Third World developing too slowly

The Sustainability Watch 2006 Report, launched by civil service organisations at the annual meetings of the Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), stressed that sustainable development was crucial as about three billion people – almost 50 percent of the world population – now live on less than two US dollars a day.

This figure was expected to rise by 100 million by 2015 unless implementation of internationally agreed commitments was substantially improved.

The most critical factor is the market-oriented development frameworks, which promote trade liberalisation and privatisation, said Roy Cabonegro, regional facilitator for Asia of Sustainability Watch, a civil society network in 15 Southern countries monitoring promises to improve sustainability.

These frameworks do not pay serious attention to environmental constraints, especially in the case of planning for land and natural resource use.

The report also identified four other key barriers to sustainable development. Weak governance failed to produce sufficient economic development and social services to catch up with population growth and led to a reluctance to challenge unfair trade liberalisation regimes.

Institutional constraints led to failures in strategies, in proper monitoring of the interaction between poverty, environment and governance, and in civil society participation.

Inconsistent policies, on the other hand, meant that sustainable development principles were often contradicted by other policies that harm the environment.

Many governments also put in inadequate resources to improve sustainable development while loan conditionalities and unsustainable debt further restricted their ability to achieve targets.

“All our environmental indices are going down while economic growth is steadily going up,” Cabonegro told IPS.

Reacting to the report, the World Bank’s chief scientist, Robert Watson, said he largely agreed with the findings but implementing the recommendations to overcome the barriers would be difficult. Finance and other ministers needed to be convinced, he said, adding that it was also a major job to convince the private sector.

“We really have to develop the importance of the poverty-environment-economy link,” he stressed, adding that it was crucial to reduce the factors that drive biodiversity loss.

“I am not convinced we can meet the (United Nations prescribed) Millennium Development Goals even with political will,” he warned.

One observer at the launch of the report sharply criticised growth-oriented economic development models. “We are so fixated on growth, growth, growth, when it is precisely that growth which harms the environment,” she said.

In a communiqu’ on Monday, the World Bank’s Development Committee welcomed its own progress in developing a Clean Energy Investment Framework, a response to the mandate from the G8 summit in Gleneagles last year. The framework proposes raising US$10 billion for conventional energy technologies.

The committee said it had found broad support for promoting energy for development, access to affordable energy for the poor, the transition to a low-carbon economy and the provision of assistance to developing countries to adapt to climate change.

But instead of combating climate change, the framework promotes coal-fired power, nuclear power and large hydroelectric projects, complained nine civil society groups in a statement to mark the release of their report.

The report, “How the World Bank’s Energy Framework sells the climate and poor people short”, was released here on Sunday.

“In continuing to lend for fossil fuel and dam projects, the Bank has consistently missed the social and environment double dividend that renewable energy technologies could bring,” said Peter Bosshard of the International Rivers Network, which works to protect rivers and defend the rights of communities that depend on them. – IPS.

September 2006
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