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“Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".

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  Sustainable development landmarks

Historic review of the Sustainable Development movement

Source: Sustainable Development the UK Approach

Major agreements on sustainable development issues can be found on the UN Commission for Sustainable Development website at



The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm considers the need for a common outlook and for common principles to inspire and guide the peoples of the world in the preservation and enhancement of the human environment.


The World Commission on Environment and Development chaired by the Prime Minister of Norway, Mrs Gro Harlem Bruntland, publishes a report Our Common Future (The Bruntland Report) which brings the concept of sustainable development onto the international agenda.


Nearly 180 countries meet at the 'Earth Summit' (UN Conference on Environment and Development) in Rio de Janeiro to discuss how to achieve sustainable development. The Summit agrees the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development which sets out 27 principles supporting sustainable development. Also agreed is a plan of action, Agenda 21, and a recommendation that all countries should produce national sustainable development strategies.

The Earth Summit also establishes the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, which meets every year, as well as important UN bodies - the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Towards Sustainability, the Fifth Environmental Action Programme of the European Union is adopted. The Programme seeks to integrate environmental concerns into other policy areas in order to achieve sustainable development.


A special UN conference is held to review the implementation of Agenda 21 (Rio+5). This repeats the call for all countries to have sustainable development strategies in place - in particular by the time of the next review of Agenda 21 in 2002 (Rio+10).

In Europe, changes to Articles 2 to 6 of the Treaty establishing the European Community are agreed in the Treaty of Amsterdam, give sustainable development a much greater prominence.


In May, the UK Government launches its new strategy, A better quality of life - A strategy for sustainable development for the UK.

In December, Quality of life counts - Indicators for a strategy for sustainable development for the United Kingdom: a baseline assessment is published.


The UK  Government publishes its first review of progress towards sustainable development, Achieving a better quality of life, Government annual report 2000. 


The World Summit on Sustainable Development – Johannesburg 26 August - 4 September 23002, in the face of growing poverty and increasing environmental degradation, succeeded in generating a sense of urgency, commitments for action, and partnerships to achieve measurable results. More than 220 partnerships, representing $235 million in resources, were identified during the Summit process to complement the government commitments.  Report of the World Summit on Sustainable Development.


The Commission on Sustainable Development, 11th Session, New York, 28 April - 9 May 2003,  adopts  new work programme for the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), based on two-year cycles with a clear set of thematic issues, provides the global community with a unique opportunity to focus in-depth attention on specific issues. Building on the outcomes of the twelfth session of CSD’s (CSD-12) focus on water, sanitation and human settlements, the thirteenth session of CSD (CSD-13) will strive to be forward looking and action oriented.  


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