Many years have passed since the 1972 UN Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment and the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. In 2016, Sustainable Development remains an intricate, open, dynamic and continually evolving concept. The guide and driver for frontline practitioners, policy and decision makers must be a personal Code of Ethics … an integrated and inter-related whole which cannot be reduced to fixed rules inviting game playing and ‘trade-offs’. After working with this Code, it may be necessary to expand on and discuss its principles and/or some of the issues raised … not to narrow its focus, but to broaden interpretation.
The realization of a Safe, Inclusive, Resilient & Sustainable Built Environment demands a concerted, collaborative, very creative and widely trans-disciplinary effort at national, local, regional and international levels across the whole planet – Our Common Home. The informed operation of appropriate legislation, administrative procedures, performance monitoring and targeting, and incentives/disincentives, at all of these levels, will facilitate initial progress towards this objective … but not the quantity, quality or speed of progress necessary. Our time is running out !
This Code of Ethics applies … for those who subscribe to its values … to policy and decision makers, and the many different individuals and organizations directly and indirectly involved in the design, engineering, construction, and operation (management and maintenance) of a Safe, Resilient & Sustainable Built Environment for ALL.
The Purpose of this Code of Ethics is to guide the work of competent individuals and organizations in a context where incomplete or inadequate legislation, administrative procedures and incentives/disincentives exist … but, more importantly, where they do not exist at all … and, amid much confusion and obfuscation of the terms, to ensure that implementation is authentically ‘sustainable’, and reliably ‘safe’ and ‘resilient’ for every person in the receiving community, society or culture … before it is too late !
2014-10-17: Within the professional discipline of Fire Engineering … either a building is ‘fire safe’, or it is not. The Design Philosophy of the Fire Engineer is irrelevant. In fact, nearly everybody involved with fire safety in buildings would collapse in a fit of laughter at the delusional notion that a design philosophy was relevant. People’s lives are at stake !
Similarly, now, we must begin to think and act in the simple terms of a building either being ‘accessible’, or not. At stake, this time, is the quality of life and living for very many vulnerable people in all of our societies.
Accessibility for All, according to International Standard ISO 21542 (2011) … includes the approach, entry to and use of a building, egress during normal conditions and removal from the vicinity of the building … and, most importantly, evacuation during a fire incident to a ‘place of safety’ which is remote from the building.
Concerning that All above … FireOx International’s ‘Fire Safety for All’ Matrix shows who exactly we are talking about … and who must be considered in the development of a Fire Safety Strategy for every building … not just some buildings !
This is not just good design practice … it is also mandated in International Human Rights Law.
Building Fire Safety Codes and Standards exist in almost every country. However – IF they exist at all – those guidelines relating to the Fire Safety of People with Activity Limitations are technically inadequate, entirely tokenistic and/or blatantly discriminatory.
It is time to Reboot this ridiculous, professionally negligent and obsolete old system … Reload with innovative and practical building design, construction, management and personal self-protection solutions … and Implement !
2013-03-14: The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted on 13 December 2006 at the U.N. Headquarters Building in New York. The Convention was opened for signature on 30 March 2007, when there were 82 Signatories to the Convention, 44 Signatories to its Optional Protocol, and 1 Ratification. Historically, this is the highest number of signatories to a U.N. Convention on its opening day. It is the first comprehensive Human Rights Treaty of the 21st Century. It is also the first Human Rights Convention to be open for signature by regional integration organizations, e.g. the European Union (EU). The Convention entered into force, as an International Legal Instrument, on 3 May 2008.
According to the United Nations … this Convention is intended as a Human Rights Instrument with an explicit social development dimension. It adopts a broad categorization of persons with disabilities, and reaffirms that all persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms. It clarifies and qualifies how all categories of rights apply to persons with disabilities and identifies areas where adaptations have to be made for persons with disabilities to effectively exercise their rights and areas where their rights have been violated, and where protection of rights must be reinforced.
I say … that most of the rights specified in this Convention are already contained in other long-established International Human Rights Instruments, e.g. rights to shelter, free movement, education, employment, voting, etc. The critical issue for people with activity limitations has always been, and remains to this day …Lack of Accessibility … which prevents them from effectively and independently exercising their basic rights and fundamental freedoms as individual human beings.
Substantively … this is a United Nations Accessibility for All Rights Convention.
