SDGs

Sustainable Devlopment Goals: Education for Zero Hunger Goal

Sustainable Devlopment Goals: Education for Zero Hunger Goal

  • Posted: Dec 05, 2016 -
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In the middle of the 21st century, it is a little confusing that the issue of the hunger appears as the second priority when we are talking about sustainability development goals – immediately after the eradication of the extreme poverty, one of the main hunger causes. It would seem that it is almost an overcome question for us or, at all events, that it is concentrated in specific places or circumstances because -although it is true that it has been achieved notable advancements in food issues during the last years- it has been impossible break the limit of 800 millions of people affected by malnutrition.

The first outbreak is focused on the direct application of food assistance measures in urgent situations. These situations usually happen in countries with very poor economic conditions or those who are involved in armed conflicts or in natural disasters. However, the great effort with malnutrition is centered on rural areas, which contains 50% of the global population and the vast majority lives as subsistence farmers. The most sustainable strategy is reducing poverty in rural areas, which requires a combination of activities: on one hand, improving the efficiency of the agriculture and farming live-stock activities but also ensuring the sustainability. Throughout the 20th century the way to improve agriculture productivity was the use agrochemical products, but now we know that there are models of agriculture production equally efficient and, with proper tillage techniques , these models can reduce the environmental impact and promote biodiversity.

After all this, socio-cultural dynamics are an important aspect that has to be taken into account. Basically, malnutrition is a rural fact and the alternatives to be carried out are linked to the rural areas: improve the productivity of the agriculture and forestry activity, promote the sustainability and ensure the biodiversity. Thus, problems and solutions are located in rural populations.

For this reason, thinking about social issues is essential. Agricultural activity is full of knowledge gained by practice. It is not easy to train a farmer only at school; it is part of a learning of techniques but also a learning of uses and habits which can be only achieved by living in rural areas. The education plays a critical role here because it has to be able to identify, recognize and transmit the knowledge that has been preserved in an informal way through generations. Aspects more related to techniques than to cultures.
In this second goal, the global sustainability proposed by the United Nations aims to ensure the access of everyone to a proper and enough nutrition; it wants to break definitely the ceiling of 800 millions of people, as it has already been done with 120 millions. Certainly, this is linked to the economic capacity because hunger is a lacking of income rather than a lacking of stock –except to some located and temporal situations where there is a lack of the necessary money to buy food. There is enough food for everyone.

Throughout this rural sustainability process, which depends on a proper agro-forestry activity, the role of women is very important. As we have reported, this is not only an issue of incorporating new techniques but a social transformation which reinforce life in very vulnerable situations. While young men migrate to the cities looking for employment opportunities, women have to stay in the rural area. Many of the above-mentioned efforts are putting into these women because they will carry out the necessary transformations at the end, or not.

This goal, as all of them, has a strong political workload. It is necessary structural measures which allow modify the direction of our producing and consuming ways. It is necessary that governments get involved in measures to achieve all the aforementioned changes. But it is also true that food is an issue that allows our direct personal implication. Our particular food options hold one agriculture style or another.

Where and how we buy food means if we support a system which boost the farmer or a system which boost the agro-industrial model. By buying local, organic and seasonal products, we are supporting a sustainable, reasonable and humanizing model. In fact, we have extended our model to southern countries and therefore farmers return to mono-cropping, losing their autonomy and forced to monitor their activity, where the income they can gain not depends on their own activity but on investment markets located miles away whose sole purpose is to maximize profits. In these markets sustainability, the value of commonality or the self-esteem of farmers aren’t listed securities.

From the educational point of view, the role of becomig responsible consumers is very important. In this context, we need a strong and resistant social commitment joint to a firm political action which allows to change the ways of thought and to understand our relationship with food. Ultimately, if we begin to study our feeding options, we will begin to develop some consistency to question other aspects such as transport, our holidays, our house or our way to understand the world and our social relationships. Education not only opens eyes to the right to food but allow to recognize the multiple factors that participate in the exercise of this right and what is it more important; it suggests habits that we can incorporate to our daily life.

This post was written by Jose Ignacio García, SJ editor and regular collaborator in Ecojesuit www.ecojesuit.com

SDG 12: When buying a cellphone becomes an issue

SDG 12: When buying a cellphone becomes an issue

  • Posted: Jun 28, 2016 -
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Understanding the impact that our lifestyles have on the environment is key to bringing about behavioural change.

