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The Legal Analyst ISSN: 2231-5594 Volume 1, 2011, pp.

79-84

EVOLUTION OF THE CONCEPT OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN INTERNATIONAL ARENA


Praneetha Balaji*
Abstract: Environment has played an important role in the development of mankind. Due to urbanisation and industrialisation, there has been rapid development which had undermined the importance of environment. But the effect of this degrading surrounding was soon felt by all nations in the form of green house effect, global warming, melting of ice caps acid rain and so on. Moreover, the effect has been similar in all the states whether developed or under developed. Hence, all the states of the world came together under the aegis of United Nations to find a solution to this problem and to make the world safer for sustenance and survival for all. The emphasis was on not stopping development but development without effecting the environment. The term sustainable development was coined way back in 18th century in Europe, but it gained importance after the term became a part of the first convention held in Stockholm by the UN. The Convention on sustainable development was held in 1972 in Stockholm. Then periodically in 1982 (Nairobi), 1992 (Rio de Janei ro) and 2002 (Johannesburg). Hence, the concept of sustainable development gained importance all over the world. The paper emphasises the development of the concept of sustainable development in the first part and the second part deals with the important principles laid in these conventions held between 1972 and 2002. Key Words : Sustainable Development, Environ ment Protection, Conventions and Agenda 21.

Introduction: While development means much more than mere economic growth, growth is still a central fac tor in development theory, indicators and practice. The global concept of Sustainable Development emerged in 1980s as a way to bridge between these deadlocked views in developing and developed countries, and to address these concerns about the long term sustainability of international, national and local development policy objectives. In its simplest form the concept of Sustainable Development provides a common global objective which permits states to co-operatively design policies to improve quality life of their populations in ways that have the potential to last over the long term. To understand what Sustainable Development means and whether there is an international consensus on its principal elements and scope, it is useful to trace the origin of the concept. The term Sustainable Development is first documented in laws governing forest industry management practices (FORSTORD NUNGER)1 in Europe towards the end of 18th century. According to these laws only as much of the forest was permitted to be harvested as would grow again each year, so that the forest as a whole would be maintained. Many political economists like Thomas Mathews and David Ricardo is early 1900s raised concern about the prospect for economic growth to continue over the long term. Both worried about the scarcity of natural resources for human development. These early debates began to influence public opinion in many countries. The first concern was on need to preserve natural resources, flora and fauna. In 1962 United Nations General Assembly building upon an UNESCO statement2 passed a resolution that called for natural resource, flora and fauna protection measures to be taken at earliest possible moment simultaneously with economic development along with rationale use of natural resources and called for fullest technical assistance and co-operation to be provided to developing countries in this respect.3

*Assistant Professor, Christ Uni versity, B ang alore, Karnataka, INDIA.


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The method of regeneration which developed in the 1 s t half of 18th century was described in some detail in HananM unzenbergse. Forstordnung in 1736 (Buhher 1922 p 303; Hausrath, 1982, p64, mantel 1990, p 357 2 M ission statement of UNESCO- is to contribute to sustainable human development in a culture of peace, underpinned by tolerance, democracy and human rights through programmes and projects in UNESCOS fields of competence-education natural & social sciences culture and communications & information 3 Economic Development and the conservation of Nature UNGA Res 1831 (xvii) (18 December 1962 UWDOC A/Res/XVII/1831

