Recent planning debate and international and national development programmes have focused on Sustainability, Smartness and Resilience as separate targets and approaches. In popular culture and sometimes in practice, understanding of these notions has been even more reduced.
I have developed a broader qualitative and integrated approach to sustainable development bringing together the three notions as I see them closely interrelated. (You can read more about my approach on my website www.platforms.uk.com)
Sustainable development targets an aware balance among social, economic and environmental development goals, enables best employment of resources and potentials, and demonstrates consideration to the generations to come, to settlements, natural areas and the earth. Sustainable development is conditioned by the ability of cities and communities to be both self-sufficient and exchanging externally to sustain. It strikes on issues of competitiveness, life qualities and the prosperity of communities. Sustainable cities are cities in intimate contact with own narratives while open to evolution, which is a source of cultural sustainability and community resilience.
Achieving sustainable development requires thoughtful visions, strategic thinking, leadership and aware decision-making processes. It also requires intelligent management forms and methods, aware citizens and a sense of shared responsibility. All these elements are conditioned by the maturity of thinking and cultivation of leaders, institutions and citizens. It demands faith in own abilities, good intention and belief in ‘where there is a will there is a way’.
Sustainability and smartness
Developing inclusive cities and sustainable environments and enabling potentials require fair politics and clear information and knowledge-sharing among institutions and with citizens. All development sectors in society from health to education and the environment need to share information. Achieving these development goals need committed leaders willing to allocate resources to develop tools and techniques and to initiate smart approaches and technologies in support of sustainable development. Sustainability thus requires smart thinking and smart processing, including effective implementation.
In this sense, smart cities are those who use their knowledge and technology to achieve their sustainability goals. They can be smart only in as mush as they place their knowledge to become sustainable, fair and responsive, using their intelligence to identify and answer the needs of all their citizens and to support fostering environments for relevant businesses and cultures.
Sustainability and resilience
Communities should be resilient in all terms in order to be sustainable. Building resilience involves strengthening the most vulnerable elements in communities preparing them for shocks. It involves bridging gaps, dealing for example with social vulnerability like poverty, the vulnerability of economy and climate threats, etc. Building resilience requires ability to see targets and developing strategies that aim at facing shocks, preventing breakdowns and maintaining sustainability.
In conclusion, cities cannot be sustainable without resilient communities, smart leaders and intelligent national-level institutions and systems that value every individual and use all available techniques for maintaining the continuous existence, well-being and prosperity of communities.
I believe that goals and tools for supporting sustainability and resilience should be integrated, while smartness ought to be an essential factor for ensuring these conditions.
© Roudaina Al Khani
5 February 2016