Friday, 3 December, 2021

For Authentically Sustainable Development

Reverend Martin Adhikary

For Authentically Sustainable Development
Reverend Martin Adhikary

Human development has to be holistic in order that it can do sustainable good for people. There are aspects to it. It has to have the spiritual or moral aspect, otherwise it does not meaningfully sustain. Or it is merely rendered as what may be termed as ‘Cosmetic’ development without lasting benefit to the society as a whole. Mahatma Gandhi observed that the several things that will destroy us are: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Religion without sacrifice; Politics without principle, Science without humanity; Business without ethics. Considered from many perspectives what Gandhi said is true in almost every country, unfortunately so! For real development is transformation of life; it is total change in attitude to life and the world; it is rising above selfishness, greed and lust something that grows out of a sanctified look at Creation.

It is highly commendable the government of Bangladesh is very seriously considering the ways and means to materialize the Vision 2041 for making the country a developed one by the year 2041. Right at the outset we may think of making our country an authentically developed one where material prosperity will not be the sole index of development. Something more than economic and material adjuncts will need to matter alongside. This can be said particularly in view of the fact that we have passed half-a-century of our existence as an independent state, and that even in the midst of time of much trouble created by reactionary and inimical forces within and without the country.

Maybe we can make a mention of the Brundtland Report, (also known as Our Common future), which is a publication released by the World Community on Environment and Development (WCED) in 1987. Sponsored by UN WCED it ‘discussed the causes of environmental degradation and explored the synergy between social equity, environmental problems, and economic growth and development policy solutions.’ Organized by UN in 1983 in response to growing environmental concerns including ozone depletion and global warming WECD was responsible for coming up with long-term solution that would promote sustainable development in the 21st century. This Report defines the “concept of sustainable development as the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs”. Mr. António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Organization called upon the nations at the first-ever special session held early this year on combating corruption by taking decisive action against corruption, “On this International Day I urge people everywhere to continue to work on innovation solutions to win the battle against corruption and to ensure that precious resources serve the peoples of the world”. One United nations Development Program report said that in developing countries funds is lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance. “As we enter a decade of ambitious action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDC), stepping up efforts to eradicate corruption and promote good governance it is essential to deliver on our global pledge to leave no one behind”, said Yury Fedotov, a former Executive Director of UN office on Drug and Crime in his statement for International Anti-Corruption Day (an event held annually on 9 December). He observed also, “Corruption affects people in their daily lives”. Certainly where corruption and moral degradation of people adversely affect the lives of mass of people it cannot be termed authentically sustainable development. Of necessity development has to do with civilization in the truest sense of the word.

Regrettably branches of most governments are ridden by corruption and a colossal lack of integrity. Corruption in the form of bribe constitutes public enemy number One in the developing countries of the world. Zero-tolerance becomes a myth. In order that the country can be lead towards a higher level of development we not only need to do many things but we also equally need to undo many things. Corruption and irregularities at different levels of administration need to be done away with on a priority basis because these retard authentic development and progress. Sustainability is understood to require the balanced pursuit of three things: ecological health, social equity and economic welfare. It is grounded on the ethical commitment to the wellbeing not only of the contemporary population but also of the wellbeing of the future generations. But due to our wanton overuse or destruction of natural wealth in the globe we intensify problems for our future generations. A sheer lack of responsible stewardship of the resources of the world continues to make the problem bad to worse.  “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestor; we borrow it from our children”, warns the 19th century American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. This is in general the global scenario considered from just one such aspect, that of the environment and ecology.

Let us turn to the corruption that is affecting the lives of millions and millions of people every day. Oxford Dictionary defines the word ‘Corrupt’ as dishonesty through accepting bribes to do an unjust favour, and immoral behaviour. The concept of the word ‘Corruption’ is explained by social scientists as ‘behaviour which deviates from the norms and duties governing the exercise of public role or office for private gains’ and ‘the abuse or misuse of public office for personal gain’. Corruption can be seen in several forms: bribes, favouritism and nepotism, misappropriation and patronage, violence, violation of human rights in any form. It is the use of unlawful and immoral means of making money and property, spending money for the purpose of harming and destroying other people mean corruption.

Many people evade taxes, hoard and launder black money. Bribes in different manner are common place in government offices. Poor people cannot bribe. So they do not get their jobs done timely. Leaders, whether political, religious, economic business or any other loses their credibility because of corruption. Politics and religious activities for too many today are turned into industrial pursuits and money making business. This frustrates people’s hope and aspiration for development. They often evade cases filed against them in the court by bribing the judges, police and influential people. Sometimes political leaders protect their corrupt supporters as they need them to sustain in their positions and power.  Some religious leaders are caught in sex scandals. In many countries some of them misuse their religious status to amass wealth even by means of bribing politicians, who in turn, get their blessings of votes from the followers of such religious leaders. Most of the population tolerates corruption as they do not have any remedy. Some regard the paying and receiving of bribes as unavoidable in today’s society.

