Enhancing South-South Cooperation

Green Sufficiency Economies for Living Well in Ecological Civilization
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The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) outcome document entitled “The Future We Want” emphasized the importance of Green Economy as a sustainable development tool, and acknowledged the existing different approaches, visions, models and tools to achieve sustainable development in accordance with each country’s context and priority.

In February 2013, the United Nations Environment Programme Governing Council took note and requested that UNEP “collect such initiatives, endeavours, practices and experiences on different approaches, visions, models and tools, and to disseminate them, and facilitate information-sharing among countries, so as to support them to promote sustainable development and poverty eradication”.

In response to this request, and to the often-articulated wish of developing countries to exchange and share good practices with other countries of the South, the project Enhancing South-South Cooperation – Building the Capacity of Developing Countries to Promote Green Economies was launched in 2013. This project showcases four national-level sustainable development initiatives that are related to Green Economy: China’s Ecological Civilization, Bolivia’s Vivir Bien (Living Well), Thailand’s Sufficiency Economy, and South Africa’s Green Economy Transition.

China’s Ecological Civilization is a development strategy that is focused on establishing “a resource efficient and environmental-friendly society based on the carrying capacity of the environment, observing the law of nature and aimed at realizing sustainable development”. It is a reaction to years of unsustainable extraction of natural resources, and uncontrolled growth, and has received high-level support from within the Chinese Government. Ecological Civilization seeks a balanced approach to development, with environmental indicators becoming increasingly influential in setting the policy agenda at the national, local and regional levels. Today, 16 provinces and more than one thousand villages are competing for national environmental honours, more than 20 provinces are piloting pollutant cap-and-trade programmes, and carbon trading is taking place in seven provinces.

Conceptually linked to the Chinese strategy, Thailand’s Sufficiency Economy serves as a guiding sustainable development philosophy for many government projects, and in 2002 it was officially incorporated into Thailand’s National Economic and Social Development Plan. The concept stresses a balance between human and economic development, promotes moderation, rationality and resilience as means of poverty eradication and sustainable development, and has led to efforts to mainstream environmental and social issues in the national development agenda. In this context, Sufficiency Economy is seen as reinforcing a transition to a green economy and to an environmentally friendly society.

Bolivia’s concept of Vivir Bien (Living Well) challenges anthropocentric approaches to development, and views nature as a sacred being that humankind must live in harmony with. This translates into government policy that is centred on expanding and protecting the rights of Pachamama (Mother Earth); expanding and protecting the rights of peoples, including the right to live free of all forms of poverty; setting the duties of states, communities and individuals with respect to the protection and restoration of the environment; and recognizing peoples’ knowledge and practices for “living well”. This has resulted in legal recognition of the plurality of Bolivian society, as well as the enactment of two laws that establish and protect the rights of Mother Earth as being equal to those of humans.

In South Africa, a more orthodox Green Economy approach has gained significant traction, where the concept is intricately linked to the country’s key socioeconomic issues: poverty, inequality and unemployment. The emphasis is on generating local knowledge and technical expertise to address the interdependence between economic growth, social protection and natural ecosystems. South Africa’s National Strategy for Sustainable Development and Action Plan (NSSD) recognizes that Green Economy should be promoted as a holistic transition, and actions on Green Economy are decentralized and implemented through a number of national and sector-specific programmes.

See more at: www.unep.org/greeneconomy