Social Solidarity for Sustainable Development
The Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen once wrote, “A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.” With our global ship being tossed by the stormy and dangerous waters of climate change, each of us must be ready to display appropriate and realistic leadership.
OSLO – The late Kofi Annan once said that climate change is the “existential issue of our time.” A wave of extreme weather events this past summer – from wildfires in California and Sweden to floods in India and drought in Australia – show just how right he was. And, as Annan also understood, addressing this crisis does not mean only protecting the economy or even the environment; it also means defending justice, preserving human rights, and committing to social solidarity.
For more than four decades, these values have motivated my work to advance sustainable development at both the national and international levels. In the 1980s, while serving as Norway’s prime minister, I chaired the World Commission on Environment and Development, at the invitation of then-United Nations Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar. The Commission’s 1987 report, “Our Common Future,” became a landmark document that brought sustainable development to the attention of presidents, prime ministers, and finance ministers worldwide. It spurred the 1992 Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, and it continues to influence global discussions.
Today, I write as a member of The Elders, a group of independent leaders founded by Nelson Mandela to work for peace, justice, and human rights. Climate action is integral to progress in all of these areas.