Sustainable development and national integration


1 – Sustainable Development and Sustainable Human Development

The development process of social and environmental ideas that mankind lived during the second half of the 20th century had some landmarks and relevant protagonists. Among them, it is worth mentioning the creation of the United Nations Organization; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church; and the United Nations Conferences on "Human Environment" and "Environment and Development".

The establishment of the United Nations Organization, at the end of the terrible and devastating Second World War in 1945, aimed at safeguarding humankind peace and welfare as well as developing an economic, social and cultural co-operation. Its influence and that of its several specific organizations and agencies have been crucial for the social, institutional and cultural development worldwide.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by UNO in 1948 proclaimed the protection of fundamental human rights for all peoples: to life, liberty, education and equal recognition before the law; freedom of movement, religion, association and information; and the right to have a nationality.

The strenuous action of the Roman Catholic Church was also added to these objectives and rights, with its up-dating theological and social process. In the preparation and development of the Vatican II Council (1962 – 1966), many outstanding Church personalities appeared such as the actual Pope John Paul II, then archbishop of Cracovia Karol Wojtyla, who was a staunch defender of human beings’ liberty and dignity and of their integration and social action, over and above individualism and collectivism, with a simultaneous clear statement of self-control, moral action and the “self-gift”.

“In working out his theory of “participation”, Wojtyla analyzes four attitudes towards life in society. Two are incapable of nurturing a truly human society: “conformism” is inauthentic because it means abandoning my freedom. “Others” take me over so completely that my self is last in the process. “Non-involvement” is inauthentic, because it is solipsistic. Cutting myself from others results in my own implosion. The third attitude is “Opposition” (or also called resistance) which may mean an authentic view of life in society if it means resistance to unfair customs and laws in order to truly free humanity from others. The last one is “Solidarity” which is the main authentic attitude towards society, by means of which individual freedom is used to serve the common good and society backs up and supports individuals until they develop a true human maturity. Wojtyla has written that this is attitude that allows man the fulfillment of himself in complementing others”2

These generous and participative ideas were depicted by several documents of the Vatican II Council, especially in the Pastoral Constitution “Gaudium et Spes” (the joys and the hopes) which states: “the conviction grows not only that humanity can and should increasingly consolidate its control over creation, but even more, that it devolves on humanity to establish a political, social and economic order which will growingly serve man and help individuals as well as groups to affirm and develop the dignity proper to them”. Further on, it says: “Profound and rapid changes make it more necessary that no one ignoring the trend of events or drugged by laziness, content himself with a merely individualistic morality. It grows increasingly true that the obligations of justice and love are fulfilled only if each person, contributing to the common good, according to his own abilities and the needs of others, also promotes and assists the public and private institutions dedicated to bettering the conditions of human life”.

Later, in 1967, the Encyclical of Pope Paul VI Populorum Progressio (on the Development of Peoples), completed these ideas proclaiming that “Development is the New Name for Peace” and that “ cannot be restricted to economic growth alone. To be authentic, it must be well rounded; it must foster the development of each man and of the whole man”.

These concepts interpreted the feeling of many Catholics but also that of men of goodwill who demand –in an already late period of the 20th century– the delayed realization of the ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, declared in 1789 during the French Revolution.

The concern about the atomic threat, extreme poverty and social isolation of human groups, countries and entire regions, was deepened after verifying the environmental degradation and the loss of biodiversity. This caused a growing alarm in the 1950’s and 1960’s and made the United Nations Organization summon the “Conference on Human Environment”. It was held in Stockholm in 1972 and finished its sessions on June 5, which was established as the “World Environment Day”. In the Stockholm Conference, all the represented governments unanimously condemned for the first time the destruction of the environment (or “human environment”) and concrete actions were put into practice to protect and repair it, establishing a United Nations special agency called “United Nations Environment Program” (UNEP). Several actions were thus encouraged worldwide such as “environment conservation”, “habitat preservation” and “protection and improvement of the environment”. The said conference agreed upon a declaration which includes the following paragraph as regards integral development: “Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being, and he bears a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations”. Agreeing with these concepts, Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, posed in Stockholm the rhetorical question “Are not poverty and need the greatest polluters?" and stated that the environment protection should include economic and social development.

