Brundtland Report – Definition

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Brundtland Report Defined

The Brundtland Report, also commonly known as Our Common Future, is a publication released by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in 1987. Sponsored by the United Nations, the WCED discussed the causes of environmental degradation and explored the synergy between social equity, environmental problems, economic growth, and development policy solutions.

A Little More on the Brundtland Report

WCED was convened by the UN General Assembly in 1983 in response to the mounting environmental concerns including ozone depletion and global warming. The WCED was, therefore, responsible for coming up with long-term solution that would promote sustainable development in the 21st century. The key stakeholders in the commission worked towards identifying ways through which environmental concerns can be translated into greater cooperation between countries to help address issues of development and natural resource use.

The Brundtland Report covers several chapters with major topics addressing sustainable development. Some of the key topics include the significance of international economy, energy, industry, population and human resource, species and ecosystems, food security, and propose environmental protection principles. Although the addressed topics are critical for the future prosperity, ‘sustainable development’ is the most cited. The report defines the concept of ‘sustainable development’ as the “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generation to meet their own needs.” Significant concepts in the sustainable development definition include the concept of needs and the idea that social organization and technology imposes limits on environmental sustainability.

The concept of global population growth was also key in the Brundtland Report. The WCED predicted that the population of the world would grow to between 7.7 billion and 14.2 billion people with majority moving to urban areas where they can easily access basic amenities. The report also acknowledged the fact that birth rate would decline in industrialized nations which would translate to increased burden on the younger generation. On the other hand, developing nations would witness improved education and health, particularly among women which would help to address demographic and resource challenges resulting from high birth rates.

Furthermore, the Brundtland Report proposed the need for the UN to adopt a UN Program of Action on Sustainable Development which would help in carrying out the report directives. The report acted as a foundation to the 1992 Rio Summit that was held in Rio de Janeiro which led to the establishment of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development.

References for Brundtland Report

Academic Research on Brundtland Report

  • The Brundtland report:’Our common future’, Keeble, B. R. (1988). Medicine and War, 4(1), 17-25. This article describes the formation of the Brundtland report by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987. It examines the issues of development and environment addressed in the report as well as the realistic and concrete proposals made to address them both at the national and international level.
  • Our common future (\’brundtland report\’), Brundtland, G., Khalid, M., Agnelli, S., Al-Athel, S., Chidzero, B., Fadika, L., … & Singh, M. (1987). This article highlights the key topics discussed in the Brundtland Report as well as the discussions by the World Commission on Environment and Development. In order to examine the goal environment and development, this report outlines the critical problems affecting both developed and developing nations and the level of commitment needed to address such issues. Further, the integration of economy and ecology has been proposed as a means of ensuring sustainable development.
  • The Brundtland report: a matter of conflicting goals, Hueting, R. (1990). Ecological Economics, 2(2), 109-117. This article discusses the concepts addressed in the Brundtland Report and the conflicting views on the proposed recommendations to achieve sustainable development.
  • A rejection of the Brundtland Report., Trainer, T. (1990). IFDA dossier, (77), 71-84. This paper examines the relevance of the Brundtland Report on sustainable development. According to the author, the report is a regressive document that reinforces the belief that growth and affluence are critical to solving environmental problems. Although key documentation of such problems has been achieved, the author argues that the report is inadequate in its analysis, causes, and prescriptions. This is because it fails to identify the fundamental causes of problems.
  • Sustainable development: how to manage something that is subjective and never can be achieved?, Kemp, R., & Martens, P. (2007). Sustainability: science, practice and policy, 3(2), 5-14. This article discusses the new sustainable development ideology that has emerged as a new normative orientation in the Western nations. The authors argue that sustainable development is a subjective concept and as such needs deliberative forms of governance and assessment. Further, the article highlights the reflexive components of governance that can help in implementing the proposed sustainability recommendations.
  • Dealing with misconceptions on the concept of sustainability, Leal Filho, W. (2000). International journal of sustainability in higher education, 1(1), 9-19. According to this report, there is high level of acceptance in regard to the importance of achieving sustainable development. However, the authors argue that key areas in the higher education sector where sustainable development concept has not been fully understood. As such, there has been a negative impact misconception on the concept. The paper, thus, proposes the need to look at the problem and address it.
  • What is social sustainability? A clarification of concepts, Vallance, S., Perkins, H. C., & Dixon, J. E. (2011). Geoforum, 42(3), 342-348. This article illustrates how the human dimension of sustainable development has been neglected as many development projects focus on the physical environment. Because of the failure of such approach, renewed interest on social sustainability has emerged. The article examines the concept of sustainable development and in turn proposes threefold schema including: development sustainability, bridge sustainability, and maintenance sustainability.
  • Report on reports: Our common future: The world commission on environment and development, Burton, I. (1987). Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 29(5), 25-29. This article discusses the topics addressed in the Brundtland report and the key recommendations proposed by the WCED. According to the author, while the report would likely be received with much skepticism and some cynicism, it would be wrong to respond to the report with a ‘skeptical or cynical’ manner. This is because of the diagnosis the report provides, and the statutes it proposes.
  • The role of scientific knowledge in drawing up the Brundtland Report, Timberlake, L. (1988). International Challenges, 8(3), 11. This paper asserts that the Brundtland Report conclusions were not drawn from scientific proof of nature and its impacts. On the contrary, it was documented only in regard to human perception on the current state of the environment. As such, the author is calling for inclusion of science to back up some areas of the report.
  • What is sustainability?, Kuhlman, T., & Farrington, J. (2010). What is sustainability?. Sustainability, 2(11), 3436-3448. This article discusses the concept of sustainability as discussed by the Brundtland Report. It explores the social, economic, and environment dimensions of sustainability and how the concepts have been re-interpreted over time. The author, therefore, argues that the change of meaning may obscure the contradiction between environmental conservation and welfare for all, risk the diminishing of significance of environmental dimensions, and separates social and economic aspects of development.
  • Development and validation of critical factors of environmental management, Soo Wee, Y., & Quazi, H. A. (2005). Industrial management & data systems, 105(1), 96-114. This article discusses the 7 critical factors of environmental management including top management commitment to environmental management, total involvement of employees, training, green product/process design, supplier management, measurement, and information management.
  • Institutions, climate change and cultural theory: towards a common analytical framework, O’Riordan, T., & Jordan, A. (1999). Global Environmental Change, 9(2), 81-93. This article describes the role of institutions on addressing global climate change. The author acknowledges the fact that institutions help to define the concept of climate change as a problem and as a context using socialized devices. The paper further reviews the definition of ‘new’ institutional theories and how they influence social sciences.

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