Regional Sustainable Development, Citizens And Strategy

Where to go? ~  green, grey & brown sites Sustainable development is a challenge for us all. If we don’t engage everyone, future generations will soon begin to pay for our neglect. For this reason, there are in the UK Sustainable Development bodies with national, regional and more local focuses. But what should these groups actually do? Here are some of the ideas which I as one individual have thought about as a member of a sustainable development group with a regional remit.
Sustainability As If People Mattered
What are the regional Sustainable Development (SD) bodies in the UK for? Is their role to provide ‘advice’ to politicians and state-employed policy-makers at the regional level? Is it to lead by example and implement programmes of work? Is it to be a talking shop between people representing different ‘stakeholding’ interests in SD? Is it something else altogether? Or is it all of these things?
Meaning and leadership in regional Sustainable Development
My personal view is that good regional approaches to SD are all these things.
Regions in the UK are all of a size (between 5 and 10 million people) where well-crafted action for sustainable development can have meaningful impacts. Regional SD groups should therefore:
* work together, with each other and with others, on the basis of mutual confidence and shared understandings – both of the factors shaping the region’s physical and socio-economic contexts, and of the perspectives of all partners;
* recognise that everyone is a stakeholder in this difficult challenge, not just those who are formally represented at the regional level;
* understand that SD is different from almost all other processes in that what happens now and in the near future cannot be revisited on the same basis and revised at some point later on: SD is globally shaped and uni-dimensional in respect of time;
* also understand that ‘good enough’ and actually deliverable has some chance of success, whilst ‘beyond any scientific doubt’ but not yet actionable is of very limited value in this period of rapid eco- and socio-economic change;
* offer visible and clear thought leadership to ‘people on the street’, as well as more formal and conventional strategic advice to those who formulate regional policy;
* recognise that this is real life; our current insights into the challenges of SD are far from perfect. Nurturing an ethos of shared responsibility in all who live and work in a region is however critical, right now.
Supporting regional approaches to sustainable development
The UK government has been working with the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), Defra and others to promote regional SD. To this end, there does now seem to be a modest level of financial support.
It is nonetheless puzzling that these national bodies apparently imagine that each regional SD group can identify without further effort what the specific or even unique challenges for their region are. Yet, whilst this can be done for matters such as flood risk, the issues are far less obvious in many other respects. Not many policy makers and politicians at the local level, for instance, are even aware of what the risks might be.
Much work still needs to be done to bring together the relevant social, economic and environmental profiles for each region of the UK, and to encourage regional SD protagonists to share pro-actively their assessments and responses to these profiles. Just as UK regional strategies in science remain weak, so do those for SD.
Hearts and minds
There is a compelling case for regional SD bodies to recognise that ‘advice’ alone is not enough – especially in a time of flux for overall regional development policies, even before we come to the ultimately much more pressing matters of global warming, diminishing bio-diversity, economic difficulties (domestic and global) and the general well-being of current and future citizens.
Regional SD approaches are about leading from the front (no-one else has that specific focus and remit…). They must recognise the stakeholding of every person in their region, and find ways to reach them all. This is about encouraging dialogue, sharing good practice, aligning policy and developing the ideas which will help us all to face the future.
To achieve this requires not only analysis of the current regional state of play, but also commitment to help change the cultural climate as well as the environmental one.
Here is one challenge which a rational-legal or scientific approach alone simply cannot resolve.
Read more about Sustainability As If People Mattered.

Posted on June 15, 2009, in Knowledge Ecology And Economy, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience, Social Science, Sustainability As If People Mattered. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Bertilla Cappelletti

    Should the government steps in and legislates to the public good, could quality standard be achieved?
    Should governments sell land at a fixed price so that developers could compete on the quality of design instead of the quick return on their investments?
    Local People have the ‘assets’ of the knowledge of their area to input; they should be engaged to any project from the beginning; but what seems to prevail instead both in the public and private sector, is an ‘extraordinary insensitivity’ which is endangering both our culture and our universe.
    I love nature and I think England should be proud of its Parks, green space and for having so many mature trees.
    However, I think that we should learn from the mistakes of the ancient civilizations…Maybe, policy makers should do more and think seriously about the way to bring sustainability back to our cities and regions.
    The WIKI said:
    Sustainability for humans it is a long-term maintenance of wellbeing;
    And in turn depends on the wellbeing of the natural world and the responsible use of ‘Natural resources’.
    Moreover ,The ‘Earth Charter’ said that: ‘We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.
    Sustainability for me starts at home, and it’s reflected on my daily action, caring for environment and for each other wellbeing.

  2. Tony Siebenthaler

    Liverpool’s fundamental sustainability is being undermined by the ‘regional agenda’, so there has to be a different approach.
    One of the more absurd examples of this in the area of ‘sustainable development’ is in the ‘North West Food’ initiative. We are encouraged to buy bits of dead animals from far Cumbria, but links to our North Wales cousins are rejected, ‘not in our location’ is the mantra… utter madness!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: