Brundtland Report

Between 1972 and 1987, the developed nations evolved sets of pollution control and natural resource protection regimes. The oil crisis of the early 1970s led to the exploration of alternative energy production, consumption, and land use patterns. Chemical and nuclear accidents such as Love Canal, Three Mile Island, Bhopal, and Chernobyl raised public concerns and led to stricter controls on chemical and nuclear production and waste disposal. At the same time, leaders of the developing countries expressed a sense of injustice that they should be restricted from patterns of development that the developed countries had enjoyed since the industrial revolution, and the search began for ways to help these countries develop without such a high cost to local environmental quality and to the world's climate and biological diversity.

Following a "Stockholm +10" conference in Nairobi organized by the UNEP, the World Commission on Environment and Development was established and charged in 1983 to report on global environmental problems and recommend strategies for sustainable development. The Commission's report, "Our Common Future" was transmitted to the UN General Assembly in 1987, and also became known as the Brundtland Report after its chair, Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway. The report argued against the previous dilemma of environment vs. development, stating instead that the activities that needed to be taken on behalf of the environment would actually aid development, not hinder it, and that in fact the old conventional approaches to both social development and environmental protection would lead to instability [17]. This report contains the definition of sustainability that has become nearly universally accepted: "Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

Sustainable development and the definition given it in the Brundtland report became much more widespread as an articulating principle during and following the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. In fact it was the Brundtland report that provided the impetus for the General Assembly to convene the 1992 Conference on Environment and Development. An interesting modification in the language appeared in Principle 3 of the Rio Declaration: "The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations."

Negotiating Essentials

Negotiating Essentials

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