The term “stewardship” is often used to describe the responsible use of resources so that they meet the needs of current generations without compromising the needs of future generations. This concept can be applied to the environment and nature, economics, health, property, information and, theology etc. It is based on a commitment to long term planning for efficient use of resources and generation of wealth.
The world is slowly becoming cognizant of the fact that the resources were so readily available to us in the past and the present ones are rapidly running out. Generations after ours may not be able to access them as easily. Global policy is slowly but surely moving towards a stewardship value system that necessitates transparency, collaboration and trust. This is because most can recognize the detrimental effects of threats like climate change, terrorism and, poverty etc. This is not an entirely current concern, but an intergenerational one.
However, this intergenerational concern should extend beyond material resources, to social realm as well. Countries are increasingly faced with circumstances where they strain to provide basic services like quality education, affordable housing, employment opportunities and, healthcare for their citizens. Simultaneously, the economic disparity between the elite and other socio-economic classes continues to grow.
Social stewardship is increasingly being recognized as a component of national and global security. It is closely related to the objectives of human development, social development, and human security. In addition to the responsible use of natural resources, it includes long-term efforts to enhance social stability. This would consist of plans to improve public health through immunization programs like the Polio Vaccine Campaign in Pakistan as well as nutrition programs, basic sanitation and, reproductive health care etc.
Problems, such as resource scarcity and wide gaps between rich and poor, have the potential to destabilize nations and even provoke military aggression, which is, arguably, what has happened in Pakistan time and time again. Terrorism and insurgency do not arise in isolation, there are always underlying issues that provoke citizens to such extremes. Social stability can be promoted in the region by encouraging the rule of law, democracy, human rights, and more equitable distribution of wealth and resources. This requires investment in human capital through public education, entrepreneurship and empowerment programs.
Social stewardship is also valued as an important aspect of economic growth. Healthy and educated people are better prepared and more likely to seize economic opportunity than those who are sick or illiterate.
In Pakistan, stewardship is often practiced only in the form of corporate stewardship; and usually by multinationals or larger businesses operating here as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities or to reduce any negative affects the business might be having on the environment or populations around it (environmental stewardship). An example is Nestle Pakistan’s initiative to improve 30 million livelihoods in communities directly linked to their businesses.
While these forms of stewardship are equally as important, the development and improvement of human capital is equally as necessary.
An example of the effective incorporation of social stewardship in national policy is in Barbados. After electing their first female Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, Barbados is ready to embrace more progressive policies to promote human development and economic reform. These progressive reforms include elements of social stewardship in areas of tourism, economy, energy and their Right to Return policy.
Many of these methods can be tailored to suit the demands in Pakistan as well. The government has made tourism a priority for this year. We can integrate social stewardship in our policies for tourism by not only concentrating on visitors but on conservation of natural and man-made tourist sites. This would include reforestation, another priority for the government, as well as our rich culture and food traditions; which are already somewhat conserved through events like Sibbi and Makran Mela etc. The tourism industry would create jobs for the local population, therefore making the citizens active stakeholders and equal members of the industry.
Another area where social stewardship can be an approach is the economy. Pakistan’s is a mostly tangible assets based economy i.e. we generate revenue from tangible goods and products. However, the global economy has already started its progression towards a knowledge economy. To keep up, we need to include knowledge-based elements in our economic growth as well. This means to promote education and creativity to move towards a more idea-centric economy in addition to our tangible assets.
In Balochistan specifically, social stewardship must be made a part of our policies on mineral extraction. These policies need to be formulated keeping in mind that the minerals be conserved for future generations as well. The same ideas should be applied to agriculture and land fertility. Techniques should be modified with the bigger picture in mind; making them intergenerational concerns.
One of the most significant aspects of this phenomenon is human resource development. This encompasses everything from education to healthcare to employment. It requires an attitude change among the masses to prioritize education and adaptability while holding on to tradition. Mindsets inculcated today will help shape a well-rounded society in the future and promote social stability.
Since social stewardship has a moral value, it cannot be quantified. Our moral and religious traditions teach us to care for the poor and the marginalized. These teachings are based on the recognition of each human being’s dignity and worth. Our common humanity and the value we place on each human life is expressed through social stewardship.
Social stewardship and the concept of stewardship as a whole should be incorporated in our policy-making process. It is essentially long term planning to ensure conservation of resources and assets to meet demands of generations after ours. It would be unfair to make short term plans and expect future generations to survive and prosper.
It is time to embrace a new ideology and begin positioning the country for a new economic and social reality.