Towards Sustainable Societies



The UN General Assembly on 25 September 2015 adopted a Resolution (70/1) with a Charter of 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 Targets with 232 indicators to be achieved by 2030 for people and planet, prosperity and peace. The agenda sees the 17 goals interlinked and inclusive, all individuals, societies, and institutions as stakeholders for the sustainable future, with rights and duties. The Resolution calls for Global Partnership for Sustainable Development and reminds everyone: “We can be the first generation to succeed in ending poverty; just as we may be the last to have a chance of saving the planet. The world will be a better place in 2030 if we succeed in our objectives.” Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) with the Transformative Agenda aim to eradicate poverty and hunger and to establish socioeconomic inclusion and protect the environment.

The ambitious and noble SDGs are criticized for being inconsistent to implement, though integrated, in a society thriving for economic development with limited resources, greedy utilization, and intolerable wealth disparity. According to the World Wealth Report the bottom half of wealth holders collectively accounted for less than 1% of total global wealth in mid-2019, while the richest 10% own 82% of global wealth and the top 1% alone own 45%. This is not just an economic problem that could be solved through science and technology, market economy, and political power; it is primarily an ethical problem and needs ethical vision and action plan. The Sustainable development often examines socio-economic and environmental aspects and denies ethical issues – the question of what is the ‘right’ thing to do. Ethical dimension of a poverty free society should foresee a redistributive mechanism to provide resource access to starving millions within the country and among countries because sustainable lifestyles cannot be implemented without strong ethical principles.

It is a sad fact that even when humanity has made considerable progress in the last two centuries as a result of the agricultural and industrial revolutions and scientific and technological innovations and inventions, unjust inequalities exist within and among the nations and the disadvantaged groups suffer disproportionately from the disastrous effects of market driven development and short-term electoral goals of power politics. As a result of human interventions, our common home is in danger and many of our fellow human beings and other living beings suffer. The present state of the people and planet is the result of human hubris and greed, a technocratic paradigm driven by the search for maximum profit and instant gratification. A development model based on GDP that does not increase the well-being and happiness for the majority of the people today and for the future generations is not ethical. "We have gone ahead at breakneck speed,” said Pope Francis on 27 March 2020 during his prayer for the world in the context of COVID-19 Pandemic – “feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet.” As moral agents, ethics should guide our partnerships for people and planet, for peace and prosperity. Human beings are caretakers (homo custos) of the earth and all who are living (people and other living species) in this common home, in collaboration and solidarity with all. Besides economics and politics, aesthetic and religious dimensions, which are conspicuously absent from SDG, are also foundational elements of being human. Together with science and technology, humanities and social sciences, traditional wisdom and religions contribute to the prosperity and peace for people and planet, provided they are guided by solid ethical principles and effective action plans.

The Journal of Dharma volume 46 (2021) celebrates human quest ‘Towards Sustainable Societies’ and explores the Ethical interface of Sustainable Development Goals and the roles of educational, economic, political, legal, and religious policies, systems, and institutions, bringing together research from different academic fields including Literature, Media, Environmental Sciences, Law, Economics, Philosophy, and Religious studies. Researchers who care for the cry of the poor people and the cry of the ailing planet are invited to submit research papers scientifically prepared, following the Author Guidelines, focussing on one or more SDGs, which will be published in the four issues of the Journal of Dharma in 2021, subject to peer review reports, and editorial board decision. Selected papers after peer review will be conceptually grouped into the five pillars of SDG, the five Ps: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnerships.

Vol. 46.1. Towards Sustainable Societies: People, Ethics, and Development (1 March 2021)

Vol. 46.2. Towards Sustainable Societies: Planet, Ethics, and Development (8 May 2021)

Vol. 46.3. Towards Sustainable Societies: Prosperity, Ethics, and Development (8 July 2021)

Vol. 46.4. Towards Sustainable Societies: Peace, Partnerships, Ethics, and Development (15 August 2021)

                                                      (Last dates of submissions are given in brackets)

