KICKER: Global scale
Unity is key to overcoming environmental mainstreaming
There is much legitimate concern at present about the rise in the incidence of environmental problems such as climate change, droughts and floods, loss of soil fertility, unsustainable exploitation and incremental destruction of biodiversity. With persistent poverty, in part entrenched by such system failures, there is a growing interest in ways to minimise the chain of costs that arise from environmental shocks and stresses. The environment needs to be recognised as a key component in policies for security, stability and sustainability. However, it is becoming clear that environmental concerns lie at the heart of all good development.
Mainstreaming processes depend very much upon context, and so the approaches differ. However, the assessment of effective mainstreaming suggests that there are some clear principles behind it, including leadership, integration, key sectors, dialogue, ownership and subsidiarity, use of environmental mainstreaming processes, as well as transparency and accountability. Consideration of the environment needs to cover both ‘positive’ issues, such as opportunities and potentials for sustainable use of environmental assets, as well as ‘negative’ issues, including problems of environmental degradation and pollution that have been uppermost to date in the development and use of safeguards.
The environment needs to be considered at local levels, whereby local organisations and individuals make daily decisions about the way they use and manage environmental assets. Intervening and bold steps taken up by non-governmental and governmental organisations can do wonders.
Together, we can. Complete focus and the right direction are the main footholds in any developmental issue. We must work to make effective environmental mainstreaming a broader affair rather than prevailing narrower approaches.
From Ms Anjum Hassan
Biology teacher based in Sharjah
KICKER: Political will
Governments must recognise the environment as top priority
Environmental sustainability should not just be a matter of protocol given to us by our governments — it is something that needs to be heeded as practice. What’s most disheartening is the fact that today, the environment is viewed as secondary and not as integral to our existence. It is pivotal that our governments and political bodies collaborate to incorporate environmental mainstreaming in our nations. Politicians probably don’t regard this issue as one of utmost importance and hence, it doesn’t get the attention it requires. There are still not many governments that consider poverty and environment to be complementary to each other, while certain others believe that money makes a difference, and ‘capitalism and the environment are not compatible’. While making rules, a governmental body has to take into consideration the understanding of the capabilities of environmental assets, the consequence of environmental hazards, and the real or potential impact of development on the environment. Such understanding can consequently improve decisions. However, several constraints make it difficult to bring the environment into the mainstream, especially in development decisions and institutions. Firstly, the prevailing development paradigm treats the environment as an institutional and economic externality. Secondly, there exists a lack of data, information, skills and institutional capacity to work on environment-development links. Thirdly, there have been weak environmental mainstreaming initiatives to date, to act as a precedent, and probably even a lack of political will for change. These issues need to be combated and tackled in order to make it a better world not just for you and me, but for everyone.
From Ms Mariam Seddiqi
Student based in Sharjah
Urgent need to change mind-sets...
‘Environmental mainstreaming’ is the informed inclusion of relevant environmental concerns into the decisions of institutions that drive international, national and local development policies, plans, investments and actions. The economy and society are closely dependent upon the health of the environment. Environmental assets, in terms of fertile soils, clean water, biomass and biodiversity yield income, offer safety nets for the poor, maintain public health, and drive economic growth. But conversely, environmental hazards such as pollution, environmental damage, and climate change all threaten livelihoods and development. Poor people are especially dependent on environmental assets and are vulnerable to hazards. But environmental and developmental institutions and decisions tend to be separate, which results in the environment being viewed as a set of problems rather than potentials.
Today’s mainstream government and market institutions marginalise environmental issues, and prioritise short-term economic growth. Politicians are least concerned about environment and it doesn’t usually reflect in their political manifesto. They perceive the environment as a negative factor — a ‘green brake’ on development. They think taking care of the environment is the task of environment authorities. Similarly, many leaders hold the view that the environment cannot be prioritised over other concerns perceived to be ‘more pressing’, such as job creation or poverty alleviation. So, environment mainstreaming first requires a change in values and mind-sets at a leadership level.
Mainstreaming is not a standardised, technical process carried out in a neat sequence; rather it is collaboration between environment and development interests. It should be a continuous and long-term institutional change process rather than a one-off project.
From Ms Arushi Madan
Student based in Sharjah
We need to educate the new generation
I agree with Sheila Berry’s statement regarding the lack of correlation between capitalism and the environment — the two do not go hand in hand, nor are they compatible. The fact that the environment is viewed as an add-on and not as the foundation of our existence is very true and it is evident in the way that environmental issues are tackled in the global arena. It is very sad to note that we ignore such an important part of our existence and only prioritise it when it affects a wider sector of the general public.
The truth is that we need to pay more respect to the environment, as the issues that we are facing today are in fact mostly due to ignorance, and if we continue to look at environmental mainstreaming as a top-down priority, we are adding to a disaster waiting to happen. It is the need of the hour to get governments, organisations and the public alike, to take this matter seriously and lay out clear programmes on how to tackle the issues with utmost urgency. Give the environment the importance that it deserves — only then can countries be successful and witness growth.
All sections of society needs to raise awareness about the environment and how our actions affect it — a good approach would be to introduce more environment-related studies to curricula, as that way, children would gain a good base and hopefully grow up being more aware of their surroundings. Educating children on the matter is extremely vital in this day and age as they are the future of every society, so by making them aware, maybe we will finally have environment at the forefront of global agendas.
From Mr Rashid Khalifa
Student based in Dubai
KICKER: Moral duty
It is our responsibility as citizens of the world
Environmental issues are truly not considered to be a top priority in the global arena and that is evident in the way that every initiative related to the environment creates a social media storm as it takes place, but is later forgotten. I believe that the foremost reason for this, is the lack of political will for change, not only from politicians but also the public. The truth is that we love to put the blame on others and most often, when the subject of the environment comes up, we like to put the blame on politicians, claiming that they don’t prioritise it. But are we, as individuals doing enough to push our wish through?
It is important that we look into the underlying cause for the environment being ignored and not prioritised. According to the United Nations Development Programme and United Nations Environment Programme Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI), the main issue is that it is traditionally given a top-down priority because of a weak power base and I definitely agree with that because what is far from sight is often far from the mind as well.
It is indeed unfortunate to witness the fact that poverty-environment linkages are not incorporated into national development processes and are therefore not tackled in the manner that they should be. It is time that we change our strategies and truly include these issues and give them the significance that they deserve. If left unnoticed, it will be too late. We need to all take a stand, as citizens of the world.
From Mr Mohanned Al Zubaidi
Student based in Gothenburg, Sweden
I agree to a certain extent that we only start planning and regulating when we come across an issue or a problem that affects a wider sector of the general public. The best approach would be to think globally and act locally for a greener environment.
From Ms Ibrar Hussain
To maintain the environment is the duty of all people and it should not depend on whether or not there is a crisis or a problem.
From Mr Mohammad Shifas
— Compiled by Donia Jenabzadeh/Community Web Editor