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Sustainable development

Sustainable development is development which will not have a detrimental effect on future generations and which involves measures to limit the use of non-renewable resources.

The developed world has increasingly realised the environmental destruction