The continuing series of United Nations on-line consultations on the post-2015 development agenda for environmental responsibility included the theme of Local Action, Innovation and Empowerment. The IEF submitted the contribution below on "Building Community Resilience" on 26 May 2013. Parts of this text were also included in the contribution on poverty, but are relevant here as well.
Building Community Resilience
International Environment Forum contribution to UN online consultation on Environmental Sustainability (http://www.iefworld.org)
Progress in the development field depends on and is driven by stirrings at the grass roots of society rather than from an imposition of externally developed plans and programmes. Communities should be empowered through processes of action, reflection and consultation to address their own priorities in meeting their needs, while reducing their vulnerability and managing their environment. It is necessary to increase local communities' and individuals' awareness of the needs and possibilities and of their capacity to respond. Different communities will likely devise different approaches and solutions in response to similar needs. It is for each community to determine its goals and priorities in keeping with its capacity and resources. Given the diversity of communities around the world, it is important to encourage innovation and a variety of approaches to the environment and development appropriate to the rhythm of life in the community.
The foundation of human development is our inherent capacity to learn. Education is fundamental, starting with mothers who are the first educators of their children, and who are most directly engaged with environmental resources through food production, collecting water and fuel, and waste disposal and sanitation. Capacity building in the community should include exploring the relationship of humans to the environment, and learning to engage in acts of service related to environmental sustainability. Community processes should be set in motion to agree on collective goals, to reinforce a spirit of solidarity, to involve the community, and particularly the youth, in the education of children, and to build the capacity to manage local problems for the benefit of all. Involving youth in caring for the generation that will follow them can become a self-sustaining process of community advancement.
Science and technology should be accessible to everyone in the community through appropriate education. Most technological development today is driven by market forces that neither reflect nor respond to local needs. To be able to contribute to sustainability, everyone should be empowered within their capacity with the tools and approaches of science: evidence based reasoning, understanding cause and effect, experimentation, thinking in terms of systems in a long-term perspective, and learning adaptive management in a time of dynamic change. The natural and social sciences, crafts, and local and indigenous knowledge are based on similar processes of observation and experimentation, so all can contribute to sustainable community development. Institutional capacity and learning processes should be developed within communities to create and apply knowledge in ways that address their specific needs.
A new focus is needed on science at the community level. Community and neighbourhood educational programmes should stimulate community consultation on the science and ethics of environmental responsibility, local vulnerability to climate change, sustainable use of energy and resources, and local environmental management. Science and indigenous knowledge systems should be integrated in defining sustainable environmental management adapted to local conditions and cultures and to community needs. These community processes should be supported and encouraged by regional centres of research and training for sustainable development empowered to create technologies addressing locally defined needs and priorities that take into account both the material and moral prosperity of the community.
Communities should also take a more direct role in preventing poverty by providing for those locally in need, such as through a village storehouse or fund that would receive a graduated percentage of local production surpluses and provide for the poor and those unable to work. This could also compensate farmers whose crops have failed, and cushion the impact of the increased variability caused by climate change.
Reference: adapted in part from "Science and Technology for Community Empowerment", International Environment Forum statement to UNCSD, June 2012, http://iefworld.org/iefRio20science
Last updated 26 May 2013