How to build a more sustainable world? In this article, Amitabh Behar, Executive Director (interim) at Oxfam International explains how that could be done.
In the recent United Nations General Assembly, there were many discussions about the world’s turbulent state. In the rooms where influential people meet, I am confident that everyone is, at least, fully and openly aware of the existential crises facing us.
The worsening climate emergency, intractable conflicts, the global cost-of-living crisis, soaring inequalities, technological disruption, and deepening divisions between people and nations.
Within days of the Assembly closing, the Occupied Palestinian Territory exploded into violence at an appalling and condemnable cost of civilian lives. Catastrophic outcomes, particularly now for the besieged people of Gaza, seem inevitable unless we find a ceasefire.
Never in history have world leaders been faced with such enormous challenges.
Against this darkness, we take hope where we can find it. I visited the Boulbi Rice Miller’s Cooperative in Burkina Faso earlier this year. I was stirred by stories of phenomenal women there who have transformed their lives from poverty to empowerment. They are earning incomes, supporting their families, and leading their communities. These women continue to demonstrate remarkable resilience and solidarity, charting a significantly different future from the world they knew.
A reason to celebrate?
This is the 75th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a powerful north star for humankind. We are also at the midpoint of the SDG targets, our most ambitious global compact that integrates our social, economic, and environmental goals. The vision for these frameworks is laudable, but politics has failed in realizing their anticipated ambition. The world is way off-track to achieve the SDGs. The UN Secretary General’s latest progress report shows that 80% of them are either showing weak progress or regression.
We simply have not been doing enough and consistently to realize progress. Where there has been some change, the rate of it does not match the challenges. We need a fundamental reboot in our approach to achieving these goals. We need a radical commitment to course correct toward sustainable development while simultaneously fostering economic opportunity and averting an ecological collapse.
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Citizens for action
Now is the moment to bring people to the center of change. Every day, we hear rhetoric as a substitute for real action. Our leadership has failed us, both in politics and in the board rooms. People’s power – and I would argue, only people’s power – can hold our leaders accountable to their promises. We know from history that the power of the people has a domino effect in triggering and sustaining the change we desire to see.
But how can this happen? Where should we focus?
As citizens, we need to demand for a new economic order. We cannot continue with business as usual, prioritizing the top one percent at the expense of the rest. We cannot sustain a world built upon the unpaid and underpaid work of women, and where workers are exploited and unfairly compensated.
We cannot accept this injustice as the norm. We need to make this a century of public action. Our leaders must be made accountable to meet their promises in addressing our economic, environmental, and social crises.
We must secure the dignity, opportunity, and rights for all. The well-being of the people, specifically the underprivileged majority, should be at the very center of all our systems – social, economic, and environmental. Justice and compassion should be the driving force underpinning this transformation. A new social contract is long overdue. Without it, we risk exacerbating the harm of inequality, poverty, and climate change.
A more sustainable world is possible
Carl Sandburg said that nothing happens unless first we dream – and we know, “without dreams, there can be no courage. And without courage, there can be no action.” So let us be courageous to believe that a better world is possible, an equal world is possible, and a just world is possible.
We have the solutions. What we need is the right leadership and political will to drive toward the genuine change we need. Achieving sustainable growth while learning from the mistakes of our past will increase our resilience and spread well-being and prosperity. As citizens, we need to mobilize, join hands, and challenge power for an equal and just world. Let’s create a future that we will be proud to leave as our generational legacy.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: The quest for a more sustainable world Source: Unsplash.