The principle of sustainable development merges living conditions and the use of resources for both current scenarios and the long term. The concept links the need of conserving the environment with society and the economy. It also implies the capacity to endure, diversify and maintain efficiency indefinitely, not just within the environmental domain but also the economy.
Contributing to sustainable development moves from understanding the concept of sustainability to actively promoting it. Non-governmental organisations, local communities and the private sector all have a role to play in this active approach to sustainability.
The important role of NGOs
Around 650 registered voluntary organisations are found in Malta, that “besides playing a leading role in the provision of non-formal and informal learning, are usually the link between civil society and the government” (ESD consultation document, pg5).Environmental non-governmental organisations are important entities that have brought about environmental awareness and social consciousness on the need to protect and conserve the environment.
Many of the NGOs are small and medium-sized entities, and need funds under various programmes managed by national, regional and local authorities and the European Commission. NGOs depend on the presence and involvement of volunteers which are needed to maintain the funded projects in the long term. Already, huge amounts of money are being inputted into a large number of voluntary organisations, raising concerns of exhausted available resources and insecurities over the division of funding. The extent and duration of self-sustainability without the need of external support, are two other issues of concerns. The difference in the financial sustainability between NGOs and private entities, is that NGOs have to access new funds and diversify income, while private entities have a lower reliance on the inputs of investors and they do not receive funds for the maintenance of their long-term operation.
One mechanism that may ensure a sustainable way forward towards a specific environmental objective is through the social collaboration between NGOs and the private sector. Acknowledging an environmental problem and the required solution involves a stakeholder approach which benefits both the NGOs and the private sector that are engaged in open dialogue and strategic partnerships.
The local community
Members of the local community and local stakeholders are directly engaged in the land of the surrounding environment and feel a sense of belonging to it. The involvement of locals at the regional level will also lead to a better understanding of the environment. NGOs have been actively involved in awareness raising, and positively engaged in the management planning process of Malta’s Natura 2000 sites. However, most of them are nationally-based and can be viewed as external actors by the local community. Thus, imposing collaboration between locals and NGOs without an intermediary is often difficult. In several holistic seminars, organised to gain stakeholder input to the management of Natura 2000 sites, numerous important aspects were not discussed, since people did not show up or were not looking forward to express their views and experiences with other entities. One example of good practice was when The Cliffs Interpretation Centre acted as a source for outreach, in the first seminar that was organised by a local ornithologist to teach hunters and trappers how to photograph birds.
Small businesses are not only a source of local employment, but they provide consumers with services that aid in long-term sustainability. The Cliffs Interpretation Centre is not a NGO, however, it is a self-sufficient entity which focuses on the conservation and management of the protected Natura 2000 Special Area of Conservation, in which it is located. The Centre has ensured positive socio-economic returns such as the creation of new environmentally-friendly jobs, and cooperation and collaboration between stakeholders and landusers.
The Private Sector
The private sector can be an engine of inclusive growth by generating decent jobs, contributing to public revenue and providing affordable goods and services. If it invests in suitable innovation and business models, it can also improve our surrounding environment in a sustainable way.
The impact that private sector actors can have on sustainable development is now widely recognised, and donors around the world are seeking new ways to effectively engage with the private sector in creating jobs, providing income, goods and services, advancing innovation, and generating public revenues essential for economic, social and environmental welfare.
Given the private sector’s potential for generating inclusive and sustainable growth, private stakeholders are needed as ever more active in the sustainable development field, both as a source of finance and as partners for governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and donors.
Through the years, some of our NGOs have been impeccable for our current state of the surrounding environment, and various achievements in our environment are merited to these environmental NGO. This does not mean that such entities are sufficient on their own, instead, there is a need to look ahead and seek a better way forward to manage resources to the benefits of all, being a NGO, a private entity, the community and the surrounding environment. If both NGOs and other entities are directed to the idea of self-sustainability, they would achieve by far more.
Lateral thinkingcan thus be employed in generating environmental awareness through thinking outside thebox. Lateral thinking can also generate efficient collaboration and diversificationbetween different entities, with the purpose of conserving the environment. One approach to move towards sustainable development is to reduce the negative factorsthat often undermine the self-sufficiency of NGOs by creating or amalgamating them withother self-sufficient entities, without being at the discrepancy of the government or vice-versa.
‘Challenge’ means looking at a satisfactory idea, and then blocking that idea hence making room for other ideas. It is very important to realise that challenge is never directed at ideas that are wrong or inadequate, but at the best and strongest ideas. Challenge never suggests that an idea may be wrong. Challenge suggests that there may be other ideas which are blocked by excellence of the existing idea.
That idea may be excellent and possible also the best one, but for the moment we will challenge it in order to see if there might be other, even better ideas.’
Edward De Bono: Thinking To Create Value, Bonting.