Waste, pollution and excessive consumption are all hurting the earth and its inhabitants, not just through climate change, but also by fuelling violence, mass displacement of people, degradation of land and unsustainable water practices.

The twelfth Sustainable Development Goal that stablishes the United Nations calls for sustainable consumption and production patterns. According to the UN, this will require “doing more and better with less” and “engaging consumers through awareness-raising and education on sustainable consumption and lifestyles, providing consumers with adequate information through standards and labels and engaging in sustainable public procurement.”

Members of the Justice in Mining Network are involved in a campaign focused on this theme. Spanish NGO Alboan, Jesuit Missions UK and the Jesuit European Social Centre, with the support of the broader Justice in Mining Network, have campaigned around the issue of conflict minerals, lobbying for a change to European laws.

It would require manufacturers of items such as computers and smart phones to undertake proper due diligence of their supply chains. This due diligence would establish whether some of the payments for minerals used in production (in particular tungsten, tin, tantalum and gold), sourced from areas such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, are being siphoned off to fund armed groups and support violent conflict in Africa.

Many people do not realise what has gone in to producing their cellphone. They are ignorant both of the link between production and conflict, and of the impact of manufacture on the environment. The Conflict-free Technology campaign aims to change this.

Production of the raw materials for just one handset, for example, can generate 75 kg of waste materials. Tungsten is a key component of phones, used in the vibrating function. But there is only one gram of tungsten in every tonne of rock, meaning there is nearly a tonne of waste for every gram of tungsten eventually used in an electronic device.

Our consumption of technology also demands reflection. In Europe, around 40 per cent of existing mobiles are renewed every year, despite most batteries having a life of up to ten years. Not only are such consumption rates unsustainable, but significant technological waste is then dumped on poorer countries in contravention of the law and with devastating impacts on those societies and their environment.

The Conflict-free Technology campaign led by Alboan aims to enlighten consumers about what their mobile phone hides in the hope that this may influence consumer behavior. It also seeks to lobby politicians to ensure a mandatory due diligence requirement is brought into European law.

Campaigns such as this are crucial to ensuring the type of responsible consumption envisaged by SDG 12.

For more information about the Conflict-free technology campaign, including educational resources and information on how to help, see www.tecnologialibredeconflicto.org.

About the author: Julie Edwars is CEO of Jesuit Social Services, an Australian social change organisation working to build a just society. Julie was appointed the leader of the Core Group of the Mineral Resources GIAN in 2012.

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Education for consumption is political education

Education for consumption is political education

  • Posted: Jun 07, 2016 -
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What does the Brent oil price has to do with bread or rice price? asked the director of VSF Global Food Justice (VSF Justicia Alimentaria Global) in a recent article: “One of the major consumers of cereal are our cars, in biodiesel form” so, when the oil price lowers, also the cereals price lowers. A graphic example of two defining features on how the system works: anything, material or not, can be commodity and everything is related.

In September 2015, United Nations agreed 17 sustainable development goals (SDG) that – at least on paper – countries commit to achieve in 15 years. The objective 12 consists in ensuring consumption patterns and sustainable production. A praiseworthy and so urgent goal, that 2030 seems too distant. Currently, human gluttony needs about 50% more than the Earth can regenerate, according to WWF’s environmental organization Living Planet Report. If we do not change the rate of degradation and the demand of resources, by 2030 we will need two planets like ours, which is a curious way to fulfil the aforementioned SDG. At this pace, the environment is left in a quarter.

If the entire world population had equal access to goods, the environmental outlook would be even worse: if the North socioeconomic lifestyle becomes widespread, we would need around four Earths. Such state of affairs is, at least, outrageous. In flagrant contradiction to the goals, it is quite unsustainable, both environmentally and ethically.

To achieve the 12th goal, the UN says, “it requires a systemic approach”, but the problem is exactly a system – the consumer society; which is capitalism – whose happiness horizon is, taking the title of an interesting documentary, “The Lightbulb Conspiracy” to buy and throw, decoupling things from their primary function (clothes to dress, cars to move, etc.) and endorse them, in exchange, functions that have to do with self-esteem. Shouldn’t we start by changing this horizon?