The following two decades showed some advances –more theoretical than effective– in the preservation of biophysical environment. Simultaneously the concept of development applied by the most developed countries with wasteful consumption of energy and goods was questioned because of its noticeable effects of environmental degradation with consequences all over the Earth (global change) such as deforestation and desertification, ocean pollution, global warming, and the depletion of the ozone layer; all these effects alter and may produce the loss of the homeostatic balance of the biosphere and geosphere of the Earth.

The so-called “ultraecologists” set forth the objective of “zero development” which in case of adopting it should have meant the definitive maintenance of the actual extreme social inequalities, with the resulting consequence of poverty, social, cultural and moral isolation and sanitary and educational deprivation.

The discussion led to redefine the concept of development, its objectives and addressees. After several intermediate stages of revision, a United Nations Conference on “Environment and Development” was convened, twenty years after Stockholm. It was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and, due to its worldwide repercussions and the number of countries and heads of state who participated in it, the “Earth Summit” became the most important landmark in the history of UNO.

The Conference finished with a Declaration of Principles, plus a detailed action plan called “Agenda 21” (due to its objective of embracing the present 21st century), and some complementary agreements. In Rio de Janeiro controversies between the ones in favor of a right and hopeful development and “ecologists” were overcome, unanimously adopting the concept of “sustainable development”3, whose humanist and moving sense was already strengthened in several meetings and documents before Rio (among others, it was used in the “Code of Environmental Ethics for Engineers” approved by the World Federation of Engineering Organizations in 1985).

The “Rio Declaration on Environment and Development” begins with a Preamble which reaffirms the Declaration adopted in Stockholm and states the goal of “establishing a new and equitable global partnership through the creation of new levels of cooperation among States, key sectors of societies and people” in order to “protect the integrity of the global environmental and developmental system”. Among the twenty seven “Principles” of the Declaration, all of which are relevant and respectable, I will quote the ones that are closely related to the topic of this paper:

Principle 1Human beings are at the center of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.
Principle 3The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.
Principle 4In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it.
Principle 5All States and all people shall cooperate in the essential task of eradicating poverty as an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, in order to decrease the disparities in standards of living and better meet the needs of the majority of the people of the world.
Principle 7States shall cooperate in a spirit of global partnership to conserve, protect and restore the health and integrity of the Earth's ecosystem. In view of the different contributions to global environmental degradation, States have common but differentiated responsibilities. The developed countries acknowledge the responsibility that they bear in the international pursuit to sustainable development in view of the pressures their societies place on the global environment and of the technologies and financial resources they command.
Principle 8To achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all people, States should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and promote appropriate demographic policies.
Principle 9States should cooperate to strengthen endogenous capacity-building for sustainable development by improving scientific understanding through exchanges of scientific and technological knowledge, and by enhancing the development, adaptation, diffusion and transfer of technologies, including new and innovative technologies.
Principle 12States should cooperate to promote a supportive and open international economic system that would lead to economic growth and sustainable development in all countries.

By reading once and again these Principles, we make an accurate interpretation of the objectives and the high criterion, the spirit of harmony and goodwill which pervaded in Rio to adopt the concept of “sustainable development”. The Declaration makes it clear that sustainable development is not centered on environment, on economic growth or on the encouragement of an unlimited material progress but it proclaims and reaffirms that all human beings are entitled “to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature” and are “at the center of concerns for sustainable development” (fostering “the development of each man and of the whole man”, as stated in 1967 in the encyclical “Populorum Progressio”). It is also understood that environmental protection is necessary but within the concept that it should serve development and should not constitute a goal isolated from this objective and, as Indira Gandhi stated, “poverty eradication” is “an indispensable requirement for sustainable development".

