The United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development describes "sustainable development" as: "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
Sustainable development is the latest expression of a long-standing ethic involving people's relationship with the environment, and the current generation's responsibilities to future generations.
Democracy, rule of law, transparent and accountable governance and administration, including combating and eliminating corruption – a global phenomenon, affecting both developed and developing countries – are indispensable foundations for the realization of people-centred sustainable development. Human rights and fundamental freedoms, with the right to development as an integral part, must be promoted and protected.
It follows that environmental protection and economic development are complementary rather than antagonistic processes, where economic growth and development must take place, and be maintained over time, within the limits set by ecology in the broadest sense – by the interrelations of human beings and their works, the biosphere and the physical and chemical laws that govern it.
Sustainable development should be seen as a global objective (Brundtland Commission).
The industrialized world's commitment to sustainable development is put into doubt. The ambitions that we admired in the past seem absent from the international environmental arena today.