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RANYA KHALIFA: "Democracy Digest"...


""The Pathway to Sustainable Development Series"

Posted on May 5, 2014 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

The Pathway to Sustainable Development Series: An Introduction

Having just completed an immensely interesting online course in "Sustainable Development" with the "Earth Institute", Columbia University, New York, it became imperative for me to attempt to apply and share my newly acquired knowledge with Egyptians who are eager to look into the future rather than focus on the negativities and events of the tumultous past 3 years (2011-2014). Many political pundits and TV commentators have already analyzed and attempted to decipher the political events that have taken place in Egypt since 2011, turning every stone, nook and cranny.  I am done with looking to the past for answers. History cannot be altered. But it can be perceived differently depending on the author's vantage point and political disposition. 

Therefore, it seemed more fruitful and indeed rewarding to migrate to a less contentious aspect of Egypt's future, i.e economic growth and sustainable development.  Applying the concepts of sustainable development for a growing population of 92 million Egyptians would actually help realize the famous slogan of the January 25th Revolution, namely, "Bread, freedom, and social justice".  How? Well, the answer may lie within the four basic tenets of sustainable development:

1) Economic growth,

2) Social inclusion,

3) Environmental sustainability, and,

4) Good governance (public and private sectors).

So why should we care about sustainable development and why shouldn't the upcoming government in Egypt just continue doing "business as usual"? This series of posts will hopefully attempt to explain why the "business as usual" trajectory has failed in Egypt and how it indeed may have even ignited the January 2011 Revolution and spilled over into the June 30th Revolution as well.  Make no mistake about it, sustainable development is a challenging and complex concept in today's day and age. But, having said that, sustainable development does work if it is applied and implemented with a holistic perspective, rather than as a piecemeal endeavour used by governments the world over.

The January 25th revolution was an example of a revolution that errupted due to several factors, some of which I believe were: lack of accountability, high income inequality, poor education standards, as well as inadequate health facilities and services.  Sustainable development, when applied holistically, attempts to ensure that the entire society, men and women, have equal opportunities, health facilities, education, adequate nutrition, smarter cities and powergrids, i.e. a decreased reliance on carbon emitting fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, and more reliance on cleaner sources of energy such as solar, wind and nuclear energy. So what are the pathways to sustainable development and why should Egypt take that route? Let's turn to a brief analysis now.

Pathways to sustainable development:

The first part of sustainable development (henceforth SD) is to understand the inter-linkages of economy, society, enviornment and politics.  The second part of SD is to actually do something about the dangers we face. Why should Egypt move forcefully onto the trajectory of SD rather than continue on the "business as usual" path? What would happen if we continued as we are today? Well, science and technology will continue to advance, and Egypt will also continue its race to close the gap with leading countries, such as the USA and UK (the latter being the home of the Industrial Revolution itself). Hence, it's time to seriously use clinical economics and apply the fundamentals of "differential diagnosis"  in order to to discover and propose solutions for the case of Egypt. Egypt needs to bridge the gap between its rich and poor (decrease the GINI coefficient), to decrease carbon emissions by relying on renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels, to decrease its fertility rate, and to design smarter and more resilient cities. That's putting it in a simplified nutshell.

In short, the path to sustainable development is feasible and necessary for Egypt.  Egypt needs to get out of the "education trap" (to be discussed later at length), and indeed to get out of the "poverty trap" by enforcing social inclusion for broadbased prosperity and for the elimination of discrimination, for equal protection under the Law, and more importantly, for encouraging social mobility in its ever growing population.

My upcoming posts will delve deeper into different aspects of SD which Egypt needs to focus on in the short-term in order to fulfill the famous mantra of January 25th and the pressing need for economic development that is more than merely a higher GDP per capita, but rather the government must strive for a much higher Human Development Index rank which adds education and health to economic growth, all under the umbrella of good governance by both the public and private sectors.

The future government of Egypt bears the onus to fulfill the aspirations of its people. This series of posts will attempt to present some solutions to this very pressing situation.  I will attempt to cover SD from the following aspects: Education, Socia Inclusion, Resilient Cities, Food Security, escaping the "Poverty Trap", via the application of clinical economics i.e. a "differential diagnosis" to the case of Egypt.

I hope this introduction was of benefit to you and that you have taken interest in this rich and challenging topic! Stay tuned for future posts on "The Pathway to Sustainable Development" series.