For practical reasons, I cannot develop in this paper a thorough analysis of Rio Declaration –which I strongly recommend to prospective readers– but I will summarize some concepts. I agree with the expression “sustainable human development” UNESCO usually use, thus highlighting the “human” objective of sustainable development and, on the other hand, reminding that the adjective “sustainable” points out the continuity of this development, which is also economic, social, environmental, moral and spiritual and is promising for human beings. However, to make it possible, it should not harm but respect its biophysical, human and ecological supporting basis, even accepting its transformation for the benefit of human beings.

Agenda 21 has a similar commitment, hierarchy and high conceptual and technical quality. It is a thorough and specific program with clear guidelines to advance towards a well-understood sustainable development.

Ten years after Rio, already in the third millennium and 21st century, a new United Nations International Conference, the “World Summit on Sustainable Development”, held in Johannesburg last August 2002, ratified the Rio Declaration and the need to strengthen the effective implementation of the Agenda 21. In order to achieve this, it proposed expanding on some of its principles, updating and determining them by means of the so-called “Millennium Project”, whose implementation is being carried out with the participation of engineers(*).

However, in spite of all these efforts and aforementioned unanimous declarations, the progress of Humanity towards the agreed objectives is still very limited or, even worse, in some fields there have been backward steps.

In order to achieve a steady and real progress, political leaders of the most developed countries should encourage people to reduce unsustainable and wasteful consumption and to transfer the saved resources to finance cooperation programs with the least developed countries, so as to accelerate their own development processes and to improve international equity as regards the use of resources and material things. Though utopic and without taking into consideration other relevant social, cultural and moral aspects, it seems important to insist on this line of thought inspired by Principle 12 of the Rio Declaration, whose acceptance –yet partial– would contribute to peace and harmony between nations.

2 – The Evolution of Engineering

The Physical Sustainability and the Dilemma between Efficiency and Effectiveness

Until the middle of last century, engineering was mainly drawn by the search of technical excellence to serve progress and welfare.

However environmental damages and the evolution of social thought –particularly during the last decades of the 20th century– have led to reflect on new requirements and responsibilities of professional performance and, consequently, to revise and update engineers’ education and the guidelines of engineering practice.

Besides the scientific and technical training which backs up the professional capacity and the efficiency of engineering procedures, every engineer must meet the indispensable requirement of systematically searching, foreseeing and analyzing the effects of his work on the environment, and of controlling that its results should have the greatest possible social benefit, so that his solutions and actions are effective to satisfy the needs of better planning, selection and use of available resources, and contribute to poverty eradication and to the respect of all human beings. Engineers are also asked to be responsible communicators and to inform decision-making private citizens and government officials as well as the population in general, of the reasons, advantages and risks of their proposals, and especially of the consequences of the implementation of new technologies.

Although this is a great challenge, engineers are working to meet these requirements. Engineers should not only comply with the traditional ethics of procedure (relations between professionals, with clients and the public) but also with the ethical commitment to the objectives and consequences of professional work, with the effects on society and environment. In 1985 we approved in the World Federation of Engineering Organizations the “Environmental Code of Ethics” which recommends us, among other things, to “discuss in particular the consequences of their proposals and actions, direct or indirect, immediate or long term, upon the health of people, social equity and the local system of values”. Then, in 2001, at WFEO’s 2001 General Assembly, approval was accorded to the Model Code of Ethics which puts together in a single document the ethical principles and values in the practice of engineering with the ones related to environmental and social effects, suggesting, for example, that engineers shall be aware of the consequences of their selection of technologies as well as of their actions and projects on the society and the biophysical and socio-economic environment, ensure that clients and employers are also made aware of them and endeavor to interpret engineering issues to the public in an objective and truthful manner.

Agenda 21, adopted in Rio ‘92, calls upon science and technology (and implicitly to engineering) in order to implement sustainable development. Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) should advance in this process of interdisciplinary collaboration and social awareness, without any technocrat demands and within the framework of respect and expansion of the democratic procedures of participation and cooperation.

