By Pooja Parvati:
It’s circa 2029: In an ongoing online symposium titled, “Sustainable Development as if People Mattered”, anguished voices post voice messages on revisiting the model of development that countries have adopted. The symposium is a eulogy to E.F. Schumacher’s 1973 path-breaking collection of essays, ‘Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered’ that questioned globalization and its impacts on humanity and celebrated the beauty of small, alternative technology to impact people’s lives more and better. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were agreed in 2015 for a 15-year period are set to expire in 2030 and there are global conversations to assess what went wrong and how we can set things right before its too late.
“We still seem to be living in a state of denial”, says one. Another voice shrilly adds, “how can we talk about development when people are dying every day due to climate shocks, wars and genocide?” “No, I see no hope for our race as we are like the giraffe that can run the fastest but cannot make a sound. We could keep being the tallest among all species but without the ability to articulate what has gone wrong and do something about it, it’s of no use”, cautions a third voice.
At the same time, in Deogarh village in the eastern state of Jharkhand in India, 15-year old Jhilmil braces herself for a long walk back home after her daily session organized by the local NGO to learn how to use computers to sell products and services. Already married, she now lives with her mother who is a contractual labourer in the small tract of land that they have had to mortgage to pay for Jhilmil’s care from repeated incidents of abuse and violence. Her father has not come back home for 7 years since he left the village seeking employment. They are a family of five, eking out a scruffy living on less than Rs.200 a day . Inflation is officially pegged at 8%. The village gets electricity for few hours daily which is when everyone charges their mobile telephones that informs them about their benefits.
Flashback to 2015:Â Malala YousafzaiÂ is at the UN General Assembly as the youth voice and talks about the need for education, peaceful and stable societies. World leaders are assembled at the 70th Session of General Assembly to acclaim the new global development goals that replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This has come through after two Sessions of active negotiations at the United Nations that was witness to some countries arguing on why the new development frame (also known as the post-2015 development agenda) should focus only on basic development such as primary healthcare and education, while others articulated the need to address political freedoms, access to justice, peace and conflict, and accountable governance systems.
Non government actors such as NGOs, trade unions, youth and women’s groups, private sector have also been involved throughout this process and lobbied hard with governments pushing for more robust accountability mechanisms to ensure the post-2015 development agenda succeeds. A long and consultative global process has also fed into the final outcomes.
As the Hungarian Ambassador, Mr. Csaba Korosi, noted in the recently-concluded 13th Session of the Open Working Group, “We all have a huge responsibility upon us. I owe this to my daughter who will judge me one day for what we have collectively agreed here today”. Indeed, the responsibility is huge!
Three years and umpteen meetings later, most of which entailed global travel thus adding to our carbon footprints (with all the jet fuel spent!), it is time we thought about the legacy we will leave for the next generation. Given the continued onslaught on the planet with total disregard for sustainability as also erosion in our collective consciousness, I wonder if it would be all-monochrome or can we still dare hope for a naturally bountiful, vibrant world with our humanity intact?
Many Indian NGO networks such as Wada Na Todo Abhiyan, Right to Education Forum, Right to Food Campaign, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Nine is Mine Campaign, National Disability Network, Climate Action Network South Asia, along with organizations like Oxfam India, Save the Children and many others have collectively engaged in the process to influence the post-2015 development agenda since the last two years.
These networks and organizations come together last month to initiate actions to take this discussion forward and call to end inequality, insecurity and injustice. A tweet-a-thon anchored by Youth Ki Awaaz at that timeÂ saw an outreach of over 8 lakh views. As the stage shifts to the country capitals where heads of nations begin to negotiate the new global development goals, it’s time for us to join the call and make it count. And ensure that we don’t have a sense of dÃ©jÃ vu in 2029!Â Estimates are based on government’s acknowledgment (Lok Sabha Secretariat Report) that unorganised sector wage increases lag inflation. In 15 years, if unorganised sector wage keeps up with inflation, they should get at least Rs. 317 per day. But since, their wages lag inflation and assuming their pay increases only by 5% every year, in 2030, they would get about Rs.208 per day.