Photo: Gizmodo

Sunday, December 4, 2011

From austerity to sustainability: what future do we want?

The chorus of people warning governments that cuts and austerity are hitting the poorest hardest is becoming ever louder and wider. The UN's special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights calls on States to address without delay the growing inequalities between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots.’ “In several countries,” she warns, “disparities created by the crisis have been exacerbated by austerity measures put in place to facilitate recovery.” Meanwhile the Robert Schuman Foundation warns that austerity measures are affecting the poorest but especially young people who have become a new "lost generation" in Europe. And in the UK, The Institute for Fiscal Studies rasies concerns that the poor will be penalised and the better-off helped by the Chancellor's recent Autumn budget statement that continues the trend of taking away from lower-income families with children, and giving away to those in the middle and top of income distribution.

Three voices, looking at this issue from an international, regional and national perspective, and coming to the same conclusion: those who have least are paying the most in vain attempts to get the world back on what were already wobbly legs. 

So what is needed to provide a more stable base for the world to get back up on its feet? In the lead up to next year's UN Conference on Sustainable Development - better known as Rio+20 - over 600 national governments, international organisations and NGOs have expressed their vision of what a sustainable future for all should look like. A compilation document of these proposals will soon be produced ahead of a preparation meeting for Rio+20 next week at the UN in New York. Whilst few of these will make their way into the summit's final outcome document, there is a broad movement - including the Beyond 2015 campaign -  calling for all countries to adopt sustainable development goals, that puts the eradication of extreme poverty at its heart. 

Even though it's highly likely that the final outcome from Rio+20 will be little more than a collection of vague and non-binding statements, it is interesting to note the link being made by Ban Ki-moon between the effects of the economic crises and a vision for a sustainable development for all: "Global challenges and crises are interconnected. Economic, social and environmental concerns are inseparable. And human rights are integral to them all. That is why we are placing sustainable development at the top of the international agenda[...]Rio+20, will offer a critical opportunity to chart a course to the future we want."

If we continue to chart a course that protects the rights of the haves and disregards the effects on a growing population of have-nots, the future will be anything but sustainable.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post: it clifies very well in which direction it is necesaru to push...