The first official definition of sustainable development dates back 1987 as presented in the Brundtland report entitled Our common future, which states that:
"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:
- the concept of needs, in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
- the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs."
Almost 30 years later, sustainable development is still very topical as the international agenda can witness. Indeed, the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations will drive global development efforts in the decades to come to build a better place for both present and future generations.
So what does sustainable development actually involves and why is it important for all the nations and people around the world, especially the most vulnerable?
Sustainable development is often represented as a model supported by three main interdependent pillars: the environment, the economy and the society. To reach sustainable development is to reach a state of development that is:
- Equitable, i.e. allowing for social inclusion that brings economic prosperity;
- Viable, i.e. supporting economic growth while respecting natural renew limits; and
- Bearable, i.e. promoting the environment’s health on which directly depends communities’ health and wellness.
Sustainable development can take many forms. It may be through the energy orientation a country decides to follow when it subsidizes or invests in renewable energy sources rather than fossil fuels; through the promotion of gender equity to allow women to thrive in society and strengthen the communities they live in; or through land management choices that protect ecosystems and the people relying on their natural services, such as carbon sequestration or water purification. Such sustainable choices are necessary to enable communities of developing countries to improve their current conditions without undermining future generations’ chances to have healthy and meaningful lives in return.
In order to reach that sustainable state, understanding and taking into account the complexity and the connection points between the three pillars – environment, economy and society – is key.
One of the key objectives of The Institute for Conscious Global Change (ICGC) is to raise awareness on these connections and to identify the infrastructure needs that would support sustainable development.