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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

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

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

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

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

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.

Article

David A. Robinson, Fiona Seaton, Katrina Sharps, Amy Thomas, Francis Parry Roberts, Martine van der Ploeg, Laurence Jones, Jannes Stolte, Maria Puig de la Bellacasa, Paula Harrison, and Bridget Emmett

Soils provide important functions, which according to the European Commission include: biomass production (e.g., agriculture and forestry); storing, filtering, and transforming nutrients, substances, and water; harboring biodiversity (habitats, species, and genes); forming the physical and cultural environment for humans and their activities; providing raw materials; acting as a carbon pool; and forming an archive of geological and archaeological heritage, all of which support human society and planetary life. The basis of these functions is the soil natural capital, the stocks of soil material. Soil functions feed into a range of ecosystem services which in turn contribute to the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs). This overarching framework hides a range of complex, often nonlinear, biophysical interactions with feedbacks and perhaps yet to be discovered tipping points. Moreover, interwoven with this biophysical complexity are the interactions with human society and the socioeconomic system which often drives our attitudes toward, and the management and exploitation of, our environment. Challenges abound, both social and environmental, in terms of how to feed an increasingly populous and material world, while maintaining some semblance of thriving ecosystems to pass on to future generations. How do we best steward the resources we have, keep them from degradation, and restore them where necessary as soils underpin life? How do we measure and quantify the soil resources we have, how are they changing in time and space, what can we predict about their future use and function? What is the value of soil resources, and how should we express it? This article explores how soil properties and processes underpin ecosystem services, how to measure and model them, and how to identify the wider benefits they provide to society. Furthermore, it considers value frameworks, including caring for our resources.

Article

Thanks to the concerted effort of the international community to promote basic education, driven by the Education for All (EFA) goals and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), indices of education in Africa have improved dramatically since the 1990s. Although the access to schooling has improved, there are still issues of quality related to teachers, facilities, teaching and learning materials, and relevance of educational contents. Recently, under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the focuses of educational policies of African countries have been diversified, to concentrate not only on quantitative and qualitative improvement of basic education, but also on secondary, tertiary, and technical and vocational education and training (TVET). One of the problems which critics point out is that, regardless of the massive expansion of basic education, learning outcomes of school leavers in Africa have not improved. It has also been remarked that school enrolment has not directly led to poverty-reduction or decent employment. Another side-effect of the expansion of basic education has been an increased dependency on aid. So, although there is a constant demand for higher and more education among the general public, aid-dependent expansion of the system is unsustainable. Before colonization by European powers, many groups in Africa had a tradition of oral transmission of knowledge, although there were some significant exceptions of societies which had formal educational institutions. With or without formal institutions, African traditional societies had their own mechanisms of transmitting knowledge across generations. However, Europeans overwrote such existing modes of education by introducing Western school systems. With the paternalistic conviction of their civilizing mission, they refined traditional cultures and practices which could be maintained and taught in school, while replacing other “barbarous superstitions” with teaching of European subjects. Resistance to such impositions of European education eventually led to nationalism, which accompanied the desire to find a uniquely African epistemology and teaching method. At the same time, the mechanism of recruiting African white-collar workers through schooling, which started during the colonial period, planted a strong hope for social advancement through gaining school certificates deeply in the mind of African people.

Article

Educational psychology in Africa has a rich and colorful history. In sub-Saharan Africa educational psychology, as both a profession and a scientific field, is particularly vibrant. The emergence of educational psychology in sub-Saharan Africa shows how the science and the profession has pirouetted in ways that could support mental health and learning in African contexts in innovative ways. While emanating within Western cultures, educational psychology has been adapted and, perhaps, been deeply enriched in the African context. After the initial establishment of educational psychology in sub-Saharan Africa, three broad eras of theoretical development are evident: (a) the era of ecosystems and community, (b) the era of inclusion, and (c) the era of strength-based and positive approaches. During the era of ecosystems and community, emergent theories challenged the dominance of the individualist paradigms in educational psychology and provided broadened conceptualizations of the factors that impact mental health and effective learning. The role of communities was also given prominence. During the era of inclusion, the medical model was challenged as the primary foundation for legitimizing educational psychological assessments and interventions. Educational psychologists moved toward rights-based approaches that championed the rights of vulnerable populations and the creation of inclusive learning environments. The inclusion of children with disabilities influenced policy development in multiple sub-Saharan countries and expanded the dialogues on how best to support learning for all children. During the era of strength-based and positive approaches, theoretical and pragmatic approaches that forefront strengths, capacities, and possibilities started to develop. This era signified yet another departure from previous hegemonic paradigms in that educational psychology moved beyond the individual level, toward more systemic approaches, but then also used approaches that focused more on strengths and the mobilization of resources within these systems to address challenges and to optimize educational psychological support. These eras in the development of educational psychology in sub-Saharan Africa created optimal opportunities to respond to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In terms of SDGs, educational psychology responds primarily to Global Goal 3 (health and well-being) and Global Goal 4 (quality education). At the same time it supports the Global Goals of no poverty (1), gender equality (5), decent work and economic growth (8), reduced inequalities (10), sustainable cities and communities (11), and building partnerships for the goals (17).

