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Fourth International Conference of the College of Arts and Social Sciences
Social Sciences and Sustainable Development : Challenges, Experiences and Alternatives
College of Arts and Social Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman
21 - 23 February 2022



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 urbanization itself.

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 construction phase.

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 and evaluation.

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.