Saturday, 5 April 2014


The Social Dimension of Sustainable Development

There are many organizations involved in international community development.  When examining the organizations that have been successful at effecting positive change in developing countries, one theme has stood out - the relationship between sustainability and empowerment.  Issues in these countries are severe and multifaceted; however, most seem to stem from an imbalance of power causing a lack of basic human rights. Living in a safe and prosperous country like Canada, it can be difficult to understand the incredible lack of resources, justice, education and choice that many people face around the world.  Looking at human need on a global level can seem overwhelming and impossible to affect change. I always had a sense of uneasy guilt when thinking about the struggles that people are facing in many countries. Although the seriousness and vastness of this topic made me feel uncomfortable, I felt that it was my duty as a global citizen to become more aware of these issues and so I enrolled in an international community development course.  

When I finally began to explore this complex world I was surprised to discover that there are many ways to affect positive change and make a difference in the lives of those who are suffering. I realized that donating money to alleviate guilt around my comfortable existence only helps when all of the factors contributing to the issues are being addressed. I also learned that relief efforts to assist impoverished communities must be developed with local resident input to be sustainable. The knowledge that I have gained through my journey into international community development has changed the way that I view global issues and I know now that I can make a difference.  I have begun to implement small steps that will affect positive change, such as adjusting my consumer habits. I strongly encourage everyone to learn about how the struggles and successes in international development are affecting people around the world. A severe lack of human rights is happening whether we choose to hear about it or not, but even small steps taken by a few individuals can improve the lives of many.

Solving complex issues requires complex plans and there are organizations that are doing just that. International organizations that are successful at improving the basic human rights that many North American’s take for granted are implementing programs in underdeveloped areas that take social, economic and environmental factors into consideration. Sustainable practices include improving access to clean water, sanitation and education, developing agriculture and income generating practices and addressing structural inequalities.  The key to ensuring that these practices are sustainable is local resident input, as the ability to make decisions about the practices being implemented empowers residents to affect positive change for themselves, their family and their community.

This month’s edition of The Voice will take a look at some current areas of need and how the social aspect of sustainable development has been initiating real change, especially for the most vulnerable, disadvantaged and marginalized populations around the world.

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