence of the relatively new participants in governance, such as intergovernmental/nongovernmental organizations and corporations; the new modes of governance including public-private and private-private partnerships and network governance; and the impacts of implementing compatible and contradictory policies on the various levels and across policy areas.

Article

Maria Soledad Martinez Peria and Mu Yang Shin

The link between financial inclusion and human development is examined here. Using cross-country data, the behavior of variables that try to capture these concepts is examined and preliminary evidence of a positive association is offered. However, because establishing a causal relationship with macro-data is difficult, a thorough review of the literature on the impact of financial inclusion, focusing on micro-studies that can better address identification is conducted. The literature generally distinguishes between different dimensions of financial inclusion: access to credit, access to bank branches, and access to saving instruments (i.e., accounts). Despite promising results from a first wave of studies, the impact of expanding access to credit seems limited at best, with little evidence of transformative effects on human development outcomes. While there is more promising evidence on the impact of expanding access to bank branches and formal saving instruments, studies show that some interventions such as one-time account opening subsidies are unlikely to have a sizable impact on social and economic outcomes. Instead well-designed interventions catering to individuals’ specific needs in different contexts seem to be required to realize the full potential of formal financial services to enrich human lives.

Article

Over the last six decades, discussions and approaches to communication and development have evolved considerably. Some of these changes particularly focus on the transformation of the nation-state role, from its initial conception to its current formation, as well as the transition from the study of political and economic progress to the analysis of cultural components and social development today. These major approaches include modernization, diffusion of innovation, dependency paradigm, monistic-emancipatory approach, institutional theory approach, industrial policy, strategic restructuring model, evolutionary paradigm, interorganizational approach, ecosystem approach, and an approach that highlights culture, power, age, gender and disability dimensions. Part of this investigation includes research trends in communication and development. Scholarship identifying such trends highlights newer technologies as well as a continuing presence of digital inequalities. Additional research is needed to capture processes such as cross-organizational and cross-cultural learning and improvisation in terms of communication and development, and to recognize the roles of power and culture in these domains. Furthermore, taking a co-processes approach prevents one from assuming that there is only one correct pathway in the field of communication and development

Article

Scientific advance and innovation are major sources of economic growth and are crucial for making development socially and environmentally sustainable. A critical question is: Will private enterprises invest sufficiently in research technological development and innovation and, if not, to what degree and how should governments engage in the support of science, technology, and innovation? While neoclassical economists point to market failure as the main rationale for innovation policy, evolutionary economists point to the role of government in building stronger innovation systems and creating wider opportunities for innovation. Research shows that the transmission mechanisms between scientific advance and innovation are complex and indirect. There are other equally important sources of innovation including experience-based learning. Innovation is increasingly seen as a systemic process, where the feedback from users needs to be taken into account when designing public policy. Science and innovation policy may aim at accelerating knowledge production along well-established trajectories, or it may aim at giving new direction to the production and use of knowledge. It may be focused exclusively on economic growth, or it may give attention to impact on social inclusion and the natural environment. An emerging topic is to what extent national perspectives continue to be relevant in a globalizing learning economy facing multiple global complex challenges, including the issue of climate change. Scholars point to a movement toward transformative innovation policy and global knowledge sharing as a response to current challenges.

Article

Women have a lengthy history of fighting their oppression as women and the inequalities associated with this to claim their place on the world stage, in their countries, and within their families. This article focuses on women’s struggles to be recognized as having legitimate concerns about development initiatives at all levels of society and valuable contributions to make to social development. Crucial to their endeavors were: (1) upholding gender equality and insisting that women be included in all deliberations about sustainable development and (2) seeing that their daily life needs, including their human rights, be treated with respect and dignity and their right to and need for education, health, housing, and all other public goods are realized. The role of the United Nations in these endeavors is also considered. Its policies on gender and development, on poverty alleviation strategies—including the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals—are discussed and critiqued. Women’s rights are human rights, but their realization remains a challenge for policymakers and practitioners everywhere. Social workers have a vital role to play in advocating for gender equality and mobilizing women to take action in support of their right to social justice. Our struggle for equality has a long and courageous history.

Article

Sulaman Hafeez Siddiqui, Kuperan Viswanathan, and Rabia Rasheed

Leadership in business and society is responsible for a large part of the decision-making related to policymaking and resource allocation that in turn influences social and environmental outcomes and economic windfalls. The theory and practice of education and learning in business schools is being called on for reforms in order to nurture responsible leadership for business and society that may align well with the triple bottom-line challenge of sustainability (i.e., economic, social, and environmental). We can find state-of-the-art research studies from definition to historical evolution and dimensions of responsible leadership specifically related to corporate sustainability. The role of curriculum design is central to enabling business schools to nurture responsible leaders who are considerate toward the external effects of their internal decision-making, thus seeking to balance the broader stakeholders’ objectives. Several global initiatives have been undertaken by multilateral institutions such as the UN, business schools, and enterprises in the corporate sector to foster a commitment to responsible leadership and allied reforms in teaching in business schools regarding corporate sustainability. These forums, at both the corporate and academic fronts, have contributed to theoretical development and practices for teaching and learning related to responsible leadership in higher education, specifically in business schools. These initiatives stress that business schools and their academic faculty, who intend to serve as custodians of business and society, must make necessary curriculum reforms to meet the challenges of sustainability by embracing their own transformation.