Engineers and educators have also discussed at length how to better teach engineering to comply with the need of social and environmental responsibility of engineers without diminishing their scientific and technical training. In our country, the Federal Council of Engineering Deans (in Spanish “Consejo Federal de Decanos de Ingeniería” - CONFEDI) has worked hard on this. In USA, a recently published article4 states that the curriculum of engineering students must “include most of the following considerations: economic, environmental, sustainability, manufacturability, ethical, health, and safety, social and political”. It also says that “sustainable development in any form will not succeed without well-informed input from the engineering community”. On the other hand, it quotes the following paragraph taken from a statement approved in 1999 by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE): “Engineering students should learn about sustainable development and sustainability in the general education component of the curriculum as they are preparing for the major design experience. For example, studies of economics and ethics are necessary to understand the need to use sustainable engineering techniques, including improved clean technologies. In teaching sustainable design, faculty should ask their students to consider the impacts of design upon US society, and upon other nations and cultures. Engineering faculty should use systems approaches, including interdisciplinary teams, to teach pollution prevention techniques, life cycle analysis, industrial ecology, and other sustainable engineering concepts”. We thus can see that in the most developed countries, the concept of “sustainable development” has focused on very significant aspects but limited to the protection of the biophysical environment and the physical sustainability (constructions, systems, products and processes). This is necessary but not enough to advance towards the sustainable human development. Moreover the statement itself refers to “case studies” to illustrate the importance of impacts of engineering designs and systems “upon society and the environment” but it does not mention poverty and social equity.

In conclusion, we can say that engineering, together with its technological and building capacity, should move all over the world towards a better understanding of the importance of considering the aspects related to the social impact of production and consumption, with the responsibility of protecting not only the environment but also –first and foremost– health, human security, peace and social equity. All the ideals proclaimed by the Rio Declaration are still very far from becoming true, due to political difficulties and economic interests that hamper a greater practical commitment of engineering to human and social development.

In Argentina, the understanding of this topic and the adherence of objectives and procedures to sustainable development guidelines progress slowly, essentially limited to biophysical environmental aspects though some occasional references to social equity.

In 1990, the Federal Council for Environment (in Spanish “Consejo Federal del Medio Ambiente – COFEMA), was established to develop and agree upon “an environmental policy coordinated by the member States” (Provinces and the Municipality of the City of Buenos Aires); then, in 1993, encouraged by Rio ’92, the Federal Environmental Agreement (in Spanish “Pacto Federal Ambiental”) was signed by the national government and the provinces, committing themselves to establish framework agreements that promote sound and more effective policies for the protection of the environment, according to the principles of Agenda 21, adopted in the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED ‘92).

Besides other laws partly related to environmental topics, and after several years of discussions, last November 2002, General Environment Law Nº 25675 was passed by the Argentine Congress. Its article 1 states: “This law establishes the minimum requirements to achieve a sustainable and adequate utilization of the environment, the preservation and protection of biological diversity and the implementation of sustainable development”. It sets out a framework and a set of objectives, principles and procedures of the Argentine environmental policy.

Its effective implementation could be very positive if governments apply the law with conviction and the several private social sectors, businessmen, workers, professionals, NGO’s, etc., –though not included in COFEMA– have a dynamic and committed attitude to apply it properly and to improve or complement it in the future.

Engineering in Argentina should undertake full responsibility for this task.

3 – Dialogue with Society and Service to it

The many requirements the engineer must meet due to his responsibility for the social development have an additional and not easily accessible ingredient for our traditional technical training: communication and handling of information.

We engineers complain about the fact that people in general think it as a natural thing everything related to their material life, as if nobody reflects on the hard task of creativity, innovation, development, planning and realization, carried out by engineering over the years to contribute to the provision of buildings, urban and rural infrastructure, public services, vehicles, different types of equipment and devices, material and organizational processes and systems that are characteristic of modern life and make it possible. After the relevance and public recognition of engineering until the middle of the 20th century, it nowadays seems that engineers are only remembered to make them responsible for a transport catastrophe, a dike or building collapse, or a power or water cut.

The absence of information related to engineering and its ideas, comments and proposals to the public opinion has its counterpart in people’s complaints who, ignoring the motivations and objectives, virtues and vices of engineering works, assess them without foundation and disapprove of the lack of explanations on the part of their authors.

With slight differences, this problem exists in almost all countries and holds true in other professional specialties as well.

