ADDIS ABABA – Sustainable development means achieving economic growth that is widely shared and that protects the earth’s vital resources. Our current global economy, however, is not sustainable, with more than one billion people left behind by economic progress and the earth’s environment suffering terrible damage from human activity. Sustainable development requires mobilizing new technologies that are guided by shared social values.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has rightly declared sustainable development to be at the top of the global agenda. We have entered a dangerous period in which a huge and growing population, combined with rapid economic growth, now threatens to have a catastrophic impact on the earth’s climate, biodiversity, and fresh-water supplies. Scientists call this new period the Anthropocene – in which human beings have become the main causes of the earth’s physical and biological changes.
The Secretary-General’s Global Sustainability Panel has issued a new report that outlines a framework for sustainable development. The GSP rightly notes that sustainable development has three pillars: ending extreme poverty; ensuring that prosperity is shared by all, including women, youth, and minorities; and protecting the natural environment. These can be termed the economic, social, and environmental pillars of sustainable development, or, more simply, the “triple bottom line” of sustainable development.