Insights on the Shanghai April 25 conference

by on 週四, 08 五 2008 評論

Here are ten theses drawn out after the interventions heard during the conference:
1 - China will be able to correct its developmental challenges insofar as it relies on its regional, spiritual, linguistic and intellectual diversity, while interpreting anew these resources and contributing their riches to the global community; this requires from China to understand one’s culture and mission within a truly international outlook (intervention of Li Tiangang.)
2 - Sustainable development can be fostered only through the nurturing of a humanistic culture and education; “Humanism” takes different shapes in time and space but it always induces individuals and societies to develop ethical and productive relationships, among peoples, among nations, cultures and regions, and also between humankind and nature. Sustainability is just a new name given to a truly integral, humanistic developmental process, a process to which China is called to contribute (intervention of Michel Albert.)
3 - Regional development is always based on characteristics that make it impossible to simply repeat a developmental model from one area to another. A severe hindrance in China’s developmental strategy has been to repeat the process that extended Chinese civilization from North to South by “going West” on the same premises (intervention of Yao Dali.)
4 - Conversely, in desolate Western areas (the Xinjiang frontier between two deserts), retrieving traditional lifestyle and cultures, restoring biodiversity and inventing a new “pastoral” developmental model could become an integral and systemic endeavor (intervention of Tian Changyan.)
5 - Nurturing networks of solidarity is not equivalent to creating sustainability and sustainability per se. However, the development of such networks is a prerequisite to further reflection and action towards sustainability insofar as it makes all sectors of society (including the marginal ones) contribute in the endeavor; it also progressively fosters a new social consciousness about issues larger than the ones defined by one’s immediate environment, and, through the power of internet, allows new resources to be mobilized where they are lacking most (rural education and hygiene, ecotourism in regions struck by deforestation…) (interventions of Wang Li and Norani Abu Bakar.)
6 - In the same vein, anti-pollution efforts, the development of bio-agriculture and ecotourism, and (maybe even more important) the mitigation of the consequence of the rural exodus can succeed only if they are rooted into “community sustainability’, i.e. the shared consciousness and sense of mission of local communities able to discern, debate and act together, thanks to a knowledge of their past and a vision of their future (intervention of the “Anlong sustainable village” team.)
7 - “Education” is a prerequisite but educational efforts have proven to fail when local communities lack confidence in their own capacity to build up their future, and when their culture is challenged or denied in a way that destructs their capacity to come together as stakeholders of a given territory. Deforestation and erosion, exodus towards cities and the death of traditional cultural resources and knowledge are symptoms of the same phenomenon. Sustainability can be achieved only from the grassroots level, provided that existing local resources are nurtured and enhanced (intervention of Zhang Xuemei.)
8 - Conversely, local communities that have achieved a reasonable level of economic success and self-organization shift naturally their concerns towards environmental protection and collective decision-making process (intervention of Fan Lizhu on Wenzhou.)
9 - “Safety” is intrinsically linked to sustainability and it is often through safety concerns that companies enter into a global vision of what their social responsibility is about. “Work safety”: and “food safety”, to cite two examples, are not only about the shaping of technical regulations, they are eventually ensured thanks to (a) the education of workers and consumers, (b) the way companies envision and enrich their own mission, and (c) the progressive mobilization of resources, images, symbols and values through some form of story-telling (interventions of Jeremie Rombaut and Jean-Luc Chereau.)
10 - “Spiritual empowerment” at the personal and collective levels (the way individuals and groups are able to discern and decide in a reflexive and prejudice-free way) as well as “knowledge network” (the mutual enrichment of one’s experience through sharing, feedbacks, debate and support) are eventually what allows all of us to make “ripples”: with proper follow-up, networking and capacity for collective assessment, small-scale experiences and events have an impressive multiplying effect (conclusions by Nick Chen and Benoit Vermander.)

Read Benoit Vermander’s post-conference letter

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