Sustainable development in the 21st century
Here at Globalteer we pride ourselves on being different to many other ‘volunteering’ companies. We do organise volunteering opportunities for people, but we don’t do this for a profit. We are a charity seeking to create positive change for the projects, partners and communities we work with. Part of this commitment also involves paying attention to the sustainability of our work.
For this reason, we only work with projects that have long term sustainable goals. Climate change is one of the biggest threats to mankind in the 21st century. Acknowledging this requires an approach to development that actively tries to balance economic growth with social improvements and environmental protection. This is encapsulated within the idea of sustainable development.
What is Sustainable Development?
An early definition of this term came from the Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987:
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”.
More recently, the United Nations created the Sustainable Development Goals which set out 17 tangible aspects of sustainable development. These goals recognise that we cannot strive to end poverty or improve economic development without considering health, equality and the environment.
At Globalteer, this connectedness is also something we must take into account when supporting our projects. Sustainability is most often associated with the environment, but sustainable development recognises how the environmental and social are closely linked. All of our projects work principally with local people. This allows them to take a leading role and choose what is most beneficial for their communities and ecosystems. To be more specific, here are some examples of how our projects link to sustainable development.
Life on land
Having an office based in Peru, its only right that we are involved in projects situated in the most biodiverse place on the planet; the Amazon rainforest! Whilst the Amazon might be one of our most precious ecosystems, it i also one of the most threatened. We are proud to work with a great organisation in the Manu Biosphere Reserve which, through biodiversity conservation and community projects, supports sustainable development and livelihoods.
Protecting an area around the size of 1,600 football pitches, farmers are supported to adopt sustainable agricultural practices. Additionally, 19 biogardens allow families to improve not only their income, but their health too. This partner has also created a research and sustainable development imitative; Sustainable Manu. They hope to produce an evidence-based model to answer important questions about how communities can use resources from the rainforest whilst still protecting biodiversity.
Here at Globalteer one of the projects we’re most proud of is our Women’s Empowerment project in Pinagua, Peru. Through the generous support of our donors, this project aims to help to lift these villagers out of poverty and decrease inequality, with the overarching aim being to improve gender equality. This project helps with building cuy (guinea pig) houses so that the women can raise these animals and sell them at local markets. They are a delicacy in Peru! Not only does this provide them with extra income, it allows the women to have less dependence on men in a society where ‘machismo culture’ is still prevalent.
Education is one of the key principles behind improving quality of life and ending the poverty cycle. We run and are involved in several projects that work with children living in poverty; providing education, a safe space and importantly, fun! However, what is most important about these projects is that they run alongside our child protection programme. This programme includes a training module that ensures that the children we work with are educated about how to keep themselves safe. These projects are located in Colombia, Peru and Cambodia and all require volunteers, once we’re out of quarantine!
Helping Hands Garden Supporting the Breakfast Programme
At Helping Hands we provide students with a nutritious breakfast daily to help fight malnutrition that is prevalent in Cambodia. This programme is supported by our onsite organic garden where project staff grow fresh vegetable to use in the breakfasts.
Clean Water and Sanitation
Our Clean Water Project in Cambodia helps to provide safe, clean water to villages around Siem Reap. The project and it’s volunteers do this whilst recognising that clean water is important to sustainable development. When people can only access dirty water, this can lead to water-borne diseases. Not only does this impact the health of individuals, it can also stop children from attending school and parents from going to work. Our volunteers help to build water filters and distribute this to local villages, preventing illness and protecting livelihoods.
Life below Water
Globalteer works with several projects that help to protect life below water. These include marine and turtle conservation projects in Borneo, Malaysia and Costa Rica. Life below water is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and also direct impacts of irresponsible human activities. We work with organisations that value and understand the marine ecosystems.
For example, in Borneo, volunteers use underwater data collection methods to help improve our understanding of coral reefs. This helps the project to be able to better protect the reefs and also to restore and replant them. They also play a role in educating tourists and local stakeholders so that human activities in the area can be less harmful to the environment.
In Costa Rica, in order to protect sea turtle nests more effectively, our project partner hired ex-poachers to lead their night patrols. This helps to find the nests more efficient, as these individuals have specialist knowledge about finding turtle nests. This allows them to find more nests and safety relocated them to hatcheries where they are safe from poachers. Even more importantly, this gives them an alternate source of income so they no longer involve themselves in poaching.
The Globalteer Office in Cusco
Further to the details about our projects, Globalteer as an organisation is committed to being as environmentally friendly as possible. At our office & intern house in Cusco some simple measure we take include using reusable shopping bags, bulk purchasing to reduce plastic waste, buying locally grown food and refraining from purchasing meat to minimise greenhouse gas emissions. Our office environmental policy also extends to measures to minimise waste, water and energy usage. We also have plans to experiment with new ideas in the future, including homemade, environmentally friendly cleaning fluids.
The Globalteer Office in Siem Reap
Plastic pollution is still a huge problem in Cambodia. In Cambodia we provide all volunteers with a reusable water bottle as part of their welcome pack so they don't need to buy bottled water (since you can't drink the tap water in Cambodia). Through our partnership with Refill the World we also have a water filter in our office where volunteers can refill their reusable bottle with safe drinking water.
At the time of writing this, we are experiencing a global health pandemic with COVID19. This will hopefully remind us what an interconnected planet we are living on. At the same time, perhaps we can use this period to also reflect on what a miraculous world we live in. Especially by seeing how communities are coming together in a time of crisis.
Unfortunately, our planet is also suffering several long-term crises. These include climate change, environmental degradation and widespread poverty. Once our lives can start going back to normal, it’s worthwhile thinking about what ‘normal’ is. What can we do to alleviate suffering that is still happening and how can we support sustainable development? Whether it’s through making the way you live your life more sustainable, creating awareness, donating or volunteering, sustainable development is something of vital importance to us all.