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Planning for Development: On Ethics, Development and Economics


Paper prepared by M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation
for the Regional Meeting on Ethics of Science and Technology
5-7 November 2003, Bangkok

Regional Unit for Social & Human Sciences in Asia and the Pacific (RUSHSAP)

Contens and Preface

For long, it was considered that development per se is the answer to human problems like poverty, hunger and unemployment. Since the beginning of the first UN Development Decade forty years ago, this concept has proved to be an over-simplification in the context what is happening in real life in the areas of gender and economic equity, environmental degradation and jobless economic growth. The nineteen nineties witnessed excellent documentation, as well as identification of remedial measures, in various UN Conferences, starting with UN Conference on the Child organized by UNICEF at New York in 1990 and ending with the World Conference on Science and Development organized by UNESCO at Budapest in 1999. We now know the development maladies in ethical terms, as well as the potential remedies. The UN Millennium Development Goals in the areas of hunger, poverty, employment, equity and ecology provide some of the answers to the dilemmas confronting Governments today everywhere.

Chapter 1 Introduction

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the spirit behind it, obliges all of us, whether in the public or the private sector or in civil society, to ensure that there is equitable distribution of benefits from development. It is the moral and ethical obligation of all societies to provide every child, woman, and man an opportunity for a productive and healthy life.
For this transformation to happen, a new social contract where domestic policy will still matter (ethics of sovereignty), which will encourage local level innovations, access to appropriate technologies and the development of skills, will have to prevail. Global and national level policies will have to accelerate the creation of institutional, social and economic enabling environments at the national and regional levels, which will enhance their capacities as partners in development and stewards for equitable growth.

Chapter 2 Ethical Dimensions of Economic Development

“Modern high-tech warfare is designed to remove physical contact: dropping bombs from 50,000 feet ensures that one does not “feel” what one does. Modern economic management is similar:..from one’s luxury hotel, one can callously impose policies about which one would think twice if one knew the people whose lives one was destroying.”
Joseph E. Stiglitz (2002), Globalization and its Discontents, Norton, New York

Chapter 3 Employment and Ethics in Asia-Pacific

Chapter two examined the experience of economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region and discussed the growth versus development debate. This chapter focuses on employment and the need for job-led growth and development. Amartya Sen defines development as a process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy. According to Sen, “The success of a society is to be primarily evaluated by the substantive freedoms…members of that society enjoy.” By analyzing development from the perspective of freedom, Sen has brought an ethical dimension to the development process.
Freedom, governance, opportunities, and respect for environmental considerations, are some of the important aspects which need to be considered while defining the path of development. In societies encompassed with poverty, gender discrimination and environmental degradation, the ethical dimensions of development can be perceived from the ‘pro-poor, pro-woman and pro-nature’ oriented development policies and implementation processes which can enhance the opportunities of freedom to the marginalized segments of the society. In such a context, employment should be seen as a fundamental human right and ethical obligation of the society to provide, and not just as a mere consequence of an economic activity.

Chapter 4 Ethics in Relation to Development and Management of Environmental Capital Stock

Ethics in environmental affairs and the management of natural resources are concerned with the impact of human actions on natural entities and nature as a whole. There is a dual nature of ethics (human to nature/human to human) in managing environmental capital stock, represented by land, water, forests, biodiversity and oceans. There exists among humans inequality with respect to those who perpetrate, those who benefit and those who suffer the most from unethical environmental activities.
Humankind has begun to realize that the practice of ‘high input and high return’ in agriculture, forestry and fisheries might also create various other kinds of problems, having a negative impact on local and global scales. Science and technology based development efforts must include an ethical framework to guide human interaction with nature towards promoting and supporting humane and sustainable societies, so that future generations will not be deprived of access to an adequate and healthy natural resource base.

Chapter 5 Ethical Aspects of Access to and Use of Energy

The concept of sustainable energy development has widened over a period of time to include economic, environmental, and social aspects, based on realities and constraints perceived by society. While the 1970s were dominated by economic concerns in the wake of the oil price shocks, environmental considerations began to gain prominence in the 1980s, as the threats posed by the oil crises diminished, and as environmental concerns became better understood.
While local concerns received the first priority, by the late 1980s global environment concerns had become important. The Montreal Protocol of 1987 helped initiate phasing out of CFC emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was set up in 1988, by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme. For the first time, the global environmental fallout of the energy sector was recognized and institutions were established to deal with the problem.

Chapter 6 Ethics and Inequity

An ethical approach to development demands that each individual is able to lead a life of dignity, wherein his/her basic minimum needs of food, clothing, and shelter are fulfilled. Inequity in terms of unequal access and exploitation on the grounds of gender, caste and class are untenable in such a framework. Birth in poverty means being born with the handicap of low health capacity in terms of being underweight. This manifests in early childhood as stunting and wasting, and inhibits the ability of a child to compete on a level playing field due to no fault of the child.
Despite advances in science and technology, numerous declarations and plans, and programmes later, the scourge of poverty continues and the benefits of economic development have not reached out to all. This is observable in disparities between nations – the developed and less developed, high income and low-income countries, and disparities within nations – apparent in pockets of hunger and malnutrition in the midst of plenty, and in discrimination on the grounds of caste, creed, gender and religion.

Chapter 7 IPR, Economic Development and Ethics

In the context of the integration of globalized economic and international trade, there is an increasing divide between the UN system, on the one hand, and intergovernmental institutions outside the UN system, like the Bretton Woods institutions and WTO, on the other, in upholding ethics and equity. These institutions are clouted to effectively bypass the UN system on global regulation of economy and trade, largely on economic strength, diplomatic muscle and political maneuverability, where rights, ethics and equity are often compromised.
The Bretton Woods institutions with their principal policies on liberalization, deregulation and privatization, oppose the Right to Food in their practices. Jean Ziegler, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, states that, “we must search for other means of integrating human rights and Right to Food into the rules of international trade.” The insensitivity of these organizations in a world where an average of 10,000 people, 33% of them being children, are allowed to die every day due to lack of food is a challenge to the integration of morality and ethics in the globalization process.

Chapter 8 Bridging the Divides

“We are in the middle of a race between human skill as to means and human folly as to ends. Given sufficient folly as to ends, every increase in the skill required to achieve them is to the bad. The human race has survived hitherto owing to ignorance and incompetence; but given knowledge and competence combined with folly, there can be no certainty of survival. Knowledge is power, but it is power for evil as much as for good. It follows that, unless men increase in wisdom as much as in knowledge, increase of knowledge will be increase of sorrow.”
– Bertrand Russell, Impact of Science on Society

Chapter 9 Conclusion

Poverty is the biggest human scourge on this planet. About 1.2 billion people, mainly in the 122 Third World Countries (TWCs), are in absolute poverty. About 65% of them are in South and East Asia, and another 25% in Sub-Saharan Africa. Every year, 36 million people, one-third of them children, die either directly or indirectly as a result of hunger and malnutrition. Such extreme hunger and deprivation is the ugly manifestation of man-made inequity, injustice and unethical order in sharing resources. Poverty is an attack on human dignity. It is a moral and political shame on humanity that such massive human rights violations are continuously allowed. Availability and access to food are fundamental to combating poverty. Sustainable access to food can be achieved only by national participation in the food and agricultural system and other economic activities, which confer purchasing power to the hungry.

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