The World Map below illustrates the situation, in October 2012, with regard to the very large numbers of States Parties to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) …
154 Signatories to the Convention ;
90 Signatories to the Optional Protocol ;
124 Ratifications and Accessions to the Convention ;
74 Ratifications and Accessions to the Optional Protocol.
Using the Map, it is simple to identify those ‘other’ countries (nudge-nudge-wink-wink) …
Since October 2012 …
Singapore signed the Convention on 30 November 2012
Cambodia ratified the Convention on 20 December 2012
Albania ratified the Convention on 11 February 2013
Barbados ratified the Convention on 27 February 2013
HOWEVER … far too many individuals and organizations seem to be content to just settle back and end this good news story at Ratification. They fail to understand that this is only the beginning !
The real challenge ahead will be to ensure that the Convention is Properly Implemented.
The Target before every State Party is … Effective Accessibility for All !!
2009-03-31: ‘Sustainable’ … ‘Sustainability’ … ‘Sustainable Development’ … what’s all this about ? … and where to begin ?
Words much abused … not only in English … but definitely in French !
Words much confused … for example, in the USA … where ‘Sustainable’ and ‘Green’ can be interchanged in the same conversation without apparent rhyme or reason.Is there a difference between the two ?Some people don’t want to admit that there is … those working in the Green Building Council … or those peddling the LEED Environmental Building Rating System around the more economically advanced developing countries in the world. In India … you can find a ‘LEED’ Building, minimally adapted to local conditions and having used many imported products and systems in its construction (from you-know-where !) … sitting prettily in the neighbourhood of a slum.
In Ireland … remember the good old days, 12-18 months ago … when Economists could afford (?!?) to talk about ‘Sustainable Economic Development’ … did they really mean economic development which is compatible with sustainable development ?No, they didn’t !
Is there any level of awareness amongst our Politicians ?In the National Development Plan (2007-2013), Mr. Brian Cowan T.D., then Minister for Finance, wrote in a January 2007 Foreword to the Plan …
” This National Development Plan is about the future of those young people, their parents, and their grandparents. It establishes a blueprint for the economic and social development of this island for future generations.
In this Plan, we have a unique window of opportunity to get it right: in terms of spatial planning, support infrastructure, environmental sustainability and economic growth.”
… an unusual limitation on the use and context for the word ‘sustainability’ … which should now also be exhibited in the National Gallery of Art !?!
Some Organizations openly state that they are dealing with … or they will only be dealing with … environmental aspects of sustainable development.That is a silly waste of time … and counterproductive !
Properly Defining Sustainable Development
Let us quickly re-wind back to the end of the 20th Century …
… not as far back as the Stockholm Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, which met in Sweden, from 5-16th June 1972 … which, for us, was a very interesting exercise …
… but to the 1987 Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), which was chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland (Norway).Mansour Khalid (Sudan) was Vice-Chair of the Commission.
The definition of ‘Sustainable Development’ appears at the beginning of Chapter 2 …
” Sustainable Development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.It contains within it two key concepts:
–the concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given ; and
–the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.”
Many readers may only be familiar with the first sentence above but, in isolation, that leaves the definition of ‘sustainable development’ so vague that it is almost meaningless. And let us be clear in our own minds … an ambiguous definition will continue to be rejected by the Developing and Least Developed Regions of the World … the concept being viewed as an unaffordable luxury and/or a means of continued domination and control by the ‘North’.
Other readers may be surprised by the second, and more important, half of the WCED/Brundtland Definition.It is clear, however, that it was always intended that there would be more than 3 Aspects of Sustainable Development … Environmental, Social and Economic … to be identified and examined. How, on this Earth, was it possible for anybody to ever bring into existence that clumsy 3-Circle Diagram ???
The 1987 WCED/Brundtland Report continues a little further on …
” The satisfaction of human needs and aspirations is the major objective of development.The essential needs of vast numbers of people in developing countries – for food, clothing, shelter, jobs – are not being met, and beyond their basic needs these people have legitimate aspirations for an improved quality of life.A world in which poverty and inequity are endemic will always be prone to ecological and other crises.Sustainable Development requires meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to satisfy their aspirations for a better life.”
Sustainable Development is the greatest challenge ahead of us in this 21st Century. It remains very much an intricate, open, dynamic and evolving concept …
… and a clear choice must be made: decide to pursue the detailed elaboration of this concept … either with the aim of practical implementation … or of intellectual masturbation.
We made that choice many years ago … back in the mid-1990’s.