Article

Development cooperation is one of the traditional policy domains of the European Union (EU). Over the years it advanced from an instrument used in colonial times to one of modern partnership, although European self-interest remains a driving force. Jointly, the EU and its member states are the largest development donor in the world and also provide sizable market access and investment to developing countries. Their overall performance record has been assessed fairly positively by internal and external parties, although many possible improvements have been identified. The various enlargements of the EU traceably supported a widening of the geographic and substantive scope of EU development policies and practice. In addition, EU development cooperation was reinforced by the fact that it gradually received a firmer basis in the constituent EU treaties. The “European Consensus on Development” document, as revised in 2017, laid out the main direction of and emphases in EU development cooperation until the year 2030. The European Consensus prescribed a rights-based approach, and squarely placed the United Nations “Agenda 2030” and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contained in it, as the main framework and objectives for EU development cooperation. A wide range of actors is involved in EU development cooperation, in part because this is an area of shared competence among the EU member states that pursue their own national policies as well as those specified by the EU. Thus, EU actors such as the European Commission, Council, and Parliament feature in this policy field along with EU member states and individual or collective developing country actors. The most prominent example of this is the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, which consists of 79 countries. Civil society organizations, including non-governmental development organizations, both from the North and the South, also seek to influence or otherwise engage with the policies and practices of EU development cooperation. While EU development cooperation is an established policy field, it is also still very much a work in progress, and major challenges lay ahead for action in the period up to 2030, the year in which the SDGs are to be realized. These major challenges include funding, strengthening the EU’s political clout in the world by using development cooperation more strategically for forging and influencing global decision-making on relevant topics, renewing and innovating the relations between the EU and ACP countries, handling the consequences of Brexit, and improving on the delivery of EU development cooperation.

Article

David Sanders and Louis Reynolds

The global project to achieve Health for All through Primary Health Care (PHC) is a profoundly political one. In seeking to address both universal access to health care and the social determinants of health (SDH) it challenges power blocs which have material vested interests in technical approaches to health and development. The forces that have shaped PHC include Community Oriented Primary Care and the Health Centre Movement, the “basic health services approach,” and nongovernmental and national initiatives that exemplified comprehensive and participatory approaches to health development. The 1978 Alma-Ata Declaration codified these experiences and advocated Health for All by the year 2000 through PHC. It emphasized equitable and appropriate community and primary-level health care as well as intersectoral actions and community participation to address the social and environmental determinants of health. This would need the support of a new international economic order. The concept of “Selective Primary Health Care” emerged soon after Alma-Ata, privileging a limited set of technical interventions directed at selected groups, notably young children. This was soon operationalized as UNICEF’s Child Survival Revolution. The visionary and comprehensive policy of PHC was further eroded by the 1970s debt crisis and subsequent economic policies including structural adjustment and accelerated neoliberal globalization that deregulated markets and financial flows and reduced state expenditure on public services. This translated, in many countries, as “health sector reform” with a dominant focus on cost efficiency to the detriment of broad developmental approaches to health. More recently this selective approach has been aggravated by the financing of global health through public-private partnerships that fund specific interventions for selected diseases. They have also spawned many “service delivery” NGOs whose activities have often reinforced a biomedical emphasis, supported by large philanthropic funding such as that of the Gates Foundation. Educational institutions have largely failed to transform their curricula to incorporate the philosophy and application of PHC to inform the practice of students and graduates, perpetuating weakness in its implementation. Revitalizing PHC requires at least three key steps: improved equity in access to services, a strong focus on intersectoral action (ISA) to address SDH and prioritization of community-based approaches. The third sustainable development goal (SDGs) focuses on health, with universal health coverage (UHC) at its center. While UHC has the potential to enhance equitable access to comprehensive health care with financial protection, realizing this will require public financing based on social solidarity. Groups with vested interests such as private insurance schemes and corporate service providers have already organized against this approach in some countries. The SDGs also provide an opportunity to enhance ISA, since they include social and environmental goals that could also support the scaling up of Community Health Worker programs and enhanced community participation. However, SDG-8, which proposes high economic growth based substantially on an extractivist model, contradicts the goals for environmental sustainability. Human-induced environmental degradation, climate change, and global warming have emerged as a major threat to health. As presciently observed at Alma-Ata, the success of PHC, and Health for All requires the establishment of a new, ecologically sustainable, economic order.