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In 1972, a seminar report, Limits to Growth was released by Club of Rome, an international association of scientists, business executives, public officials and scholars, challenging the idea of program that compares the present with the past, considers the future an endless possibility for further growth and improvement, on the grounds that it failed to acknowledge the obvious truth that resources are finite and hence growth is dependent on resources cannot be endless. The 1973 Oil crisis fuelled debates and also growing awareness of endangered species and large scale pollution. The 1972 The International Conference on Human Environment (UNCHE) under the aegis of United Nations resulted in Stockholm Declaration on Human Environment. 4 Principle 14 recognises the need to reconcile conflicts between the needs of development and the need to protect and improve the environment. Alongside impetus was also given to multinational environmental agreements like Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species on 1973. 5 (CITES). The 2 key reports: The World Conservation Strategy 6 published in 1980 by IUCN, and Our Common Future (also Known as the Brundland Report after the Chairman of the committee) published by United Nations appointed World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987 provided some crucial points on Sustainable Development. The World Charter For Nature adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1982 calls for optimum sustainable productivity and capacity may be enhanced through science and technology 7 . Responding to the increasingly heated debates between developed and developing countries, United Nations General Assembly in 1983 established World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). This commission had to report to both United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and United Nations General Assembly. The report of this commission was called Our Common Future. 8 The Brundtland definition of Sustainable Development and the contents of the report were accepted by the United Nations General Assembly in resolution 42/187, report of the World Commission on Environment and Development. Sustainable Development, the Brundtland Report said meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs The report added The concept of Sustainable Development does imply limits-not absolute limits but limitations imposed by the present state of technology and social organization on environmental resources and the ability of the biosphere to absorb the effects of human activities. But the technology and the social organization can be both managed and improved to make the way for a new era of economic growth. In other words the report advocated idea of Sustainable Growth. The next important development in this area was United Nations convened Global C onference in Rio-DeJaneiro - United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED or Rio Earth Summit). This reports of 27 principles which help to achieve Sustainable Development. Specific outcomes included the 1992 Rio Declaration, a short consensus declaration agreed by Heads of State assembled in Rio, the 1992 Agenda 21, annexed to Declaration containing extensive Global Action Plan on specific environment and development issues, Three International Treaties - 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change 9 , United Nations Convention On Biological Diversity 10 and United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification Of 1994 11 .
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Stockholm Declaration UN Conference on the Human Environment(16 June 1972) UN Doc A/Conf 48/14/Rev.I,II ILM 1461 (1972); Also see M eyers & M uller (1996) GEISINGER (1999) 5 Convention Of International Trade In Endangered Species Of Wild Fauna & Flora (adopted 3 M arch1973, entered into force 1July 1973) U.N.T.S 243, 12ILM , 1085) 6 This was prepared by International Union For Conservation Of Nature And Natural Resources, now called the World Conservation Union in co-operation with WWF, UNEF and other UN agencies, such as FAO and UNESCO 7 World Charter For Nature UNGA Res 37/7 (28 October 1982) UNDoc A/Res /37/7, (1983) 22ILM 455(8)) 8 World Commission on Environment & Development Our Common Future (OUP, OXFORD 1987) ix 9 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (opened for signature 4 June 1992, entered into force 21 M arch 1994( 1771 UNTS 107, 31 ILM 849 10 UNCBD (opened for signature 5 June 1992, entered into force 29 Dec1993) 1760 UNTS 79, 143; 31ILM 1004 11 UNCCD in those countries experiencing serious Drought and /or Desertification, particularly in Africa (opened for signature 14 October 1994, entered into force 16 December 1996) 1954 UNTS 3, 33 ILM 1328

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The Rio Declaration recognized that developed and developing countries bear common but differentiated responsibilities for Sustainable Development. Principle 4 notes that in order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it. Two important follow up mechanisms were recommended by Brundtland Report and Agenda 21. First , the UNCED recommended the creation of Global Environmental Fund for which UN responded by creating Global Environment Facility (GEF) hosted by the World Bank, UNEP and UNDP which was funded by voluntary contributions from states. The second suggestion of UNCED was to create new UN Commission to follow up decisions made at Earth Summit. The United Nations General Assembly also created United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD) on November 25, 1992. In 1997 a special session on United Nations General Assembly Earth summit + 5 was held in New York to review progress toward the objectives set in Rio. The UNCSD had been meeting continuously between 1997 & 2002 and embarked on a cycle of Global Conference of Parties and global conferences. In 1997, Conference of Parties adopted Kyoto Protocol for reduction of greenhouse gases. Another Conference of Parties called Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in 2000. Later United Nations negotiated and adopted the 2000 Millennium Development Goals which provided a series of specific social, economic and environmental targets as reference points for achieving global development goals. The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) 2002 was held in Johannesburg, South Africa. Summit produced 2002 Johannesburg Declaration and Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. These have been the various stages through which the whole system of Sustainable Development has undergone and the effects of the same have been found in various legislations found in all the countries regarding environment protection. Various principles laid down from 1972 to 2002: The years 1972 to 1992 witnessed an astonishing increase in the number and variety of international environmental law instruments. Much of this activity is directly attributable to Stockholm Conference. Not only did the famous Declaration 12 lay down principles, the majority of which were de lege ferenda (i.e. they stated what the law ought to be rather than what it was), but it also developed a 109 point Environmental Action Plan and a Resolution & recommending institutional and financial implementation by the United Nations. Of the 26 principles contained in the Declaration 3 are of particular relevance to marine environment. The result of these recommendations was the establishment of United Nations Environment Programme 13 . The UNEP is directly responsible for sponsoring of a number of key global environmental treaties and for development of important Regional Seas Programme which has resulted in a network of some 8 regional framework conventions protecting the marine environment. Principle 21 of the Declaration provided that states had the responsibility to ensure that activities under their jurisdiction and control do not cause damage to the environment of other states or of areas beyond national jurisdiction. This principle more or less has become a part of customary international law. In consonance with this principle a number of international conventions have been developed to address issues such as long-range transboundary air pollution, protection of ozone layer, notification and cooperation in response to nuclear accidents, transboundary movement of hazardous waste and global climate change. The Stockholm Declaration had an immediate and direct impact on the work of seabed committee working on the UNCLOS. The other principles of the Declaration state about the following:

