Conceptual and Methodological Advances
Edited by Frank Vanclay and Ana Maria Esteves
Chapter 3: Looking Beyond Impact Assessment to Social Sustainability
3. Looking beyond impact assessment to social sustainability Ilse Aucamp, Stephan Woodborne, Jan Perold, Anita Bron and San-Marié Aucamp Social sustainability At the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (or Earth Summit) in Rio de Janeiro, and a decade later at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (Earth Summit +10) in Johannesburg, the world embraced the concept of ‘sustainable development’ to redress looming problems of poverty and environmental degradation. Internationally, policy makers were challenged to respond. In South Africa, this challenge coincided with the transition to democracy, which ultimately occurred in 1994. This transition brought about constitutional recognition and protection of cultural diversity and traditional social structures (such as traditional or tribal leadership) that had been previously suppressed during the apartheid era. This milieu presented a challenge to the development and implementation of social impact assessment (SIA) procedures because seemingly irreconcilable ideologies and cultural norms that had been separated and strictly censured in respect of economic development were democratized in an instant. Before 1994, the rules governing access to education and economic opportunity, where one might live and who one might marry were different depending on one’s race. The consequence was a society with a multitiered mosaic economy in which rural subsistence farming communities, commercial farmers, urban poor and urban rich were not only culturally diverse, but manifested extreme socioeconomic disparities. South Africa has a skewed distribution of income in which few are extraordinarily rich, while many are extraordinarily poor, giving the country one of the highest...
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