In order to achieve all the above goals, a stronger commitment to partnership and cooperation is needed. More actors, at all levels, need to be involved to produce coherent policies for sustainable development.
This, of course, is core to the idea of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network at both the global and national level.
Peace, justice, human rights, and effective and strong institutions based on the rule of law are paramount for sustainable development.
Bolivia has not experienced a serious violent conflict during the last decade, but according to the recently released SDG Index and Dashboards Report 2018, SDG 16 is in a critical condition in Bolivia, with a score of 47 out of 100 (the second lowest of the 17 SDGs in Bolivia). The problems that pull down the score are: i) relatively high homicide rates (12.4 per 100,000 population), ii) a majority of the population feeling unsafe walking alone at night in their neighbourhood, iii) low government efficiency (score 2.7 out of 7), iv) insecure property rights (score 2.9 out of 7), v) high corruption, and vi) widespread child labour1.
Strengthening the independence of the justice system is important in order to secure justice and safety for everybody.
Bolivia is one of the few countries in the world that has a major portion of the world’s biodiversity concentrated within its boundaries, especially in its many different types of forests. Although Bolivia has extensive protected areas, its forest area as a proportion of its total land area has steadily decreased during the last decades, from 58% in 1990, to 55,5% in 2000, and finally to 50,1% in 20151. One of the reasons that forests are being burned down is that sustainable forestry activities have become unprofitable compared to agricultural activities, implying that Bolivia has changed from one of the world’s main exporters of certified wood to a net importer of wood2. Instead of taking advantage of the great potential for wood production, Bolivia is burning down the forest to make room for agriculture.
Apart from adversely affecting our rich biodiversity, widespread deforestation can also create serious local problems by exacerbating floods and droughts.
In addition, according to soil experts, around half of the Bolivian territory suffers from problems of soil erosion and desertification3.
Bolivia has important lakes and rivers that supply many different services to the Bolivian population. Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the World, is emblematic for Bolivia, but suffers from severe contamination in certain parts that receive large quantities of untreated waste water.
Bolivia basically uses its rivers as a cheap natural sewage and waste removal system, but with severe consequences for the quality of water downstream. This needs to change completely if we are to claim sustainable development.
When including emissions caused by deforestation, Bolivia’s greenhouse gas emissions per person are around 10 tCO2/person/year, which is not quite as high as United States, but higher than the Euro area, double the world average, and much, much higher than most other lower middle-income countries. This is another example of wasteful behaviour in Bolivia, which needs to be corrected if we are to call our development sustainable. The main potential for reducing emissions is by reducing the very high rates of deforestation, which at the same time would help reduce the risks and costs arising from climate-change induced increases in the frequency of severe flooding events1.
Since global CO2 emissions show no signs of slowing down, adaptation is crucial for Bolivia. We need to be prepared for more severe flooding events as well as more frequent droughts. This mainly means building infrastructure that can handle extreme precipitation events, and investing in irrigation systems to overcome droughts.
Sustainable consumption and production is about promoting resource and energy efficiency, aiming at “doing more and better with less,” thus increasing net welfare gains from economic activities by reducing resource use, degradation and pollution along the whole lifecycle, while increasing quality of life.
Bolivia has a lot of potential for such efficiency gains, as current patterns of production are dismally inefficient in most areas. In agriculture, for example, agricultural yields per hectare are about half the levels found in neighbouring countries, and agricultural output per worker is a third of the level in Paraguay, a fourth of the level in Colombia, and fifth of the level in Brazil. Not to mention Argentina, where each agricultural worker generates 15 times more value added than agricultural workers in Bolivia1. One consequence of the inefficiencies in agriculture is that we sacrifice a lot of tropical forest while getting very little in return.
Similar inefficiencies are found in many other areas. For example, the labour force in Bolivia on average has more years of education than the labour force in Chile, but GDP per worker in Bolivia is less than a third compared to Chile, implying that we get much too little out of the high private and public investments in education.
In addition, Bolivia’s systems to collect and process waste are extremely limited. Almost all wastewater is led directly into rivers and lakes without treatment, and 1.3 million Bolivians are forced to throw their trash into the river or the street for lack of trash collection services2. According to the GAP Frame Index analysing 24 different dimensions of development in Bolivia, Waste Treatment is the dimension where Bolivia scores the lowest (1.1 out of 10)3.
Promoting more resource and energy efficient production methods and less waste should be a high priority in Bolivia.
Cities are centres that generate productivity, commerce, ideas, technology, and culture, and therefore play a fundamental role in human and economic development. In 2008, the global urban population outnumbered the rural population for the first time in history. Projections estimate that by 2030 close to 5 billion people will live in cities worldwide.
Bolivia’s urbanisation process started relatively late, during the 1980s, but is rapidly approaching the levels of other Latin American countries. The urban population in Bolivia increased from 45% in 1980 to 69% in 20161, and is expected to keep increasing in the next decades.
By concentrating advantages, such as access to basic services and offering higher incomes, cities in Bolivia are increasingly emerging as effective centres for achieving the SDGs. However, national and municipal governments in the three major metropolitan areas (La Paz-El Alto, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba), face challenges with regards to land-use planning, provision of basic services, and institutional capacity. Thus strong rural-urban linkages, not only with the major cities but also with intermediate2 cities, are needed in order to complement each other and solve major national structural problems.
Given that the great majority of the Bolivian population will live in urban areas by 2030, developing adequate urban management strategies can potentially contribute to reaching many of the other SDGs in an efficient manner.
High levels of inequality is a threat to social cohesion and sustainable development, especially if certain population groups are systematically deprived of opportunities due to their gender, ethnicity or income levels.
While Bolivia has managed to reduce the Gini coefficient from above 0.6 in the year 2000 to around 0.48 in 2013, it is still much too high, reflecting a society with stark contrasts in wealth and living conditions.
Interestingly, inequality is lower in urban areas than in rural areas, so rural-urban migration helps reduce overall inequality.1 Well-managed and orderly migration is one of the specific targets within the goal of reduced inequality, as migration is considered an effective tool not only for reducing inequalities but also for working towards many of the other SDGs.2
Promoting equality of opportunity and increased productivity of the poorest 40% of the population is necessary to reduce the unacceptably high levels of inequality.
Investments in infrastructure – transport, irrigation, energy and information and communication technology – are crucial to achieving sustainable development.
Bolivia has historically had very low rates of investment (about 15% of GDP), but during the last 10 years, Gross Fixed Capital Formation (investment in roads, etc) has increased significantly (a 150% increase in real terms during the 2006-2016 period, compared to a 21% increase during the previous 10-year period), mainly due to a significant increase in public investment. Gross Fixed Capital Formation in 2016 amounted to more than USD 7 billion.
However, there is no system in place to evaluate the quality and social returns to these large investments. The biggest share of public investment goes to road building, but the majority of road building projects during the last decade have suffered from severe problems, with none of them finishing on time and within budget, and many of them having experienced resolution of contracts due to insurmountable problems. Some finished projects have demonstrated severe and very dangerous deteriorations already within the first year after completion1.
According to the SDG Index 2017, this is the one SDG out of all 17 where Bolivia performs the worst2.
While investment in infrastructure is crucial, it is even more crucial that the investment is directed towards projects with high social returns. Even a small improvement in the average quality of investments, could imply hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits for Bolivia.