An open book published in 1986 in USA5, based on a widespread survey carried out among journalists, states that: “American society depends in innovation for its prosperity and growth, and innovation, in turn, depends on the ingenuity of engineers. Yet most Americans have little idea of what engineers are or what they do. Moreover, as critical social policy discussions increasingly involve technology and engineering (e.g. toxic waste disposal and reprocessing, nuclear safety, military weapons systems, space program options, robotics, recombinant DNA applications), this public ignorance begins to have ominous societal implications. It seems reasonable to conclude that the public needs more information and a better understanding of the role of engineering in today's technologically complex world”.

An then it goes on saying in another paragraph: “Traditionally, engineers have had little success in communicating to the public the problems and promise of the technological enterprise... many are cool to media queries, suspecting that reporters are simply looking for sensationalism and are not capable of understanding complexities”. This has given rise to “a growth of public suspicion and mistrust”.

Finally, I quote the following paragraph which deals with what the public needs: “The most compelling reason for improving communication between engineers and journalists is the public's needs for responsible information. And it is a critical need because the public's perception of technology has become a major factor in national decision making. The social implications of this situation extend far beyond such immediate issues as nuclear power or toxic chemicals, or short-term interests of engineers. Responsible public participation in the decision-making process requires a public that is well informed about science and technology. Without such information, the public is forced to act (or more often react) out of fear of the unknown or simply to leave decision making to the so-called experts. Either alternative can be devastating to the democratic system”.

The “Recommendation” section of the book suggests that engineering societies and organizations should “develop a national network to provide journalists with access to information about engineers and engineering, thereby improving public awareness and understanding”.

As a conclusion of the quoted paragraphs, I would like to insist on the very important and yet not sufficiently valued aspect of the engineering contribution to social development which identifies with information and dialogue, among engineers, and between engineers and their organizations and the several social sectors. We should persist in this intention to improve our criteria and the effectiveness of our work and to develop a better judgment and decision-making capacity for the whole society. Through the dialogue, engineering stresses, specifies and improves its mission and vocation for serving society and, consequently, the national integration of each country.

4 – Social and Technological Tools for National Integration

The topic of the Panel “Social and Technological Tools for National Integration” finished the reflection and analysis workshop organized by the Argentina Center of Engineers (in Spanish “Centro Argentino de Ingenieros” - CAI) to celebrate the 2003 Engineering Week and thus to collaborate, by means of an open dialogue suggesting ideas and methodologies for engineers, with the design of policies for the development of our country and its integration.

To make our proposal clear, first of all we should destroy the false antinomy between “economic development” and the “human, social and cultural development”. Neither of the two in isolation is sufficient to build a great country. And, we definitely need to use both to be sure that we are building a great country, which should be supportive and vigorous so that all Argentine people will live our lives with “the joys and the hopes” to help us endure “the griefs and anxieties”, with the strong conviction that we are walking through the right path, being part of a society which impels and obliges us but also helps and encourages us to achieve an integral fulfillment of our personalities, in which “our individual freedom is used to serve the common good” and each person and human group “achieves individual fulfillment complementing others”6

This great country which will offer us work and means but also moral principles and spiritual possibilities, justice and solidarity, should be built by and for all of us, encouraging the fulfillment of every Argentine citizen in a process of national integration and self-assertion that enables an honorable insertion within the international scenario.

If we fail to build a national mysticism which safeguards and encourages us, we will lose that national identity which gives integrity to our personality, either in the road of an individual exile or in the disorder of a collective failure.

In short, we Argentine people should make together and now joint strenuous efforts to use and reaffirm social tools: health care, food, education –a priority to enter into a future of progress–, work, housing, culture –which will allow us to develop and apply ethical values, goodwill, activity, knowledge, ideals of solidarity and human quality, to our actions in order to grow and improve ourselves as individuals and as a country. At the same time, to make all this possible and sustainable, it is essential to promote the use, harmonization and selective prioritization of technological, productive, legal and financial tools which determine a solid and sound economic growth. In our case, this economic growth should also gradually overcome the high financial debt that constitutes our today’s physical and moral burden, thus freeing our constructive and creative energies.

