DBSA staff, provincial and municipal officials attend an Introduction to Sustainability

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As part of the Sustainability Institute/Development Bank of Southern Africa partnership in the Sustainable Communities pilot programme, the Sustainability Institute, as one of the knowledge partners to the programme has been actively involved in introducing staff from the DBSA, from the various pilot municipalities, other interested municipalities and provincial officials to current trends, practice and thinking in terms of Sustainable Development.

The two day course serves as an introduction to some of the key global issues facing all today and places these firmly within the South African context. The course has been delivered at both the Sustainability Institute and at the DBSA Vulindlela Academy and demand for the course is increasing. The course is funded by the DBSA and was open to all public service officials, and service providers. To date over 200 attendees have participated.The focus of the Sustainability Institute/DBSA Introduction to Sustainability Course is to present an integrated approach to a developmental framework of environmental, social and economic alternatives in order to highlight how the creation of sustainable communities in South Africa are potentially possible if the various aspects contained within the broader sustainable development debates are considered. The challenges presented are being faced globally. Our specific focus is on developing countries and to debate these within the South African context.

Through practice, theory and critical reflection, the course focuses on the rise to global prominence of the challenge of sustainability in general, and in particular on sustainable development. The introduction encompasses global debates on policy in the context of challenges posed by natural resource limits and to the ways production and consumption are currently structured and managed within a world that is sharply divided between the rich and poor.

The challenge facing the world today is not just about redistribution of resources to ensure greater levels of social equity, but also to reorganise the extraction, use and disposal of those resources in order to ensure longer term survival of the ecosphere which sustains life.

This great challenge poses three key questions:

 What does sustainability and in particular, sustainable development mean in an international and South African context?
 What is the relationship between inequality and unsustainability?
 What are the relationships between human life and all life forms and how has this relationship evolved over time?

These broad issues and debates are brought into the context of how they relate within the Southern African context, and how development practitioners within this region engage in these issues. In particular, these issues are most relevant particularly in light of the following questions:

 How do we rethink the relationship between society, poverty eradication and natural resources so that development of the former is not at the expense of the latter?
 What are the implications of this new relationship for strategies to reduce inequalities, and in particular is poverty eradication possible without resource consumption reduction by middle class?
 What is the relationship, and potential conflict, in terms of national development policies?
 How do conventional approaches to development and conventional technologies continue to destroy possibilities for sustainable communities?
 What are the alternatives?

The posing of these key questions have stimulated interesting and active debate within the classes to a point where now, political role players within the municipalities are attending the short course.

The DBSA has asked that the course continue and a further 6 to 8 courses are planned within the year. These courses will now be held within the various regions in an effort to allow a greater number of officials, service providers and political appointees access to the course material.

One of the real benefits of the course is that it allows officials to engage in the debates but also to place in context the new policies and framework documents that are becoming critical drivers of the work in which they are engaged. These documents include the following:

• National Sustainable Development Framework (NSDF)
• Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for SA (ASGI-SA)
• National Spatial Development Perspective (NSDP), plus guidelines for IDPs & PGDS docs
• Industrial Policy (DTI – forthcoming)
• National Framework for Local Economic Development (NFLED)
• Breaking New Ground: Sustainable Human Settlements (BNG)
• Major sector policies – Water, Energy, Agriculture, Social Development, Health