Resources for:
  Governments
  Scientists
  Journalists
  Civil Society
  Business Persons
  Children and Youth

Thematic Areas


 
 Printable Version
 

I - SUMMARY OF THE RATIONALE FOR AND SCOPE OF A PROGRAMME OF WORK ON THE INTERRELATIONSHIPS

1. The group of experts stressed the urgency of building up an action-oriented United Nations programme of work on the interrelationships.

2. In traditional rural societies, socioeconomic decision-making was based on deep insights into the complex interactions between social, economic, demographic and physical factors, gained by experience ove!t generations and permeating all facets of social life: socioeconomic structures and processes, culture, tradition, religions and myths. Environmental management, developed by trial and error over generations, was thus being performed on an empirical basis, with feedbacks taken into account and secondary and tertiary impacts weighed in decision-making. it was self-evident that one generation should not favour itself at the expense of its successors and the population was kept in balance with the carrying capacity of the land on which it lived. People were managing resources efficiently and rationally, in close co-operation with each other.

3. In the rapid modernization process, such empirical knowledge of the interrelationships has frequently been disregarded. As a consequence, the interaction of man and environment has tended to produce important unintended dysfunctional consequences (poverty, unemployment, explosive growth of urban slums, environmental degradation and irrational management of natural resources) which, to a large extent, are borne by people who are not in a position to influence the socioeconomic decisions that initiate, affirm and reinforce them.

4. The balance needs to be redressed and means found to optimize positive systemic consequences. Interrelationships which reinforce negative impacts should be counteracted by coordinated policy action involving relevant sectors. Points of leverage need to be identified for the application of appropriate integrated policies and programmes to start cycles of positive impacts that will promote sustainable development. The group in this connexion emphasized the importance of collective and national self-reliance and increased popular participation in decision-making.

5. The group stressed the validity of the views on the conceptual framework for interrelationships studies expressed in the report of the Secretary-General to the Economic and Social Council at its second regular session of 1979 (E/1979/7.5), and confirmed the importance it attached at its first meeting to food systems, soil management, energy systems, forest management and-water management as areas where the study of the interrelationships should be fruitful and where advice for coordinated policies and programmes was urgently needed.

6. The group stressed that the interrelationships differed in form and intensity between sectors and countries, and even from area to area within most countries, depending, inter alia, on differences in the level of development and on social and cultural considerations. The problems of assessing the interactions and defining integrated policies and programmes for positive systemic impact should thus be tackled largely on a disaggregated national or area basis.

7. The study on land resources for populations of the future by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, (UNFPA), conducted in conjunction with UNEP and the International Institute for Applied System Analysis developed a clear methodology for examining the interrelationships between land-use potential, food systems, degradation hazards, soil and water management options and population pressure. The conclusions of its global assessment indicated, inter alia, the Africa would lose 70 million hectares of its soil resources and that the rest would deteriorate in quality by 35 per cent by the year 2000. The group pointed out that country-level studies could, by being more specific, form a factual basis for the practical implementation of global and regional development strategies, as well as providing important tools for integrated national development planning aimed at promoting increased self-reliance and self-sufficiency in food production.

8. The group's consideration of rural ecology and development demonstrated the importance of developing models for answering precise questions. Empirical work on specific variables and the relations between them to obtain reliable data was stressed as a sine non for modelling. The group underlined that a balance had to be struck between the risk of overloading the models with too many variables and the importance of reflecting the complexity,of the real world. Among the criteria for the selection of variables, the group stressed the need to take into account long-term as well as short-term perspectives, and to consider uncertainties and risks and as feedback mechanisms, as well as the secondary and tertiary effects of socioeconomic decisions.

9. The group concluded that, to provide more knowledge on the interrelationships between development, people, environment and resources, the interrelationships should be mapped through a series of case-studies in different regions and countries, priority being given to cases where such knowledge was required in order to analyse negative processes of a very serious nature that have already reached an advanced stage, e.g. deforestation and desertification. Other areas that should be included in a programme of work include those where knowledge of the interrelationships would be of great importance in identifying points of leverage for coordinated policy actions by Governments, such as energy, river basins and islands.