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Development goals can be reconciled to mitigate divergent environmental issues.

by Nelly Bore on the 30/10/2018

Nelly Bore
Environmental Impact Consultant,
Hill and Woodcrest Limited,
Nairobi, Kenya.

I am currently working as an Environmental Impact Consultant with a focus on providing advisory services on sustainable environmental practices to clients and auditing of the impact of projects and programmes on the environment to foster environmental sustainability. I also provide technical assistance to the portfolio and act as a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Champion for the organization. My academic interests were on the dynamics of development and environmental nexus with an aim to inform policies and drive sustainability.

The adoption and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 across the globe was a significant decision to promote parity and redefine development priorities through selected targets. These development goals aim to drive the transformative impact across all sectors of environmental sustainability, human development as well as the economic aspects. In its preamble on the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, it articulates the scale and ambition of the universal agenda and it’s deterministic impetus to build on Millennium Development Goals and complete what they did not achieve (Agenda 2030).
The implementation of SDGs through its targets calls for an integrated approach that holistically redefines the sectoral policies and development patterns. This not only drives a balanced development in all sectors, but it is imperative to reconcile the competing and conflicting interactions between the goals and reality on the ground in poor countries to address the negative externalities.

SDGs targets and divergent issues.
Can the progress be made through unilateral means?
Purposely selecting SDG goal 15 on life on land and taking on Target 15.2 that indicates that by 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally (United Nations, 2015). It is worth noting the progress that has been made in restoring forest lands in many parts of the world while at the same time be cognizant on the divergent aspects that exist between the target and reality of forest conservation in developing countries like Kenya.

In Kenya for instance, the case of Mau forest which has to require on a common property management regime leading to extensive and intensive wanton destruction of forest cover is an example of balancing the needs of local indigenous populace and laxity in efforts to restore the lost forest cover. The effort to restore degraded forest and a largest water catchment area in East Africa is a government’s effort to implement a policy that has been viewed for a long time by the public to be juxtaposed on contradicting political agendas for those who grabbed the forest lands and resold to ignorant buyers ready to settle their families and the reality facing poor indigenous inhabitants and ancestral owners who have genuinely lived and utilize forest as a source of their livelihoods.

Yet that notwithstanding, the process comes with its own consequences: human rights violations, eviction of the indigenous inhabitants, killing of people, schools destroyed, and houses burnt and displaced families etc. In condemning the outcome of these actions, as reported in the Kenyan media in January 2018, the European Union suspended the Sh3.6 billion Water Towers Protection and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Programme citing Human rights abuses on indigenous people and in their statement emphasized on “full respect for the rights of indigenous people, and the conservation work on the water towers was never expected to involve any evictions or use of violence”. Amnesty International, a human rights Maybe in Kenya struggle joined forces in condemning the government’s forceful eviction of indigenous communities in Mau who have a right to their ancestral land.

Concomitantly, the stark dilemma that the government and policy-makers are facing is how to reconcile the longstanding synergistic and divergent issues of human rights and environmental sustainability threatening to crash the efforts being made to enhance forest management. For politicians and government, the ideal theoretical perspectives is a ‘one size fits all’ approach where poor people are evicted the and the plans for forest restoration begins, yet for policy planners, the implementation across spectrum needs to be analyzed, priorities made and it's implications taken into account. Subsequently, with the government’s aggressive sectoral approach to restore degraded forest and substantially increase afforestation leaves so many questions unanswered: How then do we bridge the gap to ensure that we do not reverse the gains that have been made in other areas of human development like ensuring sustainable livelihoods, reduction in chronic poverty, economic empowerments and human freedoms.

Subsequently, SDG 12 on sustainable consumption and production patterns has its premise on a systemic approach and cooperation among different partners including the business and private sectors, policymakers, consumers, government agencies among others (United Nations, 2015). Paradoxically, developing countries like Kenya with their foot on the pedal to accelerate economic growth have witnessed increased negative externalities as a result of market failures which have not been closely monitored by the government. For example, Plastic pollution is ubiquitous in Kenya and the country’s dearth attempts to forge ahead in proper solid waste management has been futile and the costs of pollution is primarily borne by the users. Negative externalities is, on one hand, a result of lack of property rights and defined costs for the damages, the government’s failure to implement stringent policies and taxes to cater for the increased social costs and on the other hand, the consumers struggle with prisoner’s dilemma.

Emphatically, the implementation of the plastic ban a year ago was necessary, yet the small progress made has been without hurdles. For instance vehement criticism by the plastic industries and using court orders for the injunction on the process, border loopholes used to import the plastic bags into the country and the adamant members of the public who still use the plastics; are some of the issues that have negated progress made.
As reported by local Dailies in Kenya; that at the local level, the ban on plastics has not been fully effected and that government should tighten laws.

Plastic pollution as with other environmental degradation is a phenomenal problem to abate in developing countries to which its ultimate outcome has been a tragedy of commons. The risk of private sectors and corporations running parallel with their own agendas and revenue activities is possible. Therefore, stepping up the key premises on sustainable consumption and production patterns is necessary while integrating differing issues of different stakeholders across all the development goals needs a government’s qualitative approach as well as public participation to help in addressing the vagaries of humanity.

Substantially, environmental issues are not only technical problems that require technical solutions, but one of which searching our conscience and introspection on our own morality is. Maybe we need new laws and ethical precepts in our society that are best suited to govern our crowded, dynamic world with its competing interests.

Progress path

The progress made in the implementation of goals is phenomenal the and the initiative to highlight development issues through SDGs is commendable. However, implementation of SDG goals need not be done in isolation the or independently, the cause and effect of development challenges are intertwined and thus designing policies and laws that seek to holistically reconcile the goals and different issues to help mitigate the negative externalities is paramount. Development Goals may not be a panacea to all development issues facing developing countries, but embracing a win-win approach in the implementation of SDGs will simultaneously bolster governments’ efforts to deal with negative ripple effects that may crop up in different sectors as well as bridge the chasm that negatively impacts on mutual benefits.



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