Islamic Studies

The Islamic World and the Challenges of Sustainable Development

Excerpts from the Report “The Islamic World and the Challenges of Sustainable Development” produced by The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

First: Major Obstacles to Sustainable Development in the Islamic World

1. Poverty and Debt Accumulation: Poverty is a multi dimensional concept that is mainly the result of an unequal division of the world’s wealth. Poverty leads to the overexploitation and irrational use of limited natural resources resulting in reduced agricultural production capacity and forest depletion. This didactic of poverty and overtaxing of natural resources may also be the result of the pressure of foreign debt of which the servicing may reach important percentages of a country’s exports of goods and services, and thus constitute a heavy burden on its economy.

Islam has through its principles endeavoured to fight against poverty. This fight can either occur through employment which provides a source of income for a person and his dependants, or through government assistance and the zakat fund that is unique to Islam and that ensures that man is freed from the shackles of poverty.

2. Wars, lack of stability and safety: During the 20th century and since the start of the Arabo-Israeli conflict, most Islamic countries have experienced conflicts and civil wars caused by the desire to control land and natural resources and that have hindered their development march. Of these conflicts and wars we can mention the Arab-Israeli conflict, the land mines left from wars, border wars among Arabs and Muslims, the first and second Gulf Wars, the sanctions against Libya and Iraq and many others.

3. Lack of technical means and expertise and of modern techniques as a result of low financial resources. Many Islamic countries are still way behind in education in spite of compulsory schooling. This can only widen the gap between developed and developed countries in terms of the quality of education, leading ultimately to a widening educational gap between North and South and between rich and poor.

4. Deterioration of Economic Conditions: This deterioration, a result of a low GDP per capita and investment capitals in most Islamic countries, unemployment, illiteracy, demographic growth, economic dependency and many other factors, impacts on a given country’s commitment to world sustainable development.

5. Discrepancy between population growth and available natural resources: Population growth has resulted in the expansion of agricultural lands, overgrazing, and desertification and in the depletion of potable water resources. Many Islamic countries had to adopt programmes that aim at developing renewable water resources.

6. Failure of Developed Countries to provide the aid promised to developing countries. During the Rio Earth Summit, developed countries undertook to extend 0.7% of their local GDP to assist emerging countries considering that industrialized countries are more responsible for environment pollution than developing ones. Unfortunately only some Scandinavian countries fulfilled their promise. In the Johannesburg Earth Summit, Islamic countries aspire to obtain the conversion of their debts and interests into financial resources for serving sustainable development.

Second: What do developing countries (including Islamic countries) aspire to from the Johannesburg Sustainable Development Summit?

Fields where support is required from the developed world to achieve sustainable development in the Arab and Islamic world

1. Peace and security (resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict)

2. Eradication of poverty (aid to developing countries, abolishing all types of economic sanctions)

3. Debt alleviation (cancellation of debts and use of additional resources to finance sustainable development)

4. International trade (more WTO commitment, liberalization of trade..)

5. Globalisation (assist developing countries face up to globalisation and benefit from equal opportunities in globalisation)

6. Capacity building in research and technology transfer (support of academic and research institutions in developing countries in priority fields, assisting the private sector in converting to cleaner technology and ensuring access to information technology)

7. Arbitration and participation in decision making (consolidating the role of the United Nations and calling for closer cooperation with the Arab League and the OIC)

8. Population, urban development, health and environment (devising an integrated population management policy, supporting the efforts of developing countries in achieving complementarity between all their strategies)

9. Integrated management of natural resources (assisting developing countries to devise policies and plans to halt environment degradation and urging developed countries to stop destructive consumption lifestyles)

10. Industry and tourism (supporting the endeavours of developing countries to obtain modern technologies suitable for their development and supporting efforts that aim at consolidating the concept of tourism as based on the rational development of natural resources)

11. Civilizational and natural heritage (invite the world to establish partnerships with the Islamic and Arab world on the basis of the moral and cultural heritage of our civilization that the UN attempts to safeguard it through dialogue among civilizations and religions)

12. Financing (ensuring funds for the implementation of UN decisions and conventions, the commitment of donor parties and developed countries and ensuring follow-up of the results of the Summit through available international instruments)

13. Reinforcing the role of national associations and the civil society in achieving the objectives of sustainable development at the Arab, Islamic and international level and persevering in the efforts to support and establish the principle of partnership between international institutions and NGOs.

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  • I think there, in addition to all that, is a spiritual problem.

    As for tourism, one of my lecturers here at Cambridge, who had been to Syria, said that had all those sites in Damascus been in Italy they would be swamped [with tourists].

    Allah knows best

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