The conceptual framework of sustainable development has been conventionally enshrined in the masthead of the notions associated with the environment (Robert W. Kates, n.d.) who’s heterogeneity and complexity is best articulated by its values , indicators and in this case the United Nations 2030 goals associated which aim at combating the social woes plaguing humanity as of result of the costs of growth pathways and future development possibilities.
According to the UN sustainable development entails “developmental practices that meet the needs of the present without compromising that of future generations thereby calling for concerted efforts towards building an inclusive, sustainable and resilient future for the people and the planet.” (United Nations SDG, 2015) The achievement of which hinges on the cohesive merging of economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection serving as the culmination of societal well-being and ensuring that of the individual.
Notably, sustainable development’s core ideas lie in redressing humanities historically complex chronic societal woes, namely, the eradication of poverty and understanding its various dimensions. There are mainly five perspectives of addressing poverty indicators, dimensions, and forms. First and foremost, these include the income perspective that’s is concerning the vast majority of the population living below the poverty line. In the South African context that is an alarming and increasing 55,5%of the population with the average household living on an average income between R500-900. (Stats SA, August 2017) Thus the second indicator is the basic needs perspective as exemplified by South African’s water crisis.
Thirdly, the social exclusion perspective, in terms of the relational dimensions of poverty embodied by the political and socio-economic inequalities often synonymous with varying forms of discrimination in South Africa. The fourth being, the sustainable livelihoods perspective which hinges on vulnerability and the inability to cope with the societal ramifications of this issue. Lastly, the human development perspective which asserts equally far-reaching and yet diverse intangible aspects of poverty measured the Human Development Index thus offering a comprehensively integrated dimension of poverty.
As a result the UN Sustainability development conceptual framework thus allows for the implementation of ‘equitable economic growth, accessible inclusive opportunity creation, the reduction of broader dimensional inequalities associated with age, race, and gender , and escalating basic standards of living, in order to cultivate a universal culture of equitable and inclusive social development ,integrated with the promotion of sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems.’ (United Nations SDG, 2015)
While the vision of the UN Sustainable Development Goals address the totality of the above poverty indicators in a transformation based endeavour to redress ” poverty and illiteracy , hunger and disease, want, violence and fear” and allow for universal inclusivity, equitable access to basic needs and the adherence to valuing human rights in conjunction with environmental sustainability . The 17 Goals themselves begin with the fight to end poverty, food security woes, health and inclusivity, gender equity, infrastructure for meeting basic needs and the reduction of inequality between countries as well as within them and sustainable environmental practices. All of which aim to adhere to the UN values of the people, participation, peace, prosperity, the planet, and solidarity. (United Nations, 2015)
In the South African context, however, the notion of sustainable development is not so much a matter its definitive dimensions, rather, the severity of the social woes within the nation. The paradox of a relatively large country with an equally relatively developed infrastructure, low population density and abundant natural resources juxtaposed by an arguably comparative low income per capita, paralleled by the highest levels of inequality (FITZGERALD, 1994). The sustainable development challenge of the nation is, therefore, redressing the ever-escalating bounds of poverty and inequality. As is self-evident sustainable development in the country cannot be addressed without an emphatic reference to the historical consequences and ramifications of apartheid.
This a system that not only deeply entrenched discriminant policy but institutionalized racism and inequality to the extent that the economic disposition of the South African population of people of color is so systematically disadvantaged that the ‘per capita income of the black population in 1990 was an appalling 12% of that of the whites, with the Indian, Coloured and Chinese population having slightly higher yet equally low incomes.’ Additionally, as mentioned above, while over half the population lives in abject poverty two-thirds of that number rests in the African population and only rises to four firths when the rural population is taken into account.
‘The apartheid systematic foundations of inequality, the vehicle of South Africa’s poverty rates, was catalyzed by inequitable expenditure on education with startling statics that left only 2.2% of blacks population matriculating as opposed to 53% of its white counterparts. “Only one-seventh of the amount spent on each white child’s education was spent on each black child.”
Thereby paving the way for chronic poverty through expropriation of black rights, in terms of access to resources, limited economic public participation either as entrepreneurs with access to credit and services or as skilled workers competing on a par with white colleagues.’ (FITZGERALD, 1994).
Therefore the conventional approach to sustainable management of natural resources cannot be addressed adequately in face of such human complex issues and till the human capital issues are combatted on an institutional level beginning with the national strategies to allow for what Environmental Management Act (NEMA), (Act No. 107 of 1998) defines as the integration of social, economic and environmental factors into planning, implementation, and decision making so as to ensure that development serves the present and future generations”
All of which, hinges on the extent to which the acknowledgment and emphasize of non-negotiable ecological thresholds bearing in mind social, economic and ecosystem factors are embedded within each other and are underpinned by government systems and capacity for policy implementation
Because, sustainable development is about people, first and foremost its focus in South Africa is equitable, efficient integration of the 2030 principles enhancing human well-being, quality of life and natural resources. The Country’s National Strategy on Sustainable Development, (NSSD) addresses five fundamental intervention categories which are as follows: Firstly to do with the fundamental systems themselves, which ought to be enhanced to ensure greater integrated planning and implementation by so doing redressing the institutional inequities and discrepancy of the countries previous regimes. Secondly, the efficiency with which natural resource is utilized should allow for the sustenance of the nation’s eco-systems. The central focal area in the nation’s strategic development plan lies in the investment in sustainable infrastructure to further economic development that redresses the poverty within the borders of the nation. Additionally, the creation of sustainable human settlements. Lastly and most importantly the NSSD aims to offer an appropriate response to emerging human developmental, economic and environmental challenges.
