GLL – on UNDP South Africa report 2003

COURSE: Global/Local Learning– GLL

FORUM: Samarbeta

TOPICS: local global learning, South Africa, development

Step 2 – Part 1: on UNDP South Africa report 2003

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Here are my comments on the UNDP South Africa report (2003).

United Nations Development Programme (2003). South Africa Human Development Report. New York: Oxford University Press.

http://hdr.undp.org/en/reports/nationalreports/africa/southafrica/south_africa_2003_en.pdf

What do you consider to be three of the most striking features of South African society, as described in the reading? Explain why you have selected these three features?

The legacy of the apartheid era still bears on chances to establish a form of sustainable development in the country. Apartheid-era policies were “not based on improving the living conditions of the majority of South Africans, and thus became unsustainable.” (xv)

The new South Africa emerged from such scenario. Today, from my understanding of the Report, the striking features of South African society are as follows:

1) Issues with regard to the commitment to transformation by South Africa’s leaders (xi), which touch on social capital building (xviii) and on the failure of the South African government’s policies (xv);

2) Widespread issues of inequalities and poverty — both inherited from the previous apartheid era and resulting from current policies (xi); these issues include unequal income distribution (xvi);

3) Issues of unsustainable environmental approaches (xviii);

4) Issues relating to the multicultural and multilingual make-up of South Africa’s population.

With reference to this last point, the report introduction fails to mention the richness found in South Africa’s cultural diversity, which is, however, recognized by the country’s constitution. Such omission makes me wonder whether racial tensions and intercultural dynamics have been intentionally left out, or else are by now considered as a marginal issue. I would prefer a pro-active and forward-thinking conceptualization of South Africa’s language and cultural diversity, envisioning a context where the many facets of the country’s cultural diversity and sometimes fragmentation will enter the equation of sustainable development, also through a relevant transformative approach to education that will recognize such diversity as a powerful learning asset.

Identify and comment on key development issues, related to social transformation, confronting the South African society.

The Report cites 5 central challenges confronting the future of sustainable development in South Africa:

  • The eradication of poverty and extreme income and wealth inequalities;
  • The provision of access to quality and affordable basic services to all South Africans, especially the poor;
  • The promotion of environmental sustainability;
  • A sustained reduction in the unemployment rate,
  • And the attainment of sustainable high growth rates.

These five challenges interface with the striking issues identified in the first part of this post.

In general, I found two main ideas in the introduction of the Report that are worthwhile mentioning:

a) The idea of engaging all stakeholders in a networked effort to establish viable sustainable development policies and relevant actions, and of holding them accountable for achieving such objectives (xii);

b) The idea of tapping into people’s resources (“unlocking people’s creativity”) (xv).

I also want to mention that the Report consistently emphasizes “high growth levels” and the “growth path” as unquestioned paradigmal goals of successful future policies. I find it strange and also disconcerting that a report premised on effective, dialectic, relational and system-oriented solutions (references are found throughout the introduction) would not take a more critical stand towards the questionable developmental model based on the equation progressive, steady growth equals development.

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