Sustainable Development

Sustainable development constitutes the ideas, policies and concepts of maintaining the needs of the present without compromising that of the future. Under this standard, members of the public and private sector, governmental and non-governmental organizations, strive to identify the underlying needs of long-term and maintainable global development.

This provides a structure upon which the United Nations sustainable development agenda can be efficiently and effectively implemented. Leadership and commitment on behalf of United Nations Member States translates into a strong mechanism for building on their capacity for outlining, identifying, and achieving their individual sustainable development goals.

Sustainable development is an approach to intergovernmental process based upon experience and previous outcomes, and seeks to address both the issues focused on during Rio+20 and that of the United Nations Post-2015 Development Agenda. Understanding Member States’ individual and regional processes and goals allow effective implementation and integration of development policies in the areas of technology, infrastructure, finance, energy, climate change, and many others.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20, held in Brazil on 20-22 June 2012, gathered participants from across the public and private sector assembled with a unified resolve to achieve economic, political, environmental and cultural sustainability. It resulted in a focused political outcome document which contains clear and practical measures for implementing sustainable development. In Rio, Member States decided to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals and converge with the post 2015 development agenda.  Governments also decided to establish an intergovernmental process under the General Assembly to prepare options on a strategy for sustainable development financing.

Sustainable Development Timeline


2015 - United Nations to adopt the post-2015 development agenda

2015 – Stakeholder Preparatory Forum for the Post-2015 Development Agenda Negotiations

2014 – High-level Political Forum 2014 (under the auspices of ECOSOC)

2013 – 1st session of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

2012 – United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)

2010 – Five-year review of the Mauritius Strategy of Implementation (MSI+5)

2005 – Mauritius Strategy of Implementation (MSI)

2002 – World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), Johannesburg Summit

1999 – Five-year review of the Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA+5)

1997 – UNGASS-19, Earth Summit+5

1994 – UN Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of SIDS (BPOA)

1992 – United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), Earth Summit

1983 – World Commission on Environment and Development

1972 – United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm Conference)

Since the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment, the reach of sustainable development governance has expanded considerably at local, national, regional and international levels.

The need for the integration of economic development, natural resources management and protection and social equity and inclusion was introduced for the first time by the 1987 Brundtland Report (Our Common Future), and it has become central in framing the discussions at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) also known as the Earth Summit. In 1993 the General Assembly established the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), as the UN high level political body entrusted with the monitoring and promotion of the implementation of the Rio outcomes, including Agenda 21.

The 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development advanced the mainstreaming of the three dimensions of sustainable development in development policies at all levels through the adoption of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI).

A process was created for discussing issues pertaining to the sustainable development of small-island developing States resulting in two important action plans – Barbados Plan of Action and Mauritius Strategy. A planned Conference in 2014 will take these processes forward.

In 2012 at the Rio+20 Conference, the international community decided to establish a High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development to subsequently replace the Commission on Sustainable Development. The High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development held its first meeting on 24 September 2013.