An important role on this is played by education, and not only the one taught in the classroom, not only the one addressed to young people. The entire citizenship is subject of education, because it is to question the perception of what is normal. Can it be considered normal throwing food while millions of people are malnourished, destroying ecosystems for private profit, pay all what some pollute, buy cheap at the expense of the rights of the most vulnerable populations, etc.? Is it really appealing a happiness that looks very much like the businessman of Saint Exupéry´s Little Prince, exhausting his life accounting don’t know what, without any utility or objective?

The UN itself recognizes the importance of “engaging consumers through awareness and education on consumption and sustainable livelihoods, providing adequate information”. Informing in appropriate way is putting on the table hidden links (covert?) between injustice, impoverishment and environmental degradation, in order not to destroy with right had what is been done with the left, with the best intention excuse. When we know, for example, that after the bread and rice price hides the oil price we will be able to decide. And the ability to decide is what makes a citizenship free. That’s why education for consumption is political education.

Araceli Caballero is Spanish journalist, interested in the links between impoverishment, environmental degradation and consumption habits. She collaborates with Cristianismo y Justicia, Study Center dedicated to social and theological reflection, created in 1981 by the Jesuits of Catalonia. She´s the author of Protozoos insumisos. Ciudadanía y consumo responsable.

 

Task for 2030: access to safe and affordable housing and basic services

Task for 2030: access to safe and affordable housing and basic services

  • Posted: May 06, 2016 -
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Urbanization has been a remarkable phenomenon over the last few decades and it affects millions of people. It entails problems, directly or indirectly, from the rapid growth of population such as the concentration of population and high levels of congestion (persistent problems for poverty and inequality) and that carry additional economic, social and environmental costs.

In particular, 3 million people migrate each week to the urban areas, contributing greatly to the world’s urbanization, according to a study carried out by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

The 54% of the world’s population currently lives in cities, in other words, 3.900 million people, and this amount is expected to increase in the next decades, reaching 6.400 million people by 2050.

All these reports and figures and the need to go a step further, have created the necessity to renew the Millennium Development Goals – that finished in 2015 –  and the design of a new and more ambitious agenda. This agenda is materialised in the Sustainable Development Goals that have specific objectives that must be achieved by 2030. To make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable is one (the eleventh) of the 17 global goals of the new Sustainable Development Agenda.

To improve the security and sustainability of the cities implies – according to United Nations- to ensure the access to safe and affordable housing and to improve shanty towns. It also includes investing in public transport, creating Green public areas so that it is inclusive.  It implies as well building more socially inclusive cities that are more accessible in favour of the poorest, cities that are equitable and sensitive to gender issues.

Also, having a resilient city implies preparing cities for change, the management of adversity, resistance and taking action to reduce risks.

For that, in this section the goals include increasing the capacity planning and the collaborative, integrated and sustainable management of human settlements.

Education and sustainable urbanization

UNESCO promotes “Education for a Sustainable Urban Development” as a cross-cutting theme in all its sectors. “Learning how to live together sustainably is one of the main challenges for education nowadays. This challenge requires focusing on the creation of a quality educational environment that promotes sustainability, life-long learning opportunities in the cities”.

Thus, United Nations established that pursuing a quality education is a good path to improve people’s lives and sustainable development.

In other words, in order to build sustainable communities and lifestyles, education is the backbone of this and the rest of the goals, as it was stated by Edujesuit, as the challenge of sustainability – that according to UNESCO it is only learning to change – will  rule the development agenda until 2030.

Natural disasters and heavy urbanization

Moreover, by 2030 it is intended to reduce significantly the number of deaths and people affected by disasters, include disasters caused by water, and to significantly reduce the economic losses caused by natural disasters.

Pedro Walpole SJ, director of the institute of Environmental Science for Social Change (ESSC), in Manila, already stated in an editorial in 2013 that “ even though vulnerable communities can show resilience capacity, the government and society must be compatible with them by a better Access to safe housing and the satisfaction of basic necessities”.

“¿How can we live the confrontation of marginalized communities where there is a lack of basic services and inclusion, strengthened by the imbalances caused by forestry development, mining and the breakwater constructions? Asks father Walpole.

ONU-Habitat will be in charge of organising the next world Summit in October 2016 about housing and sustainable urban development (HABITAT III), whose objective is to adopt a new agenda for a sustainable urban development.

