Troubled Times: Sustainable Development and Governance in the Age of Extremes

Troubled Times: Sustainable Development and Governance in the Age of Extremes

Publication details

  • Wednesday | 07 Dec, 2005
  • SDC Anthologies

This anthology results not simply from a selected set of SDPI conference papers but from a commitment to honor our friend and colleague, the late Omar Asghar Khan. Omar’s outstanding contributions to sustainable development and civil society in Pakistan are well known. We are all familiar with his courageous, principled stands on social and environmental issues, especially his support for the dispossessed, including the causes of labor, shelter, women, deforestation, large dams, and education. In his own words, “…the end for me is to see that our socio-political structures are made more workable, made more just economically and socially.” (personal interview, 2000). The idea of putting together an anthology in honor of Omar Asghar Khan came soon after his untimely demise. Our challenge was to put together a regional conference to debate many of the issues for which Omar had created the space for debate and reflection through practical work at the grassroots level and policy work at the government level. Omar continues to live with us and through us because we share many of his ideals. While we continue to feel the void of his presence in our everyday lives as well as at critical junctures, Omar has not really died because his ways will continue to provide inspiration to many who are concerned with economic and social justice. In this regard, the SDPI Conference was a befitting tribute and acknowledgement of Omar’s work as it explored the key questions: Does sustainable development open up possibilities of meaningful change in existing South Asian economic, political, and social structures? Many of the papers assert that these realities do not always compete with each other, nor are they contradictory. They demonstrate that despite its criticism, sustainable development agendas have engaged everyone—policy-makers and theorists—in all fields. This has led to the emergence of multidisciplinary approaches in researching SD and the pursuit of multi-pronged strategies for actualizing sustainable development. Such attempts have succeeded in some areas and failed in others. Given this picture, can civil society in the South negotiate the sustainable development paradigm to address the intersections of structural violence and conflict-generated violence, even as we seek effective initiatives to counter and survive this violence? How do we visualize sustainable democracy in the light of our lived realities, even as we rethink the linkages between development and trade? This collection of essays, ranging from serious academic writings to think pieces and transcribed presentations is not a standard practice. However, we felt it was important to include voices even if they did not strictly adhere to a predetermined cod for such work. Thus the book has two major sections that address development issues from a Southern perspective. Indeed, this is a common thread running through them. The essays are divided into two broad themes. The first concerns the environment sector specifically while the second focuses on broad social policy issues emanating from within and outside the region. Environmental issues are integral to the sustainable development agenda; as such they cannot possibly be divorced from economics and politics. The different subsections within this broad theme examine the environment poverty nexus, and issues ranging from forest policy, water management to sustainable industrial development and trade as well as the Southern concerns about international environmental negotiations. The second theme, captured in the second section of this book, relates to broad social policy issues that impact the lives of people in South Asia. This section examines the dynamics of globalization, poverty, and their impacts on livelihoods, women, changing labor markets as well as the need for conditions of peace and a change in the mindsets of people. Such a change becomes critical if the violence that is part of South Asia’s everyday life and that also has complementarities in the processes of globalization has to be instituted. Without such changes and their complex interconnections, sustainable development would remain a dream.