The last half of the twentieth century has been marked with the emergence of four key themes as a result of efforts and collective aspirations of the world community. These are: peace, freedom, development and environment. The peace could not be achieved though as envisaged by the world community. However, it had largely been prevailed while the world powers remained tangled in Cold War tactics or in proxy wars. Peace is still wanted in many parts of Asia and Africa.
Freedom was the most cherished dream after the wave of nationalism swept many parts of the world. The new states diverted their efforts towards economic development, good and democratic governance, human rights and protection of minorities. Similarly, in the last 40 years or so, environment attracted the key focus of national and international law and institutions. In the last three decades of the 20th century, overall thrust had been on the four areas highlighted above. Toward improving conditions and developing uniform policies with consensus of the world community, different commissions have been constituted and international conferences have been held with the overwhelming characteristics to link together the aspirations of humans. One of those is sustainable development with its emphasis on environment and development.
In 1982, the World Commission on Environment and Development, also known as Brundtland Commission named after its chair, a former Norwegian PM Gro Harlem Brundtland, was launched. It was the first time that the conflict between development and environment was acknowledged.
The brief definition provided by the Brundtland Commission on Sustainable Development in their report entitled â€œOur Common Futureâ€ is:
â€œHumanity has the ability to make development sustainable â€” to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.â€
The main focus has been upon intergenerational equity having thrust upon citizen participation in ensuring balance between development and environment.
In this pursuit, the Earth Charter Initiative which focuses on â€œdeclaration of fundamental principles for building a just, sustainable and peaceful global society in the 21st centuryâ€ was taken in 1992 but efforts were geared up in 1994 with new Earth Charter Initiative.
In developing countries, while formulating policies the emphasis is now on environmental issues. However, much more is required to be done in order to develop human values such as life expectancy, education, equity and security. The lack of good governance compromises the future of generations that is why developing countries lag far behind in achieving UN Millennium Development Goals.
These goals can best be achieved by acting upon the values underlying MDGs: freedom, tolerance, equality, respect for nature and shared responsibility. These are the core values and without acting upon them, it is not possible to ensure sustainable development without compromising the welfare of future generations. All these values lie in good governance, promoting democratic institutions and care for those who are at most disadvantageous position. In this regard the role should be equally played by the developed countries so as to maintain world peace and also to divert resources towards helping the poor nations in developing capacity to ensure sustainable development as their current pattern of production and consumption is most unsustainable and it must be changed in the interest of our future welfare.