Paula Sendin is Ecojesuit editorial coordinator and project supporter of media projects managed at the Jesuit European Social Centre NGO (JESC).

Water is essential for life

Water is essential for life

  • Posted: Apr 01, 2016 -
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The big question when a planet is discovered is: is there water? If there isn’t water, there can’t be life. We depend on water as much as we depend on air. We also need a big amount of it to live; not only to drink, wash ourselves or cook. We need the biggest amount of it to produce food. If we pick a person randomly from any country and we calculate the amount of water that has been used to produce what he or she eats, we would come up with this figure: 4000 liters of water per day are required to produce the food necessary for that person to live a healthy life. 20 full bathtubs per day.

But water is a renewable natural resource. The number of H20 molecules that there are on earth and in the atmosphere is constant, but it does not stop flowing. When we use water, we usually pollute it. And when we use it again we would want it to be as pure as possible because our health, the lands we irrigate and industries require clean water. That is why we have to purify it, even if that costs Money. It is an investment that benefits us directly because a healthy environment allows us to live better and have a healthier life.

There is no life without water. Nature depends on its state and conservation. If we waste it extracting it irresponsibly from surface or underwater natural resources, it won’t be available for other people, uses or the living beings that depend on it.

Climate change is altering the water cycle: where it is scarce it will be even more so, where there is a surplus there will be higher risks of floods. It is highly likely that the extreme weather events will increase. That means we need to maximize the resource conservation, reduce the unnecessary consumption to a minimum and stop polluting it irresponsibly. We are all responsible.

Water is present but hidden in everything we buy, consume and need. There is nothing that can be produced without water; from an apple to a mobile phone. There is much more water we don’t see than the water that comes out of our taps at home or the water that comes out when we flush.

That is why; we have the moral obligation to preserve it for current use in our everyday life and for tomorrow, for future generations.

We can do a lot. The consumption of meat and dairy products in general requires a lot of water in relation with the energy and nutrients they give us.  There is no need to stop consuming them as there is enough water for everyone, but it is essential to never waste them, throwing them away without thinking. This happens with any good in general but it is with food that the waste has more severe consequences. We must never throw waste in the toilet or use it for any other thing that is not its main function.

That is why, education influences significantly the way in which people uses resources, specially water. Through education and awareness, people become more aware of its importance and use methods to make a more efficient and sustainable use.

It has been proven that educated farmers in areas where there is a scarcity of water use more efficient water management techniques than those farmers who have not received an education. Moreover, in households like the ones in the urban and rural areas of India, it will be more likely for parents to use water purification techniques if one of the parents has completed his or her primary education and the odds will increase if they have completed their secondary education. Furthermore, in high income countries, people with high levels of education tend to save more water.

When we see a river filled with clean water, a fountain, we should feel a special and intimate emotion like the one we feel when we see a noble animal in its natural environment. But it is also an appeal to our conscience; we have to acknowledge how lucky we are to live on earth and the obligation we have to preserve it.

Alberto Garrido Profesor of Agricultural and Resource Economics from the Polytechnic University of Madrid, Spain.

SDG 8 to tackle the crisis of extreme inequality, decent work and education

SDG 8 to tackle the crisis of extreme inequality, decent work and education

  • Posted: Mar 15, 2016 -
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Discussing the substance that the SDG’s pose, which is essential for this time frame of 15 years to change the world, I believe that a critical aspect is extreme inequality, in particular the unequal distribution of wealth, income, opportunities, food, everything. We are well aware that there are enough assets and resources for every human being in the world to develop and live secure and in peace. It is not impossible and it simply depends on the political decisions of the governments and in the execution of the policies of very important private actors.

In fact, the best formula to combat poverty today would be to agressively battle the major epidemic of extreme inequality we are facing. There is some data that is specially scandalous, 62 people own as much wealth as 3600 million, the 1% of the global population owns as much as the remaining 99%. The current economic system puts economy at the service of that 1% and ignores the needs and interests of the mayority of the population, destroys the planet and seriously harms the living conditions of the poorest. It is the poorest people, the ones that live in the areas that are most vulnerable to climate change and suffer its worst consequences, even though it has been proven that the average carbon footprint of the priviledged 1% could be 175 times bigger than that of the poorest 10%.

