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Best foot forward

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

FORTY-FOUR years ago, a group referred to as the Club of Rome was established: since then the group composition has always been of independent men and women, leaders in their respective professional fields be it politics, business or science who are long-term thinkers towards a holistic system to ensure a balanced journey to the future, for humanity and the planet.

The club exists to identify issues serious and substantial enough to influence humanitys future.

There is a multi-faceted analysis to inform scenarios; develop approaches to address risks, choices and opportunities.

The findings are then communicated to members of the public and decision-makers in the public and private sectors, with the ultimate aim to stimulate debate.

For obvious reasons, the groups focus has had to shift; it is now looking into a fundamentally new economics which will allow real wealth but not at the cost of our natural resources.

Its most recent report, authored by Jorgen Randers, after painstaking research which was complemented by contributions from more than 30 leading thinkers in the field, raised some questions like: How many people will the planet be able to support? Will the belief in endless growth crumble? Will runaway climate change take hold? Where will quality of life improve, and where will it decline?

The report, among other points, concluded that while humanity was in the process of adapting, considering the planets limitations, our response may still be too slow and that there would still be three billion poor in 2052.

The report further noted that one of the main causes of the problems of the next 40 years is the excessively short-term predominant political and economic model which needs to be replaced by a system of governance that takes a more long-term view.

The report warns that regulation to force the markets towards greener practices would be unlikely, adding one must not assume that markets would be considerate of humankinds benefit.

We already live in a manner that cannot be continued for generations without major change. Humanity has overshot the earths resources, and in some cases we will see local collapse before 2052 we are emitting twice as much greenhouse gas every year as can be absorbed by the worlds forests and oceans, the report said.

Now why on earth (no pun intended) would the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) be discussing this club of thinkers? Is there even a Fiji or Pacific perspective in all this?

Even if Fiji or the Pacific isnt specifically mentioned, the seemingly slow rate of adaptation by humanity the report points out will have an impact on us.

One does not have to look farther than the crippling ripples of the recent economic financial meltdown to realise that things that happen in continents that begin their day 12 hours after us, does have an impact on our daily lives.

UNFPAs mandate from 179 countries back in 1994, during the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, Egypt, covers population and reproductive health-related issues.

This most recent report from the club reminds us that we must take this issue up as individuals for we are the population responsible for our own survival and that of the planet we share: implicit is the need to plan our growth in a way that can be conducive to sustainable natural resources and good health.

For our growth as a whole to be well-planned and sustainable, it must start with the most basic way we organise ourselves in as humanity: families.

The report comes in the wake of overwhelming global support last week (May 25), at the fifth global parliamentarians conference on population and development in Istanbul, Turkey, of the principles and goals of the ICPD and its Programme of Action (PoA) which has guided the work of UNFPA work in the past two decades.

At Istanbul, some 400 delegates, including more than 200 parliamentarians from 110 countries discussed a course of action over the coming years to implement the ICPD PoA by 2014 and beyond.

ICPD is about human beings, respect, rights, and what we can do to ensure that every individual can make his or her own decisions; only then would the world be a better place.

With only two years until the Cairo agenda is expected to be complete, delegates committed themselves to its unfinished plan by unanimously adopting the Istanbul Declaration of Commitment.

Under the rubric Keeping Promises Measuring Results, they determined to advocate for increased national and external funding for the implementation of the ICPD agenda in entirety, in order to achieve access to sexual and reproductive health.

Their commitment included the goal to attain at least 10 per cent of national development budgets and development assistance budgets for population and reproductive health programmes.

Our youth was on the agenda as well; the delegates pledged to support policies specific to the concerns and needs of young people to ensure their rights are promoted and protected, that they can access good quality education at all levels, health, sexual and reproductive services, including comprehensive sexuality education.

Nelson Mandela said once of young people: There can be no process more important for the future of South Africa than the realisation of the potential of our youth. This sentiment has global resonance as we face the challenges of our future.

In essence, a healthy, empowered youth force can only come from a populace that has planned well for health, education and so on.

The Club of Rome has brought fodder to the table; leaders are making the all-important commitments and now it is up to us as individuals to put our best foot forward and help ourselves by doing something about these warning bells.

* Dirk Jena is the director and representative of the United Nations Population Fund Pacific sub-regional office.

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