I have been asked to prepare a paper on the basis of the terms of
reference which are summarized below. Given the very diverse
understandings of the concept of sustainable development and the
broad range of activities which are now proceeding under its aegis,
I would be very grateful for any thoughts and suggestions you might
have which might be useful in the preparation of this summary
document, which is to be based entirely on secondary sources.
David Barkin, Professor of Economics, Universidad Autonoma
presently at: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 113 Brattle Street,
Cambridge, Mass. 02138
Terms of Reference: "Wealth, Poverty and Sustainable Development"
The literature on Sustainable Development often mentions a
vicious circle of poverty and environmental deterioration, which
feed on each other. This analysis leads to a broad discussion of
the need to eliminate poverty, not simply for humanitarian reasons,
but also for environmental protection. Some recommended policies
include subsidies to poor families who change their destructive
behavior to become guardians of the environment.
On the other hand, it is not just a question of increasing the
flow of resources to reduce rural poverty. New ways must be found
to increase the participation of the poor in decision-making with
regard to the use of their resources, which means that new
mechanisms for democratic participation must be found in political
arena where these groups have been successfully kept marginal.
These ideas have been based on general proclamations of good
intentions, rarely documented or quantified. Some critics go
further and object to these characterizations of peasants as
destructors, emphasizing the diversified nature of their economies,
less dependent on agrochemicals, and stressing the value of their
The proposed document will analyze in greater depth the
relationship between wealth poverty and sustainable development,
extracting concrete policy recommendations.
Specific questions are posed:
- What has been the impact of macroeconomic and sectorial policies,
which unleashed processes of enrichment and impoverishment, on the
- What is the relative role of small and large-scale producers in
the various processes of environmental degradation? Do small-scale
producers principally harm themselves, or do they inflict damage on
- To what extent are different groups of small-scale producers
contributors to or destroyers of natural resources?
- What kind of policies could simultaneously reduce rural poverty
and environmental degradation? Are they feasible and viable? What
can be said about prior efforts in this direction? What impact will
individual policies have on global environmental problems?
- How does the economic and social inequality define the character
of government and the decision-making process and what relationship
does this have with sustainable development?
- What limits do NGOs and other community groups face to increase
the participation of rural groups in decision-making in the areas
of poverty and environmental degradation?