But let’s focus on the answers, cause it is in those answers where the 8th Goal engages the international community to promote a sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all before 2030.

We can talk about three ways to combat extreme inequality and, therefore, to redistribute opportunities amongst the whole world population and to outline a new economic and social model.

The first one is taxation: to make sure that those who have the most, who are more economically active, contribute more to the common good. In other words, that they pay fairer taxes and do not use mechanisms like tax havens to benefit themselves and turn away from the rest of the world. It sounds easy but, even though we have made progress, we are still far from the goal.

The second one has to do with working conditions and redistribution. There currently is a rampaging “salary-hoarding”:  the managers hog an increasing part of the salaries of their companies… The head of the main information technology company of India earns 416 times more than the average worker of that same company and in the big spanish companies, the top level management earn on average 158 times more than their average employee.

And whilst the minimum-wage doesn’t exist or is’nt enough to make a living in too many countries, there is an increasing number of “poor workers”. Women represent the majority of low-wage earners in the world as they carry out the most precarious jobs. It is essential to have a universal mínimum-wage and regulations that limit the salary gaps in each company and sector. The lost of competitiveness in the working conditions is one of the main degradations in the last decades that we must reverse.

The third ingredient is the social investment in education and health. If more people have better jobs and if the ones who earn more and who are more economically active (individuals and companies) pay more taxes, the possibilities of social investment will rise. And that’s were education and health are essential elements: universal, public and free education and health. The health and education that can be reached by anyone, that doesn’t has entry barriers and that, therefore, discriminates positively people on lower incomes and opportunities.

It is necesary to remember that in order to enhace the possibility of finding a job and that this job is fairly remunerated, it is imperative to achieve that the majority of people finish at least their secondary education. To extend education making sure that it is of good quality and that it offers the knowledge and skills necessary in order to live productive and healthy lives. This is a basic condition to achieve a decrease in inequality within the countries.

Three pillars for a new social and economic model in which progress must be made in each and every country in the world.

Jaime Atienza is the Campaign and Policy Director of the NGO Oxfam Intermon.

The Goal of reducing inequality is essential for others

The Goal of reducing inequality is essential for others

  • Posted: Feb 09, 2016 -
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The new Agenda 2030 whose overall purpose is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), represents a considerable progress compared to their predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), guiding up until last year.

Its main characteristic is their universality that, at the same time, it requires ambition for a structural change. The MDGs focused on the consequences of injustice and in directing enough funding in order to reverse that injustice in education, health and food, and other rights. The responsibility of developed countries limited itself to the provision of efficient help and some other measures related to trade and the environment. The system was not questioned.

The new SDGs contain structural aspects which are essential in order to achieve the eradication of poverty in a sustainable and fair world. Quality employment, changes in the production model or the fight against climate change are necessary and relevant fields in any country, whatever their level of development.

The brightest example of the systemic character of the SDG is Goal number 10, which refers to inequality and its rampaging increase, and it is on everyone’s lips today. And it is not only in those of transforming economists such as Piketty or other social movements. Also unusual suspects of being “against the system” like Christine Lagarde or American billionaires have said that the extreme inequality is one of the biggest risks of our time. The Pope has been, like in other subjects, more prophetic and compelling than anybody else and has said that inequality is the roots for all the social ills, developing his argument in multiple interventions.

There is a remarkable agreement based on multiple investigations about inequality not only being unfair. When it grows and persists, as it is the case in the majority of countries it stops growth, it makes it even less inclusive and sustainable, it breaks cohesion and social stability and it prevents us from eradicating poverty. The theory of the overflow by which generating wealth is enough to end with poverty is now dead. Nowadays, the wealth that is created is obscenely accumulated by very few, that 1% that co-opting laws and policies already own the same wealth as the rest of humanity.  A recent report presented by Oxfam shows that only 62 billionaires have the same wealth as 3600 million people.

Where there is less agreement is in the solutions, or let’s say there’s more fear. This is a reverential fear that us who feel “safe” have against disrupting the established order and trespassing uncertain territory. We are scared of a transformative change. Vulnerable people do not have a choice, they already lost that fear.

