Science and Technology for the Prevention of Civil Conflict

The Administration is seeking greater understanding of the role of factors such as endemic poverty, environmental degradation, food scarcity, demographic tensions, and communicable disease in leading to conflict, in order to better design policies of prevention and mitigation. The costs of prevention are most often outweighed by the costs of military intervention once violence has erupted.

The President has asked the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) to examine the interaction between the outbreak of conflict and physical and societal stresses. PCAST will also assess the role that international cooperation in science and technology can play in alleviating these stress factors, thereby contributing to sustainable development and economic and political stability. PCAST will also examine cases of successful and unsuccessful interventions by intergovernmental organizations, international financial institutions, other governments, and nongovernmental organizations.

Domestically, the United States works to halt local and cross-border environmental degradation. In addition, the United States fosters environmental technology, targeting pollution prevention, control, and cleanup. Companies that invest in energy efficiency, clean manufacturing, and environmental services today will create the high-quality, high-wage jobs of tomorrow. By providing access to these types of technologies, our exports can also provide the means for other nations to achieve environmentally sustainable economic growth. At the same time, we are taking ambitious steps at home to better manage our natural resources and reduce energy and other consumption, decrease waste generation, and increase our recycling efforts.

Internationally, the Administration's foreign assistance program focuses on four key elements of sustainable development: broad-based economic growth; the environment; population, health, and nutrition; and democracy and governance. We will continue to advocate environmentally sound private investment and responsible approaches by international lenders. At our urging, the multilateral development banks are now placing increased emphasis upon sustainable development in their funding decisions, to include a commitment to perform environmental assessments on projects for both internal and public scrutiny. In particular, the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), established in 1994, will provide a source of financial assistance to the developing world for climate change, biodiversity, and oceans initiatives.

Population Stabilization

Very early, multiple, closely spaced pregnancies drastically increase the health risks to women and their children, limit opportunities for women, and diminish the ability of families to invest in their children's education and health.

The Administration is leading a renewed global effort to address population problems and promote international consensus for stabilizing world population growth. The United States supports further research to improve existing methods of contraception and to provide a better variety of methods appropriate to different phases of couples' reproductive lives. In addition, the Administration's comprehensive approach stresses family planning and reproductive health care, maternal and child health, education, and improving the status of women. The International Conference on Population Development, held in September 1994 in Cairo, endorsed these approaches as important strategies in achieving global population goals.

Defining Sustainable Development

The most commonly used definition of the term "sustainable development" is one that originated with the 1987 report, Our Common Future, by the World Commission on Environment and Development (known as the Bruntland Commission). By that formulation, sustainable development is "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.'

Since the release of the Bruntland Commission report, the phrase has been broadened and modified. The term "sustainable" has gained usage because of increasing concern over exploitation of natural resources and economic development at the expense of environmental quality. Although disagreement exists as to the precise meaning of the term beyond respect for the quality of life of future generations, most definitions refer to the viability of natural resources and ecosystems over time and to the maintenance of human living standards and economic growth. The popularity of the term stems from the melding of the dual objectives of environmental protection and economic growth. A sustainable agricultural system, for example, can be defined as one that can indefinitely meet the demands for food and fiber at socially acceptable economic costs and environmental impacts.

In the past, research and development in the field of contraception has emphasized methods with high inherent contraceptive efficacy and safety. Both in the United States and abroad, the increasing need to simultaneously address prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, along with prevention of unintended pregnancies, calls for a shift in emphasis. For this reason, the Administration is now giving highest priority in research and development to products or methods that meet these needs. In addition, the Administration seeks further research specific to the needs of particular countries or regions on the acceptability and use-efficacy of present and future methods.

Food Security

The enhancement of international food security plays an important role in achieving U.S. foreign policy objectives. Chronic hunger can set off a cycle of instability, migration, and, in the worst case, war.

Science and technology have valuable contributions to make by increasing agricultural productivity; sustaining the natural resource base on which productivity depends; adapting crops to changing environmental conditions; furthering good nutrition through the development of better food crops; and improving food preservation, storage, and distribution. This science-based approach will not only enhance food security, it will also foster more sustainable management of natural resources.

With the global population forecast to increase at nearly 90 million people per year, there is no acceptable alternative to increasing productivity of agricultural and other land- and water-use systems. Scientific research is key to increasing yields of land-use systems; past gains stemming from area expansion, and even fertilizer use in some areas of Asia, can no longer be continued. The scientific intensification of agriculture must continue in favored areas, but research applications must also target more marginal areas, many of which are those most threatened by nonsustainable practices and environmental degradation. For example, better management of agricultural chemical use in developing countries can lead to higher yields and less crop loss while limiting the risks to the environment and the health of farm workers. Integrated pest management, conservation tillage, and integrated nutrient management when adapted to resource conditions through research are likely to offer useful technological alternatives.

As a starting point, the United States recognizes the need for a comprehensive program to acquire, document, and conserve genetic resources of economic plants and animals. Germplasm conservation is integral to sustainable agricultural productivity. To this end, the United States conducts a domestic agro-biodiversity conservation program and provides support to important multilateral initiatives.

In some areas, where crop production activities may remain marginally economic, food security will be enhanced through the development and application of science-based, resource-efficient production of livestock, fuel, fiber, or forest products. In this light, enhanced research emphasis is being placed on developing agro-forestry and other systems that provide livelihoods to rural families while protecting the natural resource base. Moreover, postharvest processing, prevention of losses, and many other income-generating activities can contribute to food security. U.S. programs therefore also include research to reduce postharvest losses and to develop further applications of agro-industrial crops. U.S. assets are also engaged in remote-sensing endeavors that forewarn of impending famine.

Natural Resource Stewardship

The Administration is acting to ensure the sustainable management of U.S. forests by the year 2000. In addition, U.S. bilateral forest assistance programs are being expanded, and the United States is promoting sustainable management of temperate and tropical forests. The sustainable use of forests is essential to ensuring that these resources will continue to be available to fuel development through the future.

In the wake of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the United States has sought to reduce land-based sources of marine pollution, to maintain populations of marine species at healthy and productive levels, and to protect endangered marine mammals.