What is sustainable development?
In 1984, the United Nations (UN) established an independent group of 22 people drawn from member states of both the developing and developed worlds, and charged them with identifying long-term environmental strategies for the international community. The report of the World Commission on Environment and Development entitled Our Common Future (WCED, 1987) is widely considered to have been key in putting sustainable development firmly into the political arena of international development thinking. It used the term ‘sustainable development’ extensively and defined it as ‘Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (p. 43). The report has been translated into more than
24 languages (Finger, 1994) and its definition of the term continues to be that which is most widely used and cited. For the first time, the Commission had considered environmental concerns arising through development processes from an economic, social and political perspective rather than solely from a science base as in previous studies. Their recommendations focused on integrating development strategies and environmental policies and global partnerships to meet the interdependent environmental concerns and development opportunities North and South.