2 responses to “Interview with LI Yong, new Director General of UNIDO”

  1. Geoff

    Very interesting. Am looking forward to hearing about this man’s progress over the coming crucial year. We ain’t got much time!

  2. The Post Growth Institute

    From Latin America’s Buen Vivir movement to food sovereignty projects in India, initiatives throughout the world are breaking past the linear model of “development” that prescribes a path of increasing production and consumption for the sake of growing GDP. They show that real development occurs when people have the freedom to build on their existing strengths.

    Economists, such as Peter Victor and Manfred Max-Neef, have proclaimed that an economy isn’t healthy if it’s undermining the integrity of the biosphere on which it depends. They challenge the notion that economic growth has been purely beneficial in industrialized and industrializing countries. As Richard Easterlin showed, GDP growth does not unconditionally deliver more happiness. Beyond a certain point, GDP growth is associated with people working longer hours, spending less time with loved ones and neighbors (resulting in the loss of family and community ties), eating less nutritious diets, exercising less, and suffering the physical and psychological effects of all these lifestyle changes. These are well documented trends in the global North and it would be wise for the global South to avoid replicating them.

    Regarding the idea of decoupling economic growth from environmental damage, Professor Tim Jackson calculated that, while relative decoupling has occurred, decoupling in absolute numbers is not an option, as the rate of technological innovation would have to be ten times faster than it’s been in all of industrial history. Not to mention that this would need to happen in the face of an unprecedented population explosion and sharply declining resources.

    The example of London having dealt with its smog problem is misleading. Most products English people consume today are produced outside of England and have environmental and social effects where manufacturing and resource extraction occur. China is a perfect example of how industrial centers that support global supply chains are still devastating the local environment.

    Fortunately, the problem is not that global consumption is too low. Rather, some are consuming far more than they need while others do not have access to basic necessities. Oxfam’s recent report, Working for the Few, makes it clear that trickle-down economics has failed. Our economies have exceeded ecological limits and reached intolerable levels of inequality. Thus, redistribution is the way to shared prosperity, not economic growth.

    The economy is a complex social system that requires deeper analysis than calculating GDP. Ban Ki-moon, the UN’s Secretary-General, has endorsed Gross National Happiness as a way of measuring economic success. In this light, we suggest UNIDO changes its goal from “achieving inclusive and sustainable industrial development” to “achieving inclusive and sustainable well-being for all”.