Social Development and Quality of Life

Article excerpt

THE World Summit for Social Development that will be held in Copenhagen early next year will be an opportunity for the international community to search for a new approach to a very wide range of questions of fundamental importance to all of us. These questions include the nature of work and the concept of "active life" (including leisure), mechanisms for the transfer of knowledge, systems for providing assistance to developing countries, trade relationships, the form of higher education, and many others.

Development efforts in the past have given priority to economic growth, but they have been unable to prevent widespread poverty and provide full employment. Among their consequences have been the marginalization and exclusion of large sections of the population, the acceleration of the rural exodus, the deterioration of the urban habitat, the ghettoization of the suburbs and the degradation of the natural environment. Meanwhile, structural adjustment policies have severely affected social sectors such as education and health and in some countries have even compromised the prospects for economic recovery. A world-wide "social adjustment" must now be achieved.

Economic growth should serve the cause of social development and respect the environment. Machines should replace people only to do work that cannot really be done efficiently by men and women. Otherwise, there will be a huge social price to be paid in terms of unemployment, extremism and violence.

I believe that action to promote social development should be taken on six major fronts:

1. Endogenous capacity building in each country.

* Education and training should be given the highest priority and investment in education should be increased so that socially distant and geographically remote populations can have access to knowledge. Intensive training courses should be permanently available without regard to age or level of previous studies.

* Education and empowerment of girls and women are key factors in curbing population growth, promoting gender equity and in developing the full potential of women.

* A new role for higher education should be found in all countries, incorporating lifelong higher-learning facilities.

* Continuing efforts should be made to promote the transfer and sharing of knowledge, particular in science and technology.

* Development should be based on the will of each society and should express its fundamental identity. Cultural factors should be an integral part of all strategies designed to achieve balanced development.

2. Promoting the development of rural areas. The problem of emigration from rural areas should be tackled at its roots, particularly through education, through promoting craftsmanship and cultural tourism, encouraging the development of indigenous cultures, ensuring that everyone has access to shelter, and decentralizing education and social services at municipal level. …