Sustainable Development in the Global South

In the Global South, sustainable development is key to creating a habitable society within developing nations. Sustainable development, however, requires morphing economic institutions into more realistic structures that do not require the over-exploitation of natural resources. The goal of sustainable development is to assure that future generations will have adequate access to natural resources and ability to utilize the land, as well as equal social opportunities and overall social equality. In the Global South though, where populations are growing exponentially, both are difficult to achieve.

The graphic above demonstrates 17 goals for sustainable development for nations worldwide. It is clear that these goals extend beyond merely green infrastructure, but contain improvements to international relations, social conditions, and opportunity access. As indicated by the image, a sustainable country is one that has a sustainable society.

Some of these goals are more likely to be difficult for countries in the Global South than others. As will be explained below, clean water and sanitation require monetary investment, which is difficult for countries already wracked with poverty. Additionally, environmental concerns tend to exacerbate civil conflicts, often leading to a lack of peace and cooperation between groups or parties. Economic growth is difficult if part of the sustainability movement is difficult if the country’s economic reliance is on an export that is arguably not sustainable.

Over consumption and a demand for resource to support growing populations mean that already countries are struggling to equitably distribute resources and social opportunities. As such, one of the challenges a small nation in the Global South would face is lack of investment in sustainable infrastructure and social programs. The distribution of resources also raises the question of privatization of resources, which would economically stress individuals in the population. This lack of resource access and environmental stress may be furthered by the transition to sustainable practices if the government does not reasonably and effectively allocate funding properly. This could exacerbate civil conflicts, or create new ones. For example, already there is civil unrest in Bolivia over access to water. In attempts to make it more accessible, the country tried to privatize the source, which actually decreased access to water and resulted in guerilla warfare in poorer areas.

Furthermore, without support from surrounding nations, a small country may not be able to financially support social programs that reduce social and income inequality within their country’s borders. This is especially difficult in countries that have an economic dependence on fossil fuels. The transition to cleaner, more environmentally sustainable industries could wreak havoc on employability within the nation. Without proper planning and investment to transition from fossil fuels to other forms of energy or economic output, employment will soar, furthering social inequality within the nation.

Additionally, backlash from countries dependent on fossil fuel production may hold political sway within the country. Due to globalization, other nations and their economies tend to be closely connected. If the main source of a small, Global South nation’s economic gain is from foreign countries dependent on their oil, the purchasing country may be able to talk the country out of transitioning to sustainable policies by threatening to stop investments. An economic crash in the small country would entirely inhibit any attempts to create a more sustainable society as no programs or investments in environmental protection or social equity would be funded.

Responsible consumption and production is also difficult because developing countries often require MORE energy than their northern counterparts in order to fully develop. This is hypocritical to tell them to consume responsibly when it is necessary for their country’s development, versus a country that practices overconsumption out of greed and high standard of living.

Sustainable development in countries already fraught with civil unrest and social inequality is a hard task unless there is outside support and adequate funding. As such, pressures from industries, such as the fossil fuel industry, should be removed through the economic assistance of countries that are also dedicated to have a more sustainable global society. The Global North should provide resources that we have gained through our own exploitation to help assuage the struggle of developing nations, and demonstrate support and encouragement to Global South nations wishing make the transition.

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