The issue of development has occupied the minds of planners,
politicians, economists, and intellectuals for centuries. Since the fourteenth
century, Ibn Khaldun put forward the idea of "human urbanization"
that developed in the mid-twentieth century into the concept of sustainable
development, and began to take root gradually until it became a policy in the
twenty-first century that aspires to build a new model for society, economy and
the environment that all humanity seeks.
Originally, sustainable development was a general concept of a
coherent set of policies designed to emphasize the importance of rational use
of natural resources in meeting basic human needs and promoting economic
development that respects environmental safety. Today, the concept is still
widely used in both policy making and international cooperation circles, as its
scope now extends beyond environmental issues.
At a time when neo-liberalism realized the importance of social
capital and its role in creating wealth, many international organizations led
by the United Nations defended the project of sustainable development and the
human right to a decent life and established development programs and
specialized councils, wrote reports, and organized seminars and conferences at
the local, regional and international levels. This led to the dynamic
development of the sustainable development project, and its constant renewal,
and transformed it into a global approach that includes all aspects of life.
In spite of all the efforts made to achieve sustainable development
at the national and international levels, humanity still faces great challenges
in different regions of the globe, in the forefront of which is the increasing
demographic growth, scarcity of natural resources, unjust distribution of
wealth, and unequal competition between countries. This has led to an increase
in poverty, widespread ignorance and illiteracy, frequent wars and famines, and
the spread of extremism and violence. These are risks that threaten the human
In order to face these great challenges and achieve sustainable
development, humanity needs a scientific and intellectual renaissance that
includes, without exception, the fields of human knowledge and all its axes.
This renaissance leads to the creation of knowledge, then its transfer and
circulation, with the need to transform it into a comprehensive human act. When
thinking about this scientific and intellectual renaissance, the status of the
various human sciences and knowledge should be reconsidered so that some of
them do not become only "elitist", while others are steeped in
experience and application, and that they are not treated as only a
philosophical approach, while the others are mechanical and abstract. Such
challenges require social research to update its topics, develop its approaches
and diversify its tools in order to be able to face these challenges, provide
answers to the questions posed facing the future of humanity, provide objective
conditions for civilization, and move from the accumulation phase to the
Social sciences have been facing difficult challenges in proposing
scientific and practical alternatives for achieving the sustainable development
that individuals, peoples and countries aspire to, especially that social
transformations and changes in values directly affect the achievement of the
sustainable development project, which requires its constant diagnosis, study
Social sciences, literature, and culture in general, have been
suffering from an insufficient of those planning and designing development
policies and programs, because they believe that sustainable development is
linked only to quantitative growth indicators, as if it is completely isolated
from any philosophical thought, methodological approach, or human action. At
the same time, the responsibilities born by philosophers and theorists of
social sciences and those who are interested in literature, languages and
cultural studies should not be ignored. Often, they did not keep pace with
successive societal developments, and they did not present theories and ideas
that explain these changes, and some of them relied on continuing to teach and
research social sciences through traditional methods and methods without taking
into consideration successive societal developments.
In recent years, attention to social sciences has declined in the
Arab world, and it no longer has a prominent role in achieving sustainable
development, despite the role and status of these sciences in understanding
contemporary societies, studying their problems and facing their challenges at
the political, economic, social, cultural, and environmental levels, due to
their importance in deepening critical awareness to understand the dimensions
of socio-cultural development and how it can be sustained.
To address this, the Fourth International Conference of the College
of Arts and Social Sciences at Sultan Qaboos University aims at discussing the
status of social sciences and their roles in achieving sustainable development.
It also aims at discussing the challenges facing social sciences in order to
support and promote sustainable development, and provide a critical evaluation
of the experiences achieved in this field nationally (Omani experience),
regionally and internationally, drawing conclusions and lessons learned from
those experiences to present possible alternatives.