A consequence of this fear is the difficulty to fight inequality with ambitious objectives, transformative policies and clear indicators. A good example of this is the SDG number 10. Its first objective is focused on increasing the income of the poorest 40% of each country to bring it above the national average. As it is not referring to the income of the wealthiest 1% or 10%, the goal falls short. It doesn’t take into account the finite nature of the resources and the necessity to ensure the planetary sustainability, nor does it ensure that the middle class won’t become poor where it stands strong or that it barely escapes poverty where it is emerging.

The rest of the content of the 10 SDG has the right references of economic inclusion and fiscal, wage and social protection policies that help make progress towards equality. Well, we know that these aspirations won’t be achieved with rhetorical commitments but with brave and strong political measures that reduce the wage gaps, end with tax evasion and avoidance and ensure a basic income for the most vulnerable population. Fair taxation must assure social policies that are strong enough to guarantee, among other rights, the right to quality and equity education which will work as catalyst of the rest of the rights.

The 10th SDG sets the bases to fight against extreme inequality. However, there’s still a long way to go before we implement it in each country in order for it to be a real transformation factor. A lot of debate, clear data and alternative proposals that show the path towards equality will be necessary.

Out of the 17 SDGs, the 10th  one is one of the most sensitive and complicated because it challenges the basics of the system, a system that obviously favours the 1% of the population. Having said that, this is an imperative Goal. If it is not achieved, the rest of SDGs will only be an illusion.

Editorial by José María Vera, General Manager of Oxfam Intermón, Spanish NGO working in development, awareness raising campaigns and fair trade to eradicate poverty and reduce inequalities.

Beyond the printed word

Beyond the printed word

  • Posted: Jan 22, 2016 -
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Since old times, the binomial health/illness has been analyzed from different perspectives and with, at the very least, interesting outcomes. Currently, the approach of the determining fact of health has helped to take into consideration crucial aspects of first order, in order words “health and its circumstances”, on which Dr. Juan Gervas and Dr. Mercedes Pérez Fernández talk about, writers of the book entitled “Sano y salvo” (Safe and Sound) where the y show their clinical experience to treat health and illness and run from how much medical care take with them the loss of wellness which, far from improving our health, we see it damaged.

In fact, in the quoted book we can find the chapter “Health and its circumstances” on which they acknowledge that health depends on a serial of determining factors: “Health depends on our diet and our mother’s conditions before and during the pregnancy, and beyond. (…) Education is crucial in health care, personal and our parent’s (specially the mother). One of the basic steps to promote health is achieving that girls go to school and at least finish the primary mandatory period of schooling”

The writers state conclusively that “having a mother that has received formal education is a treasure for health care” (…) having access to education, depurated sink water, work and housing is as important as vaccines and antibiotics in order to treat infections”.

I have allowed myself to start off this post with quotes that we can find in the book “Sano y salvo” because I find interesting to establish that, from different perspectives, we reach the same conclusions on the inherent relationship existing between education and health, a relationship that, in this case, support two eminent representatives of the Spanish medical field.

Health and education have in common that both unfold and strengthen through processes that involve the transformation of people, processes that become the engine of the human sustainable development. This brought to light the 2015 World Education Forum, specifically the Incheon Declaration. In fact, looking at 2030 horizon and gathering the proposal of the forth Sustainable Development Goal, the future is faced from education, tackling with worry that, currently, a great part of the world population that is out of school lives in conflict affected areas and shaken by disturbing phenomenon, among them, pandemic that put in high risk education and human development.

In such contexts, the need of promoting education in “safe learning environments” becomes essential.

As far as health is concerned, in order to reach it we also need to tackle a process in which, in the first place, we must analyze the causes and effects of the social inequalities that have gripped important sectors of the society, among them we can find the inequalities on the field of education. Obviously, in that process we search for necessary transformations to achieve the highest level of health, which is the acknowledgment of the right to health.

The transforming processes on the field of education and health that gathers the 2030 Agenda should not be left in printed words because real transformations we not only find them written but also in the spirit and will of people. The real transformations go beyond the printed word.

 

Mª Teresa de Febrer

Awareness department of the PROSALUS NGO which mission is the respect, protection and assurance of the human right to food, health, water and sanitation.

Education and health: inseparable companion

Education and health: inseparable companion

  • Posted: Nov 05, 2015 -
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Sometimes, answering a question with another question is not really enlightening; however, on this occasion it is convenient to do so and no special skills are required to answer the following ones: can children or young people see their right to education recognized if they are not healthy? Is good health influenced by education? The answer is that it is difficult to access a minimum level of health without a minimum knowledge about what we understand by health and how we should practice it. In addition, a sick person has little access to education.

