Sustainable development reflects a process that meets
the needs of the present without compromising the
ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
It is multidimensional and encompasses complex
interactions between economic, social, political, and
environmental issues. It represents a development
framework that makes the conquest of poverty, the
goal of full employment and the fostering of a stable,
safe and just society the overriding objectives of development policy and interventions.
The primary responsibility for translating the sustainable development agenda into action lies at the
national and local levels. This is because the sustainable
development of any country can only be as effective as
its people want it to be. It is fundamentally an endogenous process, generated and sustained by the energy of a
society and its ability to learn creatively from its own
and others' history. At the same time, there is a measure
of consensus that the effectiveness of the state remains
fundamental to the development process.
Since its transition to democracy ten years ago,
South Africa has recorded impressive achievements.
These achievements were analysed in the 2000 National Human Development Report. In the aftermath of the
2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, the
aim of The South Africa Human Development Report
2003 is to identify the main challenges to sustainable
development in South Africa, and to define a consistent strategy and policy direction that will help unlock
the creativity of the country's stakeholders to meet Based on literature on sustainable development and
relevant trends in socio-economic development and
policy-making in South Africa, the Report has identified and analysed five central challenges facing sustain-
able development in South Africa. These are: the
eradication of poverty and extreme income and wealth
inequalities, the provision of access to quality and
affordable basic services to all South Africans, the promotion of environmental sustainability, a sustained
reduction in the unemployment rate, and the attainment of sustainable high growth rates.
Analyses in Chapters 4 to 8 of the Report identify
specific factors that have historically engendered
severe problems of poverty and inequality (Chapter
4), deprivation in terms of access to basic services
(Chapter 5), environmental degradation (Chapter 6),
a rise in the unemployment rate (Chapter 7), and an inadequate and developmentally unfavourable growth
path (Chapter 8). Significantly, these outcomes are
found to be attributable to both the past and current
structure of the economy, and to the strategy and policy framework that has informed public and private
sector interventions in the economy. At the same
time, the five challenges of sustainable development
in South Africa are found to be highly interrelated.
The Report sets out a sustainable development strategy for South Africa. The strategy provides a broad
framework for how the South African development process can begin to produce outcomes that are consistent
with sustainable development. The strategy puts
responsibility on bold reform initiatives by the government, a positive private sector response to new measures
and support from labour and other civil society organisations. An important finding of this Report is that shift-
ing decision-making closer to communities and their
organisations can improve the connection between sustainable development policies and outcomes. Moreover,
the Report argues that the real prospect for sustainable
development in South Africa depends on confronting
political challenges: that is, strategic political interventions that focus policies and support measures on
achieving the goals of sustainable development.