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Viable system model: a tool for managing sustainable development holistically

Iffat Sabir Chaudhry
Published: 7 April 2022
 by  Emerald

Abstract: Purpose: United Arab Emirates’ (UAEs) commitment to sustainable development is well reflected in its Vision-2021, 2030 and the Green Economy Strategy for Sustainable Development, followed by several initiatives at federal and local level. However, out of seven Emirates, the governments of Abu Dhabi and Dubai are adopting and rigorously implementing green initiatives for conserving energy, minimizing resources wastage and becoming zero-carbon ecology, leaving behind the other five emirates. To promote the implementation of government’s sustainability agenda holistically (including all the emirates), it is important to adopt a systems thinking to diagnose the complex social arrangements and their interactive relations with the larger systems and the environment at each and all recursive levels.Design/methodology/approach: This viewpoint proposes that Viable System Model (VSM) framework can support sustainable planning and configuration evaluation holistically, by diagnosing the region (system-in-focus) together with the present and future environment, at multiple recursive levels of city, emirates and country-wide. To demonstrate the relative strength of the VSM structural framework and its principles to replicate/implement the green initiatives country-wide, the study provides supporting evidence and multiple examples of its application in other parts of the world for managing sustainability-related issues from smallest (town/city) to largest (national) levels in the United Arab Emirates.Findings: The VSM framework has been adopted by several scholars for fruitful utilization of its structural, connectivity, recursivity and complexity principles in the context of sustainability at the organizational, territory and national levels. The discussion has been made on the suitability of VSM framework for implementing sustainable development initiatives county-wide by viewing it in totality and at multiple levels of administration and governance.Research limitations/implications: It has implications for leaders, policy-setters and regulators of United Arab Emirates as well as Gulf region inclusive of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.Originality/value: No prior work exists in Arab region where VSM has been proposed for the holistic management of sustainable initiatives. It has implications for leaders, policy-setters and regulators of United Arab Emirates as well as Gulf region inclusive of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.
Keywords: Viable system model (VSM) / Sustainability / United Arab Emirates / Green initiatives

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