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>>> Read Part III
by Renard Teipelke
Addressing the relationship between developed and developing coutnries, Professor Irmen (University of Luxemburg) reminded the audience that the highly developed countries will not be capable of dictating the emerging countries how to grow. London-based development expert Sanou Mbaye furthered this idea for the African case when remarking that we cannot rule out 400 years of European-African history. Despite China’s efforts on the African continent, Mbaye emphasized that the clear strategy of the rising world power has nothing to do with a sustainable development but that this evidently leads to a future relationship between China as the economic heavy weight and the African continent as her extended workbench.
If Georg Schäfer of the German Association for International Development (GIZ) is correct, we cannot expect development aid from Western countries to play a better role since it lacks relevance and influence in Africa. Taking this even further, Kurt Gerhardt (“Bonner Appeal”), an outspoken critic of such ‘cash cow organizations,’ has concluded for himself long ago that “Africa needs a second liberation.” Since German Chancellor’s representative for African issues, Günter Nooke, could not add a more optimistic evaluation (“lack of governance capacity in Africa…”), it seems to be the current situation that we cannot expect the growth-sustainability issue to play a relevant role in Africa’s development. Besides the essential work of UN-affiliated organizations in this field, I am already imaging how major actors miss out chances and undermine important objectives of sustainable development when claiming that African governments and their people have ‘better things to do and care about’ than a green agenda. For that case, the interplay of economics, ecology, and equity seems to have not yet arrived in the minds of certain decision makers.
It was slightly sarcastic that the conference then turned to the feel-good topic of growth and happiness. Professor Binswanger (FHNW, University of St. Gallen) confirmed once again that society has not yet found a solution to the dilemma between time and money (leisure and work). Approaching the pursuit of happiness from a philosophical perspective, Charlotte Annerl (University of Vienna) made the crucial point of “happiness that arises from a situation.” This implies ‘a happiness that happens’ and cannot be forced – a pleasant hint to our seemingly misguided efforts for and struggles with happiness. But since the symposium was about growth and sustainability, Nils aus dem Moore (RWI Essen) came up with the following wordplay: “We are not happy because we are having growth, but we are having growth because we are happy pursuing our destiny.” This destiny can be our work, efforts of improving our skills, creating new things etc. The Buddhist-inspired ‘gross national happiness’ (first mentioned by Bhutan’s former king Wangchuck) also came up in the discussion and eventually led Professor Zieschank (Free University Berlin) to two major questions: If our (the Western or the German) society does no longer take absolute growth as its aim, how can decision makers politically deal with ‘zero growth’? And has anyone ever thought about the inevitable clash of interests between personal well-being and the abstinence required by sustainability efforts?
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>>> Read Part III