Sustainable Development: Some Unanswered Questions

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, any objective and in-depth analysis of the total long-term impacts of the official development assistance will indicate that these have generally had at best only a marginal impact in alleviating poverty, improving the quality of life of billions of people, and maintaining and/or improving the conditions of the natural environment and the ecosystems.

During the past three decades, the international system has consistently made numerous commitments and pledges that were expected to alleviate poverty very substantially, or even eradicate it completely. For example, at the World Food Conference, convened by the United Nations in Rome in 1974, senior decision-makers from all parts of the world, at the explicit recommendation of the former Secretary of State of the United States, Henry Kissinger, made a pledge that within a decade no child anywhere in the world would go to bed hungry. More than a quarter of a century has elapsed since the world leaders and the United Nations made that commitment, but children continue to go to bed hungry, perhaps even in larger numbers than before. The situation continues to be as grim as ever. In some aspects, and in many parts of the world, the conditions have even deteriorated significantly.

In spite of the commitments made by the global leaders, and the continued rhetoric of the international institutions, poverty and hunger have continued to be as pervasive as ever, and have even increased significantly in recent years in many parts of the world. Furthermore, the gulf between the rich and the poor, both between countries and within countries, has increased, rather than decreased, in recent decades. Similarly, the environmental conditions have continued to deteriorate in most parts of the world.

By Asit K. Biswas, Chapter of the book: Appraising Sustainable Development: Water Management and Environmental Challenges, edited by Asit K. Biswas and Cecilia Tortajada, 2005, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, pp. 65-80.

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