|Strengthening the Fabric of Society: Population. Capacity Building for Sustainable Development (UNDP - UNFPA, 1996, 53 p.)|
People organize themselves into societies because of the promise of a better life. Making good on that promise is the purpose of development. It is not a goal, but an ongoing activity,
Societies are complex organisms, consisting of a myriad of dynamic, interacting components. For development to work, it must respect this complexity and make progress on many fronts at once. For development to make life better, it must help people become more secure, free of the fear that development and its benefits might not last. To provide that security, development must have continuity, it must be sustainable indefinitely.
To be sustainable, development must flow from the priorities of the society in which it is taking place. People at all levels must have a hand in shaping those priorities for the resulting programs to meet the real needs of society and be workable within the means available. Sustainable development is the process of realizing the potential inherent in a society and the environment in which that society lives. Rather than pushing existing capacity to the breaking point, sustainable development works within available resources and, where it can, builds capacity further.
This paper provides an overview of the critical capacity building measures needed in the broad area of population. Population factors such as growth, distribution, urbanization and others, have definite and prolonged impacts on the environment and natural resource base of every country. Developed world populations, through their tremendous consumer capacities, now have impacts on the natural resources of countries thousands of kilometres apart. High population growth rates in poor countries often result in a legacy of ruined and mismanaged resources. Third World cities are becoming overwhelmed by the influx of migrants from the countryside seeking better opportunities for themselves and their families. But besieged municipal governments find themselves running just to stand still, unable to keep up with the demand for adequate services medical care, education, housing, family planning, clean drinking water and sanitation, among others.
Understanding how population factors interact with and influence the management of natural resources is an important first step in evolving comprehensive population policies integrated into a country's overall development objectives. Since the impact of population factors is felt on all other areas of development, it could be argued that the adoption of population policies and the provision of reproductive health services should be two of the main considerations in any country's move towards sustainable human development and the rational husbanding of resources. Only by strengthening these important threads in the fabric of society, can society move closer to being able to provide the quality of life for which so many still yearn.
James Gustave Speth