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Seizing Sustainable Development

HELSINKI/JOHANNESBURG – The world is on an unsustainable path, and must urgently chart a new course forward, one that brings equity and environmental concerns into the economic mainstream. To do so, we must put sustainable development into practice now, not in spite of the economic crisis, but because of it.

Our challenges today are many. Economies are teetering, ecosystems are under siege, and inequality – within and between countries – is soaring. Taken together, these are symptoms that share a root cause: speculative and often narrow interests have superseded common interests, common responsibilities, and common sense.

As Co-Chairs of the United Nations’ High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability, we have been asked by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to work with 20 of the world’s most eminent leaders in grappling with these issues. Our task is clear: propose how to provide greater opportunity for more people with less impact on our planet.

A quarter-century ago, the Brundtland report, named for former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland, called for a new paradigm of sustainable development. It stated that durable economic growth, social equality, and environmental sustainability are mutually interdependent. Human well-being depends on their integration.