Exploring Integrated Assessment Approaches
Edited by Desmond McNeill, Ingrid Nesheim and Floor Brouwer
Chapter 3: Institutional Context for Sustainable Development
Desmond McNeill, René Verburg and Marcel Bursztyn DEFINING SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT (SD) With the presentation of the Brundtland UN commission report ‘Our common future’ in 1987 (WCED, 1987) the issue of sustainable development was put on the political agenda. It was defined as ‘a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. The concept has been much debated and criticized (Redclift, 1992) and numerous alternative definitions have been proposed (such as Robinson, 2002). (And it has been noted that this was not the first use of the term.) No consensus has been – or is likely to be – reached on any other definition; in part because for most people the concept is normative. What is clear is that the central issue is the potential, or actual, conflict between development and the environment, and hence between the interests of present and future generations (see Weaver and Rotmans, 2006). Ewert et al. (2006) have argued, with respect to the sustainability of agricultural systems, that the appropriate definition will depend on the specific problem to be analysed. Our particular concern in this book is the impact on sustainable development of alternative land use policies in developing countries. While we do not see it as necessary to propose an alternative to the WCED definition of SD, it is appropriate to clarify how we interpret it, as a basis for the analysis that follows. In the literature the term ‘sustainable’ is sometimes used to mean...
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