Article

Caroline A. Ochieng, Cathryn Tonne, Sotiris Vardoulakis, and Jan Semenza

Household air pollution from use of solid fuels (biomass fuels and coal) is a major problem in low and middle income countries, where 90% of the population relies on these fuels as the primary source of domestic energy. Use of solid fuels has multiple impacts, on individuals and households, and on the local and global environment. For individuals, the impact on health can be considerable, as household air pollution from solid fuel use has been associated with acute lower respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and other illnesses. Household-level impacts include the work, time, and high opportunity costs involved in biomass fuel collection and processing. Harvesting and burning biomass fuels affects local environments by contributing to deforestation and outdoor air pollution. At a global level, inefficient burning of solid fuels contributes to climate change. Improved biomass cookstoves have for a long time been considered the most feasible immediate intervention in resource-poor settings. Their ability to reduce exposure to household air pollution to levels that meet health standards is however questionable. In addition, adoption of improved cookstoves has been low, and there is limited evidence on how the barriers to adoption and use can be overcome. However, the issue of household air pollution in low and middle income countries has gained considerable attention in recent years, with a range of international initiatives in place to address it. These initiatives could enable a transition from biomass to cleaner fuels, but such a transition also requires an enabling policy environment, especially at the national level, and new modes of financing technology delivery. More research is also needed to guide policy and interventions, especially on exposure-response relationships with various health outcomes and on how to overcome poverty and other barriers to wide-scale transition from biomass fuels to cleaner forms of energy.

Article

Uschi Bay

Ecological social work requires a shift in thinking for social workers because it does not place humans at the center of its concerns. Rather ecological social work puts the interrelationship between humans and nature at its center. This radically de-centered view of humanity aims to bring consideration of the planet and all of its environmental systems into decision making to ensure the sustainability of natural resources for the long term. Ecological principles can guide social work practice, research, and education in ways that promote a transition to sustainable practices in every sphere of life. Widespread ecological consciousness is advocated as an important focus for change by some social work authors promoting this approach. A global consciousness is understood to enable humanity’s capacity to deal with the growing concerns about the survival of planet earth as a suitable habitat for humans, animals, and plants. Humanity’s activities are understood to contribute to the ongoing degradation of fresh water, fertile soils, and pollution of the atmosphere. Drastic changes in the way humans behave and relate to the earth are considered necessary at the global, national, and local levels. Social workers are thus called on to engage with others in taking on significant roles in many areas of practice to facilitate these crucial societal transformations.

Article

Mary E. Rogge

The concept of environmental justice gained currency in the public arena during the latter part of the 20th century. It embodies social work's person-in-environment perspective and dedication to people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and poor. The pursuit of environmental justice engages citizens in local to international struggles for economic resources, health, and well-being, and in struggles for political voice and the realization of civil and human rights.

Article

Kira Fortune, Francisco Becerra, Paulo Buss, Orielle Solar, Patricia Ribeiro, and Gabriela E. Keahon

There is a broad consensus that the health of an individual or population is not influenced solely by the efforts of the formal health sector; rather, it is also defined by the conditions of daily life as well as the inputs, intentional or not, of various stakeholders and policies. The recognition that health outcomes and inequity in health extend beyond the health sector across many social and government sectors has led to the emergence of a comprehensive policy perspective known as Health in All Policies (HiAP). Building on earlier concepts and principles outlined in the Alma-Ata Declaration (1978) and the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion (1986), HiAP is a collaborative approach to public policies across sectors that systematically takes into account the health implications of decisions, seeks synergies, and avoids harmful health impacts in order to improve population health and health equity. Health in All Policies has become particularly relevant in light of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as achieving the goals of the agenda requires policy coherence and collaboration across sectors. Given that local governments are ideally positioned to encourage and galvanize partnerships between a diversity of local stakeholders, the implementation of HiAP at the local level is seen as a powerful approach to advancing health and achieving the SDGs through scaled-up initiatives. As there is no single model for the development and implementation of HiAP, it is critical to examine the different experiences across countries that have garnered success in order to identify best practices. The Region of the Americas has made much progress in advancing the HiAP approach, and as such much can be learned from analyzing implementation at country level thus far. Specific initiatives of the Americas may highlight key examples of local action for HiAP and should be taken into consideration for future implementation. Moving forward, it will be important to consider bottom up approaches that directly address the wider determinants of health and health equity.

Article

Praveen Kumar, Smitha Rao, and Gautam N. Yadama

Energy poverty is lack of access to adequate, high-quality, clean, and affordable forms of energy or energy systems. It is a prominent risk factor for global burden of disease and has severe environmental, social, and economic implications. Despite recent international attention to address energy for the poor, there is a limited consensus over a unified framework defining energy poverty, which impacts almost 2.8 billion mostly poor people, especially in Asia, Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have the largest number of energy poor. India, in South Asia, comprises a significant proportion of energy-impoverished households. There is a continued effort by the Indian government, non-profit agencies, and private organizations to address the needs of energy poor. Social workers have a significant role to play in these interventions addressing energy poverty in India. Emerging research and practice in the energy poverty field in India calls for transdisciplinary collaboration especially between social work practitioners of community development, environmental health, public health, and social policy.