The country we all dream of, which makes dynamic and enhances all its human and material wealth, cannot and must not be only a profitable market without considering ideals, but it cannot either be a voluntaristic fantasy empty of economic and productive realities.

We engineers generally solve our problems by analyzing the situation from its starting point and the available resources (diagnosis) and the goals we are aiming at, so that, with our knowledge, imagination and creativity, we can choose the methodology and design the possible solutions (project) which best suit the established objectives. With these well-proven procedures and trusting in our knowledge, experience, energy and capacity, we are ready to actively contribute to the search and realization of solutions that our country needs and claims for.

We have always tried individually or through our representative institutions. During the technical meetings of the Engineering Week, we exchanged ideas, analyzed possibilities, put forward proposals, and suggested intensifying even more the use of basic social tools such as solidarity and committed participation and reciprocally enlightening information and communication.

In this event, I pointed out some possible ways to accelerate and make more dynamic our economic recovery and our faith in the future, knowing beforehand that the road will be hard and that the results we are looking for will appear slowly.

Among the engineering events carried out in Argentina during these last years, it is worth mentioning the contributions of the Engineering National Forum held in 2001. Almost two hundred engineers from all over the country met two years ago in the Argentina Center of Engineers, organized by Argentine Union of Engineering Associations, to discuss the final versions of draft documents about “Education”, “Professional Practice” and “Engineering Participation in Development Policies”7 which had been previously prepared for several months.

I consider it relevant to remember the “Conclusions” about this last topic, quoting the following paragraphs:

“Engineering, together and in reciprocal cooperation with other sectors of society, is able to contribute substantially to the increase of the country’s competitiveness, by supplying technology, programming capacity, planning and implementation of development policies that the government has pushed into the background for the last decades...”, “development policies, sustainable and equitable, not only in their socio-economic and technological aspects but also in the mobilization of necessary investments...”.

To achieve this, the Forum proposed, among other actions, to carry out “strategic studies” and “meetings and cooperation with the Government and other sectors” to optimize investments in the “works and provision of services which contribute to the creation of jobs, health and education with lower costs of transport, energy and domestic and international commercialization”.

Then, following the recommendations of the National Engineering Forum, the Argentine Union of Engineering Associations (in Spanish “Unión Argentina de Asociaciones de Ingenieros” – UADI), joining the generous work and the participation of especially invited experts, with the cooperation of our Argentina Center of Engineers and other centers, councils and several engineering organizations of our country, studied and proposed the government an emergency program for the national reactivation by means of infrastructure development and creation of jobs, subsidizing productive work rather than unemployment (Buenos Aires, February 2002), and analyzed and promoted studies and proposals to design national policies in the sectors of energy (Comodoro Rivadavia, November 2001), transport (Rosario, April 2002) and flood control (La Plata, October 2002).

During this Engineering Week, in June 2003, we put forward once again our concerns, offer our collaboration and update and make the formal suggestions to reactivate and integrate our Argentina. Examples of the most developed countries show that, at the beginning of this third millennium, the economic and social development of people is driven –as powerful dynamic forces– by technological development, the management and business capacity and innovation applied to productive activities. Knowledge and technological research and development are nowadays and without any doubt the most powerful supports of material progress which, within an updated strategic planning, are able to encourage engineering and other related disciplines, accompanying private business initiatives within an adequate institutional framework, backed up by an orderly and stimulating governmental action.

Social tools should be developed simultaneously with the economic and technological ones to enable cohesion, success and sustainability of the development process. It is also essential for the progress and integration of our federal country to complete and update the educational and research system and the physical infrastructure and services that contribute to a proper regional functioning and its self-assertion and strengthening, and, at the same time, to interchange and encourage cooperation and dynamic growth of the several centers of productive and cultural activities spread all over the country.

