by Ruth Aine - 01 November 2015
There are so many words whose definitions I struggle with – however, top of that list is ‘sustainability’. While I am a fan of the word (I think all millennial development professionals are), I still find myself musing at what the best possible meaning of this word could be. It also turns out that I am not the only one that thinks so – there is an author who wrote a paper on why they believed that the definition of sustainability was flawed. Now this is a ‘troubled’ word.
‘Sustainability’ for me means continued processes. The world today is at a place where we are talking of continued processes, which is a good place to be. Because we understand that there are processes that were/are started and that they need to be continued and furthered for this world to become a better place.
The kind of processes that I truly care for can be found in development and climate related issues. And we need a lot of continuity in those areas.
For sustainable development to actually happen, we need to harness all powers within our reach and be available to accomplish the task before us. Last month the United Nations adapted the Sustainable Development Goals on behalf of the countries that believe in them. And it was a glorious sight knowing that we are thinking about the future and that we want to be able to relate with it when it comes – if we are still alive. I recall, as the Goals were read by different personalities at this year’s Social Good Summit, all I could think about was how bright and brilliant the future was going to be. Reason being – great seeds had been sowed to that effect.
I also saw the effects of having the world unified about something. Unity of voice is very important. Sustainability has got to be driven by unity of mind and voice. The goals – as many as they may be – can only be realized if we are looking to achieve the same things for our communities and our countries, and this makes it even more interesting. I also don’t understand how one goal can be more important than the other. And this is not to rubbish the champions of the different goals, but I do not see clean water and sanitation happening when there is no quality education or decent work and economic growth for all. I am all for collective effort – unity of mind, unity of voice, unity of effort across the board.
Lastly, for me is the fact that these goals are our goals. They possess within them our future – they are ours, but we have got to own them. Elimination of gender inequality is as real as global partnerships are, but none of these processes will work unless they are owned by us, the people.
Sustainability, which in itself is a futuristic term, is bound to happen if:
1. We harness all power and effort towards achieving the development goals
2. There is unity of voice
3. We own the goals
This is why I am looking forward to the future, to 2030, to 15 years down the road. Because I am very positive that, as individuals, organizations and communities, we will have achieved a lot – the kind of progress that makes this world a better place to be and live in. But first we need to recognize the process of building sustainability and be a part of it, only then will we recognize the future.