Practical Implementation of Sustainable Human & Social Development
In order to make any ‘real’ progress … how can we establish, agree upon and achieve a wide international consensus on what the ‘basic needs of all’ are … and with some precision ?
Is there an internationally recognized document, already long in existence, where these ‘basic needs’ are not only specified for all people, but are protected and guaranteed ?
Reading through the 1948 UDHR, it might be helpful if a distinction is made between human rights and social rights …
Rights to which an individual person is legally entitled, e.g. the right to free elementary education (Art.26(1), UDHR), but which are only exercised in a social context with other people, and with the active support of a competent legal authority, e.g. a Nation State.
Commentary: In contrast to Human Rights, it is not protection from the State which is desired or achieved, but freedom with the State’s help.
Social Rights, as distinguished here, include and extend beyond current understandings of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
This is why, almost a generation after the 1987 WCED/Brundtland Definition ofSustainable Development …
… Sustainable Design International, has defined Sustainable Human & Social Development as follows …
Development which meets the responsible needs, i.e. the Human & Social Rights*, of this generation – without stealing the life and living resources from future generations, especially our children … and their children.
* As defined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN OHCHR).
Furthermore … for a sizeable group of people in all of our societies, the sole route of access to the human and social rights set down in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights … is the 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities … which became an International Legal Instrument on 3rd May 2008 … just short of 60 Years after the UDHR was adopted on 10th December 1948 !
A 3rd International Instrument to be placed at the top of this Framework of Basic & Responsible Needs, i.e. Rights … is the 2001 Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (UNESCO) … adopted in Paris, on 2nd November 2001 … and which came into being shortly after the World Trade Center (9-11) Incident in New York, on 11th September 2001.
The Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity raises cultural diversity to the level of the common heritage of humanity … as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature … and makes its defence an ethical imperative which is robustly linked to, and cannot be separated from, respect for the dignity of each individual person.
Paris, at the end of 2001, presented the world with a valuable opportunity …
–to reaffirm the unshakable conviction that intercultural dialogue is the best guarantee of peace ;and
–to reject outright the theory of the inevitable clash of cultures and civilizations.
So … once it is possible to construct an initial, robust framework of International Human & Social Rights Instruments … specifying the ‘basic needs of all’ … which underpins and cuts down to the core of a far more elaborate and hard-edged, 2nd Generation Definition of Sustainable Human & Social Development …
… we can roll out the ‘Sustainability’ Agenda … and begin the serious task of transforming our Human Environment (see a previous post) by gradually improving and monitoring ‘real’ Sustainability Performance … using …
–Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) … see a previous post ;
Sustainable Design is the ethical response, in built and wrought form, to Sustainable Human & Social Development.As our understanding of ‘sustainability’ develops, so too must ‘design’ (spatial planning, architectural/engineering/industrial design, and e-design).
At a macro-level … issues causing untold social, environmental, economic, institutional, political and legal damage, destruction and harm:
We see on our television screens and hear from our radios that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) are again committing criminal acts in Gaza.These acts are authorized by the Government of Israel.The country’s population continues to vote these Governments into power.
The USA’s treatment of prisoners in Guantánamo Bay was, and still is, degrading, inhumane and criminal.Beyond that, however … the annexation of the bay area remains, to this day, an international act of piracy (refer to the 1901 Platt Amendment and later ‘treaties’ with Cuba procured by the threat or use of force).
The USA and British fundamentalist western crusade against the regime and peoples of Iraq was a cynical act of barbarism and a crime against humanity. We look forward to the day when George W Bush and Tony Blair will be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
At a micro-level … every designer can act, and make his/her positive contribution:
Accessibility of buildings for people with disabilities, to take just one example, is now a legitimate social right which must be protected and nurtured, i.e. properly resourced, by all States Parties to the 2006 UN Disability Rights Convention.People must be able to independently approach, enter, use, egress (under normal conditions) and evacuate (in a fire emergency) any building in our built environment.
Two Immediate Requirements for Sustainability Implementation:
A radical overhaul of the Education and Training of any person connected, directly or indirectly, with the design, construction, operation, management, servicing or maintenance of our Human Environment.
The widespread introduction of Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) at all levels of our Public and Private Institutions.SIA is a continual evaluation and optimization process – informing initial decision-making, or design, and shaping activity/product/service realization, useful life and termination, or final disposal – of the interrelated positive and negative social, environmental, economic, institutional, political and legal impacts on balanced and equitable implementation of Sustainable Human & Social Development.