How does ethics contribute to sustainable development?
According to the traditional definition, sustainable development is that which is capable of satisfying the needs of humanity without putting at risk the resources necessary to sustain future generations. This formulation is still very formal. It is necessary to address what these needs are and what kind of mechanisms and policies are used to respond to them.
We can go a step further with regard to the development. Today, we believe that one of the key objectives of genuine development is the attainment of greater levels of humanity by all people. This means having access to the material resources necessary to live an adequate life, seeing their culture recognized and participating actively in the construction of society.
Applied ethics analyses both the choice of development objectives for a country or region and the way in which these objectives are achieved. In both elements, ethical criteria are at stake. It is not the same to aim at more egalitarian or richer societies. Nor is it ethically indifferent how the costs and benefits of achieving those objectives are shared.
Ethics and development projects
In various research projects, the Center for Applied Ethics has analysed how the exploitation of minerals and hydrocarbons contributes, or not, to achieving development objectives in regions in Peru, Colombia and Bolivia.
The intensive exploitation of natural resources is often seen as a great opportunity for development. However, many mineral-rich countries fail to translate mining revenues into the well-being of the population at large. The ecological crisis has also highlighted the need to think about development models that are less intensive in the exploitation of these resources.