Keywords: World Commission on Environment and Development, WCED, Brundtland Report, poverty, institutional gap, environmental degradation, UN, United Nations, Our Common Future, sustainable development, sustainability, ecological limitations, developing countries
The Brundtland link between poverty and environmental degradation, and other questionable opinions
The United Nations (UN) is a key multinational institution that has the formidable task of forming politically acceptable solutions in response to environment and development issues that resonate amongst the entire international community. When it comes to sustainable development, the UN has published Our Common Future, the Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development. The Commission's definition of sustainable development is widely known – to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Mainstream development and environment academics and practitioners prefer to dwell and give preference to the 'necessity of economic growth to meet the needs', but far less to the view articulated in the Report of the imperative that this occur within ecological limitations and that developing countries should be the beneficiaries of growth. Moreover, what is not so widely discussed are the causes attributed in the Report for global environmental degradation and, therefore, the attendant risk of unsustainable development. The Commission unequivocally states that a major cause is poverty. This paper will test how defensible this position is and identify the possible explanations as to why this perspective has been adopted.