In Bangladesh, we are a people who have the issue of ‘Corruption’ often as a common topic in our daily talks. Lack of good and efficient governance, immorality on the part of many, greed for more wealth and power on the part of many wealthy ones, inadequate salary or earning, poverty, etc. make many live corrupt lives. The greed for wealth, a lack of satisfaction and a desire for more power are common among people in all societies at large. When in extreme, these can have devilish manifestations. The well-known Management scientist Christopher Wright says, “When we are up against corruption and dishonesty, we are dealing with an area which has the original fingerprints of Satan himself. Our fallenness shows its very essence in corruption and dishonesty.” Corruption in general has phenomenally affected the entire society adversely and continues to do so in many ways. We are losing the sense of dignity and moral ethos among ourselves and also to peoples outside. Many young, who want to be honest, long to leave their corrupt countries for a better situation and prospect in countries where corruption is promptly identified and fought. Bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous or honest ones. Love of money is the root of all evil causing corruption and misery. Especially the poor and weak people suffer most from corruption. The widows, orphans, people from minority and ethnic minority communities of any kind become the victims of corruption perpetrated by the powerful, the rich and many dishonest officials. Injustice, perpetuation of poverty and disparity between the poor and the rich continues for ages where greed for money replaces the respect for even fundamental human rights. No society or country can experience and enjoy sustainable development and prosperity where people with authority are corrupt, officers and leaders who are not concerned enough to ensure justice for the poverty-stricken people. Very strong and practical steps are needed to fight corruption, which is a dreaded sin with far-reaching consequences.

Our pristine religious and ethical values need to be integrated in our lives and manifested in practice. The man on the street sees that many people get rich and prosperous by means of corruption. They do not see good model before them. Where is the practical value of living life of integrity and honesty, many tend to ask. But many are forced to a fatalistic philosophy of life. They continue to live in poverty. They fear the law-enforcing agencies. They obey the law. But those who have the means to buy support from those agencies break the laws, norms and values. The age-old question is ‘why do many righteous people die because of suffering created by corruption of money, power and authority? Why does not God interfere?’ The answer is that God will not interfere in things man can solve and should and must solve. A genuine awareness needs to be created. I am reminded of the Chinese proverb: ‘If you are thinking for a year, so a seed; if you are thinking for a decade, plant a tree; if you are thinking for a generation, make people aware.’  Corruption has so permeated in every imaginable areas of our lives that this sin has been casting a gloom over the life of the people, especially the young generation, the student population. We have now the genuine apprehension that we will have to see more corruption and bribery. Notches up, notches down! With conscious awareness of mass people about the demoralizing evil of corruption, the government will be able to lead the nation in its journey towards a development that will be transformingly meaningful for the poor and needy people provided that there is efficient and good governance.

Someone has said, “We were all humans until race disconnected us, religion separated us, politics divided us, and wealth classified us”. This saying may not be all literally true to us in this country, but in real life situation we distinguish people from people on the ground of politics, wealth and even on the question of religion. All our religious beliefs in the country, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and animism—they all have clear teachings against any kind of corruption, immorality and unethical life. Corruption in any form result in the sufferings of poor and disadvantage and righteous people, on the other hand the wicked perpetrators materially prosper. This is an age-old problem in human societies. What’s the way out? Our leaders, especially political leaders and people of good-will, wherever they are, must be serious about this unfortunate condition and join hands to reform things that need to be reformed. This takes time.

A great amount of development has taken place in Bangladesh under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina during the last decade of her Premiership, unparalleled patriotism, and commitment to the cause of the poor and unflinching advocacy for the disadvantaged one. Rise in literacy, empowerment of women, gender parity, sufficiency in food production, capability of resilience against natural catastrophes, reduction child mortality rate, increase of GDP and per capita income of people, etc. It must be mentioned that the country would surely fare better would there be sincere effort on the part of all concerned to curb corruption. We need to continue to fight corruption and all the moral ills associated with this evil which exhibits in bribery, bad governance, corrupt business and bureaucracy in almost all sectors, public or private. Confrontational politics, religious militancy, poor governance and non-compliance with laws and regulations inhibit development of the lot of the already socio-economically backward people. 

Let “Zero-tolerance” and the rule of law be in practice. Lives and human rights of all people irrespective of creed, sex, age, status, position, or education must be valued and respected. This is the primary motive-force behind our liberation was. We have the dream that the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman lay before us to aspire and work for is a society where each and every people will be treated with the pristine human dignity and justice. We did not fight for a country where rich people will be richer and poor ones will continue to be poor. Far from it! Let the Bangladesh Vision 2041 with its Perspective Plan have proper and adequate place for our fight against corruptions and all their paraphernalia so that we are a people for people, people with the democratic values of ‘Consideration for others’. Let our dream be a reality for a society where our people will be judged by their character, and not by how much material they will have!


The writer is a Church leader and Christian Theology teacher; a member of Sampreti Bangladesh