The World Health Organization has repeatedly and forcefully stated the close relationship between education and health. His claims are accompanied by multiple indicators and have served to reinforce the arguments of other agencies of the United Nations:

  • Education is a basic tool to break the fateful cycle of disease, poverty, inequality and exclusion.
  • Health problems can undermine investment in education as some diseases keep boys and girls away from school. In other cases, they have to stop their education prematurely to take care of sick relatives.
  • Some tropical parasitic diseases reduce nutrient absorption, affecting the development of mental functions, and compromising educational outcomes.
  • Education and health are mutually reinforced so that people can fully develop their human potential.
  • The education of mothers is key to child survival.

Furthermore, education is one of the main health determinants, i.e., socioeconomic, cultural and environmental conditions in which people are born, grow up and live. Those conditions include education, both formal and informal, since it is a necessary condition for reaching a certain level of physical, individual and collective well-being and, therefore, sustainable human development, in this case, specified in the Sustainable Development Objective (SDO) No. 3 (ensure a healthy lifestyle…) and No. 4 (ensure an inclusive education…).

Indeed, SDO 4 aims to ensure an inclusive, equitable, and quality education and to promote learning opportunities for all persons throughout life. It is therefore necessary to consider the SDO 3, whose aim is to ensure a healthy lifestyle and promote wellness for all people throughout their lives. I would definitely link this SDO with Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which proclaims that people should reach “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health”.

Education and health are inseparable companions, as well as the implementation of the right to education and the right to health, without misleading priorities among human rights. Nowadays, there are no longer first generation or second generation human rights and they, (whether civil, political, economic, social or cultural) must be respected, protected and guaranteed by the States.

Reality, however, presents cases in which we insist on establishing certain “competition” in the recognition of human rights. That’s a big mistake that leads to very negative consequences, especially for the most vulnerable people since usually they do not know they also have rights they don’t know about either. Thus an evil circle is established, and education can and must break it in order to educate and inform about human rights, which are the cornerstone of human society, because not only education and health are inseparable, but also the access to food, water and sanitation or the access to decent housing, for example, are.

Opinion article by Mª Teresa de Febrer, member of the Spanish NGO Prosalus, working since 1985 to promote health care in several countries of Africa and Latin America.

Global faith communities respond to Global Goals

Global faith communities respond to Global Goals

  • Posted: Oct 23, 2015 -
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The Society of Jesus, through its Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat (SJES), joined two global meetings last September that explored ways by which faith-based communities and religious institutions can respond to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), getting known more now as theGlobal Goals.

Patxi Álvarez de los Mozos, SJ, SJES Director, joined the UN Bristol Meeting on Faiths and the SDGs  where faith leaders from around the world and UN officials gathered in Bristol, United Kingdom from 7 to 10 September 2015 to discuss support for the SDGs. The Bristol Commitments emerged from this gathering and was launched as a publication entitled Faith in the Future that covered a range of practical action plans of 24 faith groups and faith-based organizations, sharing an outline of their 10-year faith plans and commitments, including that of the Society of Jesus.

The Bristol meeting was organized by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, a secular organization that helps the world’s major faiths develop environmental programs based on their own core teachings, beliefs and practices, and in association with the UN Development Programme.

Patxi also joined about 80 representatives of faith-based organizations to explore ways to end extreme poverty and advance the SDGs in an event  hosted by the World Council of Churches  on 24 September 2015 at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York, USA. In this meeting, the Faith-based Action Framework to End Extreme Poverty was launched that builds on a joint statement and call to action entitled Ending Extreme Poverty: A Moral and Spiritual Imperative  launched in April 2015 and signed by 39 leaders of major world religions and global faith-based organizations.

In a brief interview with Paula Sendín from Ecojesuit, Patxi shares his thoughts on the faith-based global action that is gaining traction and the sincere desire to advance the Global Goals through environmental programs and the moral and spiritual imperative to end extreme poverty.

Paula: What was the purpose of the meetings?

