|Sustainable Energy News - No. 06 September 1994 (INFORSE, 1994)|
The World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen, March 6-12, 1995, will take centre stage in media attention as heads of state meet to address issues central to human existence. by Viral Balsari, Forum for Energy and Development
The focal issues of the Summit will be: · Reducing and alleviating poverty
· Creating jobs
· Building social integration
The principal idea behind the Summit is to place people at the apex of social reform and uplift agendas. Not only has the gulf between the have and the have-nots in the North and South widened, but a severe imbalance between living standards of peoples within these hemispheres has increased many times as well. Thus, though the extet of needs may vary in different regions, there is an overall need for action to wrest with and to solve problems that bring about a decline in social wellbeing.
The core issues stated above, should not be considered in isolation from each other, rather, they should tee viewed as being intricately interwoven. For example, unemployment causes increasing poverty and a decline in general living standards. World Employment statistics, released for the Summit on Social Development indicate that in industrialized countries, one out of every ten persons is unemployed, and this figure continues to rise In developing countries, not only are people unemployed, but underemployment remains an unsolved problem. There are 700 million underemployed people in the world (mostly found in developing countries), end they comprise the 1.1 billion absolute poor found worldwide. Rising unemployment and widespread poverty adversely affect societies in terms of increasing crime, migration, lopsided development, and the like, which ultimately is reflected in the general social situation.
The aim of the discussion of the United Nations Draft Programme and Draft Action Plan for the Social Summit will be to endorse strategies and proposals that can achieve objectives pertaining to the three core issues. These objectives will include: The creation of a supportive economic environment, e.g., for resolving external debt problems; enhancement of social integration of disadvantaged and marginalised groups, e.g., protecting diversity, ensuring education to all, etc.; alleviation of poverty through the promotion of sustainable development in fragile ecosystems, and alleviation as well as reduction of rural poverty.
The signing of the final Declaration and final Programme of Action by heads of state will serve to bring the need for social development to the forefront of national planning initiatives. The UN view is that social development is primarily within the purview of national governments and societies. On the other hand, the international community, especially the UN, plays a supportive role with regard to social development and social progress in the world. Thus, the UN has identified areas of international cooperation that aim at assisting governments to implement social development programs in their respective countries. These 5 types of international cooperation, directed at helping in the implementation of strategies at national levels are: raising awareness, exchanging information and experience establishing a policy dialogue in areas of international concern,
- developing norms, standards, conventions and other international instruments, and identifying areas of cooperation and direct support to developing countries.
The INforSE Perspective
With regard to the above, INforSE supports sustainable energy technologies with the purpose of attaining social development. Energy needs are focal to development requirements of citizens, irrespective of the level of development of a country. With the advent of environmental concerns highlighted by the UNCED '92, there is a growing realization of the need for sustainable energy solutions. Thus, the use of sustainable energy not only satisfies environmental concerns, but larger social development is brought about. For example, in developing countries, rural women are usually primary end users of energy, and considerable time and effort is lost in the collection of firewood and cooking. At the same time, these women are exposed to risks of contracting disease, because current energy use is both environmentally and socially detrimental. In such cases, improved cookstoves, for instance, would go a long way towards alleviating the plight of rural women, at least in some spheres of social life. Improved cookstoves, such as the Kenya Ceramic Jiko (KCJ) and the Afghan Solar Cooker, have brought vast improvements in the plight of the populace to which they have been distributed. Success stories in the field of sustainable energy cause INforSE to strive for further dissemination of these technologies on a widespread basis.
With a view to promoting sustainable energy technologies and bringing about social development, INforSE has undertaken a number of campaign activities that will not only help to bring larger attention to pressing social problems but will also assist in drawing up practical proposals to tackle them.