As is the common theme in the UN sustainable development goals the implementation challenges that plague South Africa is the fundamental human needs addressed by the basic need perspective or dimension of poverty. Namely the implications of the global economic crisis with growing international protectionist trade policies coupled with the nation plunging into a recession which will see interest rates skyrocket, all with the basic cost of living and the exchange rate leaving the rand at R24 to a dollar. While inflation remains a threat globally South Africa, in turn, finds itself with a -2.2% growth rate. Subsequently, food security in the nation, juxtaposed by a global climate crisis and equally alarming food crisis, following the recession announcement saw a significant rise in maize prices of nearly 40% thus serving as an additional deterrent.
What is more recession inflation hikes’ implications on a pre-existing global energy crisis resulting in the cost of energy also escalating, energy security, efficiency, and prices which are so intrinsically intertwined with the socio-economic, and environmental dimension of sustainability pose a great threat to the poverty eradication goal? With the nation so heavily reliant on fossil fuels, the volatile energy crisis has the far-reaching effect of perpetuating chronic poverty and inequality given that the vast majority of the labor force is in the primary sector. Not only do the livelihoods across the nation face this challenge but the resulting impact on human development in terms of education, accessible nutrition, sanitation and health, and also population growth is colossal. This is made abundantly evident, with the nations Human Development Index’s alarming rise form 0.618 to 0.699 since 1999 (United Nations Human Development, 2017).
What is the South African Government doing? In terms of sustaining the ecosystems and natural resources, a National Sustainable Production and Consumption programme has been proposed. This would aid in adhering to the 2030 sustainable consumption of resources goals, address biodiversity and land desertification, while not only combating the current water crisis but also the maintenance of water as part of the conservation of coastal resource and marine life. That is in addition to the climate change and energy crisis mitigation which includes increased funding and capacity for alternative energy, consumption reduction of fossil fuels, their storage, and efficient utilization.
Economic development and infrastructure, however, remains the core of redressing the socio-economic plagues of poverty and inequality, which bears an intrinsic factor in fostering resource use and the extent to which any of the sustainability goals can be achieved. As mentioned above, because sustainable development focuses on growth pathways the first government policy lies in the increase of investment in technology, in terms of transport and telecommunications, the building of infrastructure to foster growth and development. While the central redressing of the consequences of apartheid discriminatory systems is in affirmative action policies such as the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE Promotion of sustainable businesses), this serves to complement government aims to promote sustainable businesses, trade & infrastructure investment.
The subsequent governmental target of redressing chronic poverty is in the creation of sustainable human settlements in order to allow for basic needs to be met such as access to water and other fundamental basic services particularly water, sanitation and refuse removal.
This is addressed by the Free Basic Services Policy. Additionally, poverty reduction and food security are in turn tackled by the agricultural aspects of the BBBEEE initiative to allow for the average South African to have access to the factors of production even in seemingly menial aspects such as personal vegetable gardens. Hence the introduction of the Agricultural Starter Pack Programme and National School Nutrition Programme, as well as the Comprehensive National Anti-Poverty strategy including additional grants and welfare programmes aimed at the building of social capital. That is in conjunction with urban and rural development whose primary role is the promotion of sustainable livelihoods & employment utilizing the Local Economic Development (LED) programme and the establishment of Green Building Councils.
That is in responding appropriately to emerging human development, economic and environmental challenges government aim to foster skills and research development as addressed by programmes such as the National Education for Sustainable Development Strategy, designed to allows the building of institutional capacity as well government capacity, and increase investment in education and research. With the nation’s majority of the low skilled labor force and poor education system, the remaining shell of Bantu Education policy, inequality remains a prominent deterrent to achieving UNESCO goals. This can be asserted as the key to redressing the SDG zero poverty goal, which provides a platform for all other SDG goals to becomes feasible, let alone fathomable.
The conclusive factor that would aid in achieving the 2030 SDG, is, therefore, lies not just in the above-mentioned policies and programmes rather in enhancing systematic institutional strategies. Beginning with fosters equitable public participation and cooperative governance to intervene in implementation of sustainable challenges of implementation and establish institutional bodies to support Integrated Development from the judicial and legislative level, monitoring and evaluation of developmental endeavours through a quarterly reports with as much weight as financial statistics ,as well as auditing of financial resource allocating of all initiatives.