Vol. 46.1. Towards Sustainable Societies: PEOPLE, Ethics, and Development

In the Preamble of the SDG Agenda, we read: “We are determined to end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions, and to ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment.” People are the focus of the SDG, especially the first five goals in the Agenda; Poverty (SDG 1), Zero Hunger (SDG 2), Good Health and Well-being (SDG 3), Quality Education (SDG 4), and Gender Equality (SDG 5) are directly concerning the fundamental needs and well-being of people. Often in the development projects the most in need are left behind, and many people regardless of income, continue to live without full rights and suffer from inequality. The greatest sin of the world is that millions are living in extreme starvation and hunger, especially in the developing countries. According to the World Food Programme, 135 million people suffer from acute hunger largely due to human conflicts, climate change, and economic downturns. The COVID-19 pandemic could now double that number, putting an additional 130 million people at the risk of suffering acute hunger by the end of 2020.  It is unlikely that we could “by 2030 end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular, the poor and people in vulnerable situations including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round” (SDG 2.1). Among the sustainable goals, SDG 4 and 5 are critical as they form the foundation for the overall success of Agenda 2030. Only quality education and gender equality can ensure that all people acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable lifestyles, ethical values, and a culture of peace and prosperity for people and planet.

Vol. 46.2. Towards Sustainable Societies: PLANET, Ethics, and Development

The Preamble of the SDG Agenda focusses next on Planet: “We are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations.”  Our planet and the diversity of life it supports, is under a serious a threat because of habitat loss, over harvesting, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, globalization, and other consumption driven production drives of lifestyles. As Greta Thunberg dared the world leaders at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York on 23 September 2019, “People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you! the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.” The Global Agenda 2030 is a response to the cry of the earth, especially through the Goals – Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG 6), Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG 12), Climate Action (SDG 13), Life Below Water (SDG 14), and Life on Land (SDG 15). These are aspirations and action plans to ensure intra-generational and inter-generational justice, mitigate anthropogenic impact on planet, support the needs of the present and future generations, and keep People and Planet alive and healthy. Let us live sustainably individually and globally remembering the words of G. H. Brundtland: "We must consider our planet to be on loan from our children, rather than being a gift from our ancestors."

Vol. 46.3. Towards Sustainable Societies: PROSPERITY, Ethics, and Development

Prosperity is the third pillar of the Agenda 2030 and we read in the Preamble: “We are determined to ensure that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives and that economic, social and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature.” The SDGs for Prosperity focus on different aspects of economy: Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG 7); Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8); Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure (SDG 9); Reduced Inequalities (SDG 10); Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11). These goals are not only about the economic development, making money and providing jobs but they are about different aspects within society from inequalities of gender, stratification, and labour and building greener and environment friendly cities and energy sources. Communities and countries around the world should create sustainable economies and lifestyles for the future, rather than depending on foreign aid. Gandhian ideals of swaraj (self-rule) and swasraya (self-reliance) are important for individuals and societies. Prosperous societies with equal access to resources to utilize them in a sustainable way should be the motto of the world to establish an ethically tolerable and economically viable human existence. Academia and industry, market and media should join hands with political and religious institutions with ethical policies and action plans to construct and sustain prosperity and peace for people and planet.

Vol. 46.4. Towards Sustainable Societies: PEACE, PARTNERSHIP, Ethics, and Development

The last two goals focus on Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions (SDG 16) and Partnerships (SDGs 17), which are critical to promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels. In the Preamble, we read on Peace: “We are determined to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence. There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.” On Partnership the Agenda declares in the Preamble: “We are determined to mobilize the means required to implement this Agenda through a revitalized Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity, focused in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable and with the participation of all countries, all stakeholders and all people.Justice, peace, and ethics are embedded in concurrence to the progress and sustainability of nations across the world under the leadership of United Nations. According to the statistical data released by the United Nations, in 2018, more than 70 million people were found fleeing war, persecution, and conflict. The conflicts, insecurity, weak institutions, and limited access to justice challenge the realisation of sustainable development goals. Equal access to justice, as being the fundamental principle of the rule of Law of any country, is deprived and distorted around the globe for millions of people including women, children, elderly, refugees, prisoners, differently abled, and many other categories of global population. Equal access to justice system is not merely the delivery of justice through institutionalised means or providing legal counsel to the needy but it is the foundation for protecting the fundamental human rights, guaranteeing to meet everyone’s basic biological, psychological, and social needs. Legal empowerment and partnerships are necessary to reach development to the marginalized and vulnerable. Unless the disempowered gets to engage in the formulation of development and participate in the gains of development, such a scheme would remain unethical though it may boast of overall development in terms of GDP. The Pandemic situation has mounted the urge for local and global partnerships to focus more on the ethical outline of delivering universal prosperity and peace. The partnerships built up on inclusive and pluralistic ethical principles and values, shared vision and mission that place people and the planet at the centre is the need of the day.