Changes of Un Conference in 2012

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Sustainable Development: From Brundtland to Rio 2012

Background Paper* prepared for consideration by the High Level Panel on Global Sustainability at its first meeting, 19 September 2010

September 2010 United Nations Headquarters, New York

_________________________ *Prepared by John Drexhage and Deborah Murphy, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)

GSP1-6

Executive Summary
The term, sustainable development, was popularized in Our Common Future, a report published by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987. Also known as the Brundtland report, Our Common Future included the “classic” definition of sustainable development: “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Acceptance of the report by the United Nations General Assembly gave the term political salience; and in 1992 leaders set out the principles of sustainable development at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is generally accepted that sustainable development calls for a convergence between the three pillars of economic development, social equity, and environmental protection. Sustainable development is a visionary development paradigm; and over the past 20 years governments, businesses, and civil society have accepted sustainable development as a guiding principle, made progress on sustainable development metrics, and improved business and NGO participation in the sustainable development process. Yet the concept remains elusive and implementation has proven difficult. Unsustainable trends continue and sustainable development has not found the political entry points to make real progress. As a result, climate change has become the de facto proxy for implementation of the sustainable development agenda; but the…...

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