Riwanto Tirtosudarmo, Jakarta | Opinion |
This week is a busy week for many stakeholders in international development as they currently gather in Bali to discuss the post-2015 development agenda. The event will also evaluate the achievements of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) that will end in 2015.
Civil society groups, academics, the private sector, government officials and politicians will conduct parallel meetings that will culminate in the fourth meeting of the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons (HLPEP) in which President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, British Prime Minister David Cameron) and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf are the chairs.
The Bali meeting is the final meeting of the HLPEP meetings previously conducted in New York, London and Monrovia. The panel is part of the secretary-general’s post-2015 initiative mandated by the 2010 MDG Summit.
UN member states have called for open, inclusive consultations involving civil society, the private sector, academics and research institutions from all regions, in addition to the UN system, to advance the development framework beyond 2015.
Issues related to sustainable development, particularly economic growth, social equity and the environment will become the major focuses for the post-2015 development agenda.
One of the perspectives that will be brought to the discussion in Bali is the contribution of population dynamics in the achievement of sustainable development. Population dynamics are acknowledged to play a significant role in shaping the achievement of sustainable development goals. As one of the largest countries in terms of population, Indonesia has many experiences and features that could be shared with the world.
One major issue that increasingly needs to be given more attention in the discussion on sustainable development is the issue of inequality among populations between and within countries. Late last year, The Economist, in its October 2012 edition, succinctly wrote: “Growing inequality is one of the biggest social, economic and political challenges of our time.”
Indeed, inequality is pressing all of us through its various manifestations and sustainable development will never be realized if the widening inequality cannot be resolved. Social equity, as one of the focuses of the post-2015 development agenda besides economic growth and environment sustainability, is highly instrumental in tackling the increasing problem of inequality.
The manifestation of inequality is often measured through a selected number of social and economic indicators that show the glaring gap between different groups within society. The crude measurements, however, still use income per capita between different economic classes within a country or the average income per capita between countries.
Inequality is apparently increasing between economic classes as well as between regions in Indonesia, in which Java has consistently shown higher social and economic conditions compared to the rest of the country, especially with the eastern parts. At the global level, as The Economist (2012) based on various sources, has also indicated the alarming growing inequality internationally.
The issue of social equity is therefore critical for the overall goals of the post-2015 development agenda as increasing inequality no doubt threatens economic growth as well as environmental sustainability, both in Indonesia and in the world. Population dynamics concerning migration or human movement is perhaps the most crucial component that is strongly interconnected with the spatial dimension of social equity.
As the case of Indonesia has shown, the relocation of people to urban areas in Java and to other economic hubs on other islands reflects the uneven development between regions as well as inequality between migrants and local populations.
Rapid urbanization has resulted in the increasing concentration of people in the areas around Jakarta, Semarang, Bandung and Surabaya, all of which are located in Java. The glaring disparity between the haves and the haves not in the cities is also an alarming sign as social tensions and conflict can easily break out at some point.
The large proportion of young people not adequately accommodated in the labor markets is also another issue on how population age structure is closely related with social, economic and political developments.
The recently published 2012 Failed States Index illustrates that incompetence in managing a growing population significantly contributes to the condition of a failed state.
At the global level, the situation concerning population dynamics and social equity is unfortunately far from promising. International migration could be seen as one of the aspects making the inequality gap between rich industrialized countries and poor developing countries lean toward more protectionism on the part of rich countries when it comes to immigration. In the last 10 years or so, international migration has been perceived not only as an issue of economic development but also of becoming more political and securitized.
Unless a progressive effort to reduce the barriers to human mobility between countries is removed, which is unlikely, the social equity issue as aspired to in the post-2015 development agenda currently under discussion in Bali will most likely be the main stumbling block to making the world more equally prosperous and peaceful.
The writer is a researcher at the Research Center for Society and Culture, Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Jakarta.