Conclusions and Recommendations

The situation just described seems to be typical in data-related matters on development. Gutierrez-Espeleta (2003) presents the state of development of social indicators and concludes, "Although [it] is true and needs to be recognized that social indicators are lagging behind [economic ones] and that there lacks a conceptual framework to integrate them, it is also important to recognize that society, its organizations and windows for individual participation, are those that should define the desired orientation; the goals at five, ten or fifteen years time, and consequently support those indicators that allow for tracking down of the social ensemble in that journey. That is important and fundamental, if social indicators are truly to serve for an effective assessment of the social parameters considered relevant towards a society for all." Something very similar can be said on the environmental side but under worse conditions.

Whereas social indicators have been in use for some time—since it was discovered that economic development alone does not alleviate poverty or provide opportunity—

Table 22.1. ILAC Indicators

according to proposed classification.

Themes

Guiding Goals

Operational Proposal

Number of Indicators

I

Indicator Class II III IV V

Biological diversity

4

4

4

4

Water resource management

4

7

7

5

2

Vulnerability, human settlements, and sustainable cities

7

10

13

11

2

Social issues, including health, inequity and poverty

3

7

8

4

4

Economic issues, including competitiveness, trade, and production and consumption patterns

3

4

5

4

1

Institutional arrangements

4

6

6

5

1

Total

25

38

43

33

10

and information systems have been put in place as part of UN initiatives such as Household Surveys, environmental statistics remain to be developed in most countries of the world. This problem has been recognized since UNCED 92 (Chapter 40 in Agenda 21), but little progress has been achieved, helping to promote the fragmented vision of development.

The mismatch between the worldwide discourse on sustainable development and funding allocations is obscuring the importance of the balanced use of our environment. Decisions and funds are needed to develop an integrative view of development and define the parameters or dimensions that need to be monitored, to bring in new experts with a different view who pay more attention to synergisms, to increase the dialogue between decision makers and the scientific community, and to develop new ways of presenting information to decision makers and the public. However, the most relevant task for the near future is to overcome the fragmented way of seeing development.

Despite the importance of first- and second-generation indicators and their usefulness for decision making, it seems that the task for the years to come is to develop more high-level indicators to assist the national decision-making process. This is already on the international agenda, but unfortunately only a few attempts have been made despite the impetus created by the publication of the Human Development Index in the early 1990s as a synthetic index for the social side and as a second-generation index.

Some recent attempts are promising in that they show the interest of some scientific communities in developing higher-order indices. Two examples of these efforts are the Environmental Vulnerability Index (EVI) and the Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI), both developed in response to political decisions in different fora.

The EVI "is among the first of tools now being developed to focus environmental management at the same scales that environmentally significant decisions are made, and focus them on planned outcomes. The scale of entire countries is appropriate because it is the one at which major decisions affecting the environment in terms of policies, economics and social and cultural behaviours are made. If environmental conditions are monitored at the same time as those concerning human systems, there is better opportunity for feedback between them. Without exception, the environment is the life-support system for all human systems and therefore an integral part of the developmental success of countries" (www.vulnerabilityindex.net/EVI_2005.htm). Developed by the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission, the UNEP, and their partners, the EVI tries to respond to Section C5 of the Barbados Programme of Action.

The EVI uses fifty indicators to estimate the environmental vulnerability of a country to future shocks. Combined by simple averaging to provide a single index, it offers synthetic measures of aspects of vulnerability (hazards, resistance, and damage), subindices relevant to policy (climate change, exposure to natural disasters, biodiversity, desertification, water, agriculture and fisheries, human health aspects), and an overall national score. Although the soundness of the metric being used is beyond the scope of this chapter, the EVI is a good example of an index developed for a purpose that uses a conceptual framework to integrate several relevant components.

Another example of the efforts being made to provide better tools for decision making is the ESI (www.yale.edu/esi). In this case, a scientific team has made a proposal that overcomes the fragmented vision of development. Using twenty-one indicators derived from seventy-six statistical variables, a composite index is proposed to show national environmental stewardship. These twenty-one indicators permit comparisons across a range of issues that fall into the five broad categories of "environmental systems," "reducing environmental stresses," "reducing human vulnerability to environmental stresses," "societal and institutional capacity to respond to environmental challenges," and "global stewardship." "By facilitating comparative analysis across national jurisdictions, these metrics provide a mechanism for making environmental management more quantitative, empirically grounded, and systematic."

These composite indices (EVI and ESI) try to convey visions toward a better understanding of national development dynamics. Other difficulties (e.g., mathematical algorithms for integrating variables, and model validation and acceptance) have arisen, but at least an integrative framework has been developed and new ways of improving development are proposed. With these indices, the concept of sustainable development goes beyond the traditional three-pillar approach and aims at developing a metric to measure synergies between the natural and social systems. More of these efforts are needed to advance understanding of the new sustainability paradigm and to begin writing a new story on development.

With higher-order indicators, policymakers would have better tools to understand the main patterns of how society is using its natural endowment. Perhaps with these indicators and an understanding of their components, the holistic approach to policy-making can be achieved.

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