Human Development the Essence of Sustainable Development

Human Development the Essence of Sustainable Development

The first Arab Human Development Report in 2002 indicated in its overview that “Culture and values are the soul of development. They provide its impetus, facilitate the means needed to further it, and substantially define people’s vision of its purposes and ends. Culture and values are instrumental in the sense that they help to shape people’s daily hopes, fears, ambitions, attitudes and actions, but they are also formative because they mould people’s ideals and inspire their dreams for a fulfilling life for themselves and future generations” and emphasized that “values are not the servants of development; they are its wellspring.”

On Friday 26 September 2015 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, the United Nations declared 17 goals, which world leaders adopted for sustainable development to be achieved during the period from 2015 to 2030, and was considered as an ambitious plan that promises a better world within 15 years in different aspects, especially education, poverty eradication, health care and the environment.  We emphasize the importance of these goals in achieving sustainable development, and we pay tribute to all the global efforts exerted to achieve them, however, from the human development perspective that focuses on the human being as the mainstay of life and the core of development, those goals are incomplete, due to the following:

  • Human’s role is not clear in the goals except as a beneficiary and a recipient to what the governments agree upon, while development can only be sustainable when humans carry the burden and responsibility of preserving the planet; this requires them to realize the extent and scale of their roles and responsibilities towards the planet and the cosmic system, and to believe that the natural resources and wealth did not exist to be depleted and destroyed, but to be protected, preserved and harnessed for the reconstruction of Earth, and the achievement of human development.
  • Lack of emphasis on ethical standards and human values as essential elements in achieving sustainable development objective. The violent disputes, tyranny, oppression and the abolition of the other, taking place in the world have proven that the way to achieve development and sustainable peace is only by remedying traditional culture that prevail globally, which created an environment that facilitated injustice, aggression and oppression, with the need to reconsider the ruling universal values that give legitimacy and the right to the most powerful, in isolation from the ethical standards that must control the solutions and treatments offered by the international dispute and conflict resolution systems. The legitimacy of the universal values does not come from being global or because it obtains consensus among major powers, but because it relies upon ethical standards consideration and vision.
  • The Human Development report defines human development as “the process of enlarging choices,” and stresses that freedom deficit undermines human development”, yet, sustainable development goals did not promote enlarging people’s choices and fostering their freedom. Freedoms are declining, choices are narrowing, and restrictions are amplified imposing limited predetermined choices, and this not only applies to political freedoms, but even self-imposed and intellectual restrictions which are the most important elements and of greatest influence in shaping human reality and preventing them from exercising freedoms. People become helpless, unable to take their own decisions without the surrounding internal or external influences. The loss of freedom is the loss of effectiveness that leads to a better and fuller life.
  • The proposed plan for implementing the sustainable development goals during the period from 2015 to 2030 has been adopted by governments, and we are not calling for amending or reconsidering of the plan, because it was based on a global consensus, and discussion are currently underway in international forums to develop suitable measures for monitoring its progress, but we urge the concerned authorities such as government institutions, international organizations, national bodies, and civil society institutions, to consider during the implementation of programs and projects related to the achievement of sustainable development goals that human being should be at the core of development, and that culture and values are the soul of development, and that there is no way to achieve sustainable development except when the cultural and moral dimension is given equal importance to economic, social and environmental dimensions, so that the cultural dimension becomes the fourth component of sustainable development.

Bahrain Women Association for Human Development

November 2015

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