Under the leadership of Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, the UN World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), better known as the “Brundtland Commission” published its history-making report “Our Common Future” in 1987 as a culmination of an international effort involving hundreds of experts and stakeholders. The term Sustainable Development was coined in the report and defined as follows:
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
This watershed concept definition laid out the scientific and technical challenges for the global community in the effort to strike a better balance of economic development, environmental integrity, and social equality.
The direct result of the Brundtland report was the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janero, Brazil. Brundtland and members of her Commission played key roles at the Summit. Among other results, the Summit produced a comprehensive plan known as “Agenda 21,” which provided guided actions to be taken globally, nationally, and locally in order to make life on Earth more sustainable. The summit also initiated the most important international agreement for climate change, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which led to the Kyoto Protocol. The Brundtland Report and Earth Summit have continued to influence subsequent UN conferences including United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) and the Conference of Parties (COP) meetings.
In 2007, she was assigned as United Nation (UN) Special Envoy on Climate Change to assist the Secretary-General to progress the international negotiation among governments and organizations towards a Post-Kyoto Protocol Climate Change Treaty. In 2010, she was a member of UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability, which provided the report "Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing" will continue to inspire action towards “The Future We Want” adopted at Rio+20, and to suggest options for a sustainable future for humanity.
During her tenure as the Director-General of the World Health Organization (1998-2003), she focused on promoting sustainable and equitable health systems in all countries to combat disease and ill-health. Under her leadership, the WHO addressed effectively global pandemics such as AIDS, malaria, and SARS.
Dubbed the “Godmother of Sustainable Development,” Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland has been the global leader in promoting sustainable development for the benefit of humanity for more than 30 years.