Patxi: The principal purpose of the Bristol meeting was to decide how institutions from different religions can contribute to the SDGs. We met with Buddhism, Confucianism, Christian, Daoist, Hindu, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism and Shinto groups that represented 24 belief traditions from around the world, and most are working in the area of the environment. The New York event was focused on ending extreme poverty and advancing the SDGs.

Paula: With the post-2015 development agenda now adopted by the UN and world leaders, what are your thoughts on the SDGs and the challenges to these global goals?

Patxi: The newly adopted SDGs present more solid basis and are based on the experiences gained in the last 15 years with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that helped the international community better focus their responses and efforts to some important development concerns. National plans need be developed to address and localize the SDGs.

I highlight two challenges. First is the high number of SDGs – there are 17 objectives and 169 targets – and this could lead to a loss of focus. The identification of many targets does not favor an overview, which is necessary. Second, funding is a key element that mainly comes from international solidarity. The countries facing the greatest challenges are also the poorest and need adequate financing. The recent UN Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa last July concluded with very poor results, and this is indicative that poor countries will get very little support.

Paula: Why is the UN interested in religions and faith-based communities taking part in the global development discussion?

Patxi: For far too long in the scope of civil society, religions were considered as serious obstacles to social progress and emancipation of people and were part of the problem. But today, the UN recognizes and acknowledges an increasing awareness that religious institutions have been working for decades in key areas of development and helping those identified by the UN as key development concerns. So, they are essential now and are part of the solution.

UNICEF indicated that religious communities run 50% of schools in the world. Similarly, in the fields of health, childcare, local development, and other development assistance, religious and faith-based communities provide a significant contribution. And while development programs have technical objectives that can be satisfactorily achieved with funding and technology, there is a growing number of people in the UN who realize the need to incorporate values, personal commitment, and local participation, which is what religious organizations and faith-based communities bring about.

Even the World Bank realizes that social movements need to be developed by supporting and revitalizing them. These movements have the ability to influence people, especially the advocacy of religious movements. Better engagement between markets, civil society, and the state contributes to sustainable development. In civil society, religious institutions play a key role.

Paula: What contributions can religions make in the framework of the newly adopted SDGs?

Patxi: Religions contribute to a social organization through their values, perseverance, and long-term commitments. They come closest to the face of the poorest because they work with them. Furthermore, religions exemplify simple lifestyles, as many are facing what may be called “shared austerity,” living simply, having less consumerist lifestyles, and sharing the goods of the earth within reach for everyone. These are key today. Their motivations are primarily spiritual and not just moral or cognitive.

The SDGs maybe new for some international civil society groups, but these are not new to many religious institutions. They have been working in these areas for many years and continue to do so with or without the SDGs.

Paula: Where is the Catholic Church in this context?

Patxi: The Catholic Church already plays an important role and its work in the social and ecological field is very wide, both through parishes such as Caritas and through the social works of religious congregations and international NGOs. The activities of recent Popes, and especially Pope Francis, show that moral leadership can do much to mobilize the international community towards the advancement of human dignity.

The Catholic Church can also play an important role in establishing collaboration with other faiths in these fields of both poverty and inequality and environmental advocacy. I think in all of these areas the Catholic Church is already making important contributions.

Paula: What difficulties are churches experiencing in addressing the development challenges?

Patxi: A high degree of collaboration is necessary in pursuing development work and churches can sometimes have misgivings about being co-opted by states or other large organizations. These fears may indeed be valid in some cases. But without broad partnerships, it will not be possible to address development challenges.

Sometimes churches have difficulty accepting that their activities require audits and evaluations. But development work is not only about doing good, but also being able to make a real impact on people’s lives. Good intentions are not enough, these need to be accompanied by levels of competence and professionalism. The world is very complex and requires serious and well-thought out and implemented solutions, and sometimes we are not always well-prepared.

Paula: Do you think the Society of Jesus is well placed to address these concerns? What should it do to better respond to the urgent needs?

Patxi: I think the Society of Jesus is well positioned in responding to these concerns, but obviously we still have much room for improvement especially in international cooperation. A greater collaboration within the Society between the work and the Provinces will enable us to do better work in our mission and to ensure greater impact. The most favorable areas for this collaboration are the reflection and academic research, public awareness and advocacy campaigns. For this, we need to enhance the awareness of the importance of making progress in these areas, and a structure that supports the activities that need to be implemented.

Paula Sendín, Ecojesuit