Mountain SDGs

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Friday, February 7, 2014


HOW has Negros Occidental fared with attaining the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals)? In 2011, six cities and five towns in Negros Occidental were among the 49 local government units (LGUs) that passed the criteria of the Seal of Good Housekeeping (SGH) for showing excellence in local governance.

LGUs that passed the SGH qualified to access the P500-million Performance Challenge Fund financial subsidy to finance local government development projects in line with the National Government agenda, as well as in hastening the attainment of the MDGs and in stepping up local economic development activities.

In 2012, the provincial LGU started to implement the “5-Year Peace and Development Project for Communities Affected by Armed Conflict” as part of its “Negros First” vision to attain its MDG commitments that prioritizes poverty reduction, economic development and food security, improved health care, access to basic education, balanced ecology and risk reduction, and good governance.

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The project covers 18 hinterland barangays of Negros Occidental highly affected by armed conflict.

So far, Negros Occidental has yet to evaluate the impact of these projects in the hinterlands and how official policies led to social inclusion in the development pies in Mt. Kanlaon, Mts. Silay and Mandalagan and the highlands of southwestern Negros in the Chicks (Cauayan, Hinobaan, Iloilo, Candoni, Kabankalan and Sipalay) area.

To shift from the MDGs to the sustainable development goals (SDGs) being debated in the UN’s New York headquarters, I propose the adoption of the following to our hinterland communities under the framework of sustainable mountain development.

According to the UN, “mountains are often home to communities, including indigenous peoples and local communities, who have developed sustainable uses of mountain resources. These communities are, however, often marginalized, and we therefore stress that continued effort will be required to address poverty, food security and nutrition, social exclusion and environmental degradation in these areas.”

In other words, the province has to adopt projects based on the fundamental principles of respect for human rights; equality or social inclusion; ecological and economic sustainability. As rights-based sustainable development models, the projects will showcase public-private-civil society stakeholders that can serve as policy platforms in national or local governance.

Our LGU has to strengthen cooperative action with effective involvement and sharing of experience of all relevant stakeholders, by strengthening existing arrangements, agreements and centers of excellence for sustainable mountain development, as well as exploring new arrangements and agreements.

The UN calls for greater efforts toward the biodiversity conservation of mountain ecosystems, adopt a long-term vision and holistic approaches, including through incorporating mountain-specific policies into the provincial poverty reduction plans and programs for mountain areas. In this regard, we call for international support for sustainable mountain development in developing countries.

If I might add, mountain specific policies mean not limiting the mountains to forest specific areas under our protected area systems. Many of our private lands around the Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park and the Northern Negros Natural Park retain secondary forests inside agrarian reform communities.

Why public lands are supposedly the best means to conserve our tropical forests boggles my mind. Is the assumption that owning private forests is a formula to deforestation? As a Canadian environmental activist told me, public property is owned by all and the responsibility of none. Why would anyone care about the property owned by someone?

Moreover, sustainable activities in the hinterlands should include upland organic agriculture, non-timber forest product development, and mountain green tourism.

If Negros Occidental adopts these policies, I can guarantee that it will put itself front and center in the global stage for the shift to the SDGs that the UN will finalize and adopt this year at its General Assembly.

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 07, 2014.

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