Sustainable Development, From Humble Beginnings to a New Way Forward
In 1983 the United Nations (UN) convened the World Commission on the Environment and Development (WCED). This organisation paved the way for the Rio Summit, Agenda21, Kyoto, European and UK strategies, etc. Since 1983 momentum has gathered pace as the need to understand the threat of climate change, and our ability to respond to it focuses minds.
The terms “Sustainability” and “Sustainable Development (SD)” it could be said have their origins set in the United Nations General Assembly resolution, No. 38/161, and the Brundtland Report 1987, however there are examples of its use found during earlier times [see the (UN) Biosphere Conference (1968), and the Declaration of the UN Conference on the Human Environment, (1972)].
Post Brundtland Sustainable Development has morphed into a much wider agenda with many international organisations, support groups, lobbyist etc. established on its foundations.
Our common future was the fundamental report which first coined the phrase “development” that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This quote encapsulated Sustainable Development, and what it meant at that particular time. The Prince of Wales stated in his address to the WCED, (1992) ‘the Brundtland Report was the single most important document of the decade, bringing the term “Sustainable Development” into all our vocabularies. At subsequent environmental meetings Sustainable Development was extended to embrace the three pillars.This new definition highlighted; social, economic and environmental issues as the main focus.It was stated; “if all three pillars were in place, then development was deemed sustainable”.
Since the 1990s Sustainable Development has become diluted and difficult to define. The three pillars have been interpreted by opposing organisations that seek to use the term for the own advantage. What is perceived to be Sustainable Development to one group can be contradicted via an exchange of views by another.
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