Among similar examples of the most developed countries which can be applied to our intention of growth, we can mention the task carried out in U.S.A. by the Council on Competitiveness, made up of outstanding businessmen, bankers and university professors. This Council has sponsored some studies on “Productivity Clusters” to detect and promote the most promising possibilities of competitive development. In one of its publications8, it says as follows: “Regional economies are building blocks of U.S. competitiveness. The nation’s ability to produce high-value products and services depends on the creation and strengthening of regional clusters of industries that become hubs of innovation. We are developing a better understanding of how these clusters raise productivity and are able to innovate more rapidly due to the ability to bring together technology, resources, information, and talent among companies, academic institutions and other organizations. Close proximity, and the accompanying tight linkages, yields better market insights, more refined research agendas, larger pools of specialized talent, and faster deployment of new knowledge”.

For our country, it also seems ideal to promote a more accurate detection and knowledge process of the regional potentials and their related productive clusters, already existing or plausible, to study the determining factors of their capacity to develop competitiveness and innovation and, consequently, a higher productivity and added value to regional products, and the restrictions and limits that hinder their expansion. The intra-regional, inter-regional and international benchmarking among the many productive clusters would provide examples, opportunities and challenges to support the criteria to contribute to increase the growth of the most promising ones and to specify and make their value networks more efficient. Consequently, some frameworks could be established to enlighten business decisions on productive investment and to determine parameters to get priorities between the many infrastructure and service projects, and technological research and social development.

This whole task would significantly lead to a more effective use of resources and a faster development of the country. The respective program, with the other socio-economic tools –particularly housing construction– could be adopted by productive sectors, professionals and academicians and supported by national, provincial and municipal governments, as a concrete contribution to an effective and hopeful effort to jointly encourage sustainable development and the physical and spiritual integration of our country.

Until a program of this or similar kind is developed and the conviction of making good investments and promoting a true sustainable human development is achieved, the deep crisis our country is facing demands immediate emergency plans, beginning with the continuation and completion of works already under execution and the implementation of housing projects, as our President has anticipated. Besides the announcement that there is a medium-term goal to invest 1% of the national product in research and development is very hopeful and we are also very enthusiastic about the creation of the National Ministry of Federal Planning, Public Investment and Services. All this makes us believe that there is a growing conviction to overcome difficult problems that hinder our development process.

As engineers, we strongly consider that our country needs a joint program to face and take the necessary decisions which should not be delayed and to establish long-term strategies to advance towards the future in a sustainable way.

The capacity to analyze and wisely use the several technological, economic and social tools will determine the way and pace of our meeting with the true progress. God bless our path!

Conrado Bauer
Buenos Aires, August 2003

  1. Paper prepared for a round table on “Social and Technological Tools for National Integration”, organized by the Argentina Center of Engineers (CAI) during the “2003 Engineering Week”.
  2. George Weigel, “Witness to Hope -The Biography of Pope John Paul II”, (page 176) Cliff Street Books, Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., New York, 1999.
  3. The English word “sustainable” has been translated into Spanish as “sostenible” or “sustentable”. UNO documents use the word “sostenible”. It could be interpreted that “sustentable” refers to the support whereas “sostenible” implies the continuity or durability of development. Since dictionaries do not solve this problem, in Spanish we use the two words “sostenible” and “sustentable”as synomyms.
  4. William E. Kelly, “Sustainability in Engineering Education” in “Engineers Forum on Sustainability”, electronic newsletter organized by American Engineering Associations (ASCE, ASEE, AIChE); E-mail:, New York, March 2003.
  5. National Academies Press, “Support Organizations for the Engineering Community”, Washington D.C. U.S.A. 1986 (
  6. The expressions between inverted commas belong to the document “Gaudium et Spes” of the Second Vatican Council, and to quotations of Archbishop K. Wojtyla (present Pope John Paul II).
  7. See “Anales del Foro Nacional de la Ingeniería”, published by the Argentine Union of Engineers, 96 pages, Buenos Aires, 2001.
  8. Profesor Michael E. Porter, Harvard University, “Clusters of Innovation Initiative: San Diego”, Council on Competitiveness, Washington D.C., 2001. (Publication of 129 pages lent by engineer Pablo Bereciartúa, Eisenhower Fellowship 2003). - The World Innovation Foundation - October 2006 - March 2007 2