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Declaration of United Nations Conference on Human Environment 1972 UNEP established under UNGA Resolution 1972

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The principles point at intergenerational equity where in Principle 2,3,4 and 5 which lays emphasis on use of resources in a limited way so as to guard them against future exhaustion and safeguard for the benefit of present and future generation, Certain other principles like principle 6 speak about permissible amount of toxic discharges and just struggle of people of ill countries against pollution to be supported. Principle 7 lays emphasis on steps to prevent pollution of seas, Principle 8, 10, 11 and 12 about economic and social development. Principle 9 talks on transfer of financial and technological assistance to developing countries, Principle 13 stating about integrated and co-ordinated approach for development planning, Principle 14 re-iterating concept of sustainable development by stating to reconcile any conflicts between needs of development and to protect and improve the environment. Principle 15, 16 speaks about respecting rights of people, Principle 17 speaks about entrusting the task to national institution, principle 18 and 20 states about application of science & technology, principle 22, 23, 24 and 25 states for the co-operation in international level regarding liability and compensation and principle 26 about effects of nuclear weapons & other means of mass destruction. So we see that the Stockholm Declaration has in these 26 principles laid down standards for all states to adhere to these principles thus furthering the cause of sustainable development. 14 These were just recommendations made by all the state parties with a promise to meet in the coming years with concrete laws. Nairobi Declaration (1982) 15 : The World Community of states, assembled in Nairobi from 10 to 18 May 1982 to commemorate 10th anniversary of UN Conference on Human Environment, held in Stockholm. Nothing concrete was laid in this Declaration but implementation of action plans taken up in Stockholm Conference was taken up. This Declaration also pointed at loopholes in implementation of Stockholm principles like inadequate foresight and understanding of long term benefits of environmental protection, inadequate co-ordination in efforts and unavailability and inequitable distribution of resources. The Declaration also pointed at the emergence of new perceptions in environmental management and assessment. The Declaration continues stating about The International Development Strategy for the Third United Nations Development Decade and establishment of new international economic order as major instruments in global effort to reverse environmental degradation. The declaration also cites socioeconomic problems like underdevelopment, poverty, un-equitable distribution of technical and economic resources has limited sustainable development. It also points at increasing public and political awareness about importance of environment through information, education and training and role of nongovernmental organization and enterprises (Multi National Corporations) in furthering the cause and very important the role of legislations. Hence it is clear that the Nairobi Declaration was held to take stock of the implementation of principles of Stockholm Declaration and what were its shortcomings. It was a formality performed by the states rather than furthering the cause of environment protection. The Earth Summit 16 The Earth summit in Rio de Janeiro was unprecedented for a UN Conference, in terms of both its size and scope of its concerns. Twenty years after the first global environment Conference, the UN sought to help governments to rethink economic development and find ways to halt destruction of irreplaceable natural resources and pollution of the planet. Twenty-seven principles were laid in this Declaration. 17 The principles lays down certain policies or guidelines for states to follow when implementing laws or taking up activities which may effect the environment. Like Principle 2 lays down that state is sovereign to exploit their own resources but responsibility to ensure that activities are controlled under their jurisdiction so as to not cause damage to environment of
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www.unep.org/Documents multilingual/Default.asp http://www.unep.org/Law/PDF/NairobiDeclaration 1982 Pdf. accessed on 8/10/2010 16 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) Rio-de-Janeiro 3-14 June 1992 17 http://www.un. Org/documents/ga/conf 151/aconf15126-1annex1.htm accessed on 8-10-2010

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other states and Principle 3 & 4 reiterates importance of economic development along side environment protection. Principle 5 makes an important point that poverty needs to be eradicated so as to achieve goal of sustainable development. Principle 6,7,8 and 9 speaks about co-operation among states through scientific and technological development and principle 10 reiterates the importance of individual, participation national legislations and judicial decisions in solving environmental issues. Principle 13 and 14 lays emphasis on developing national laws regarding liability and compensation and transboundary activities. Principle 15 is of importance because of precautionary principle being laid down, principle 17 states about environment impact assessment and principle 20,21 and 22 states the importance of women, youth and indigenous people in achieving sustainable development and general guidelines of international co-operation, settlement of dispute peacefully and respect for International law. The Major outcome of Rio Declaration was Agenda 21 18 formulated at the 1992 UNCED. It is a commitment to sustainable development which was agreed by worlds government Nations who have pledged for Agenda 21and monitored by International commission on Sustainable Development. Agenda 21 is the blue print for sustainability in the 21st Century. This highlights the need to eradicate poverty and asks governments to integrate Sustainable Development into their national strategies and highlights the importance of NGO and public in achieving the same. There has been a periodic assessment held about the implementation of Agenda by UNGA19 World Summit On Sustainable Development (WSSD) 20 Also known as Johannesburg Summit 2002 was held from 26 August to 4 Sept 2002 in Johannesburg and 10th session of UN Commission of Sustainable Development (Known as CSD 10) acted as the Preparatory Committee for the summit. At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, the International community adopted Agenda 21, an unprecedented global plan of action for sustainable development. This summit helps to adopt concrete steps and identify quantifiable targets for better implementing Agenda 21. Between Rio and Johannesburg the worlds nations met in several Major Conferences under the guidance of UN, including Monterrey Conference on Finance and Development, as well as Dona Ministerial Conference. This conference aimed at supplementing the action plan of previous conferences, Hence instead of laying down new principles the summit looked into the effective ways of implementation of already laid down principles. The Declaration pointed one new point that of Globalization which added new dimension to already existing challenges of poverty, loss of biodiversity and disparity among developing and developed nations. The Declaration states that rapid integration of markets, mobility of capital and significant increase in investment flows around the world have opened new challenges and opportunities for pursuit of Sustainable Development. Hence nothing much could be commented about the Johannesburg Summit but the follow up on the implementation of principles has to some extent been effective which can be understood in following ways. The Greenhouse Peoples Environmental Centre Project (GHP) was officially opened in Sept 2002 which is one of the few projects actually using principles laid in Agenda 21 of sustainable practice and disseminating information that enables individuals to improve quality of life in their communit y in sustainable manner. 21 International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement is another global network of environmental compliance and enforcement agency for sustainable development. 22 Another important outcome of Johannesburg Summit was the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation 23 which speaks about the role of states and role General Assembly, ECOSOC and Commission on Sustainable Development and International Institutions in the process of implementation.

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http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/agenda21/res-agenda2100.shtml accessed on 11/10/2010 UN A/RES/S-19/2-> Programme for the further Implementation of Agenda 21-28 June 1997 Accessed on 11/10/2010. 20 http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc//UNDOC/GEN/NO2/636/93/PDF/N0263693.pdf assesed on11/10/2010 21 http://sustainablities.dk/en/about-accessed on 11/10/2010 22 http://www.inece.org/index.html->accessed on 11/10/2010 23 http://www.on.org/esa/sustdev/documents/WSSD-P01-PD accessed on 11/10/2010

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Concluding Observation: Hence we see that sustainable development as a concept developed after the ill-effects on environment was felt and lot of events have happened since then from Stockholm to Rio then to Johannesburg. Unless there is co-operation between states whether it is for implementation of laws of sharing technological know how nothing concrete can be achieved. Yet many states and NGOs have come together for making these principles work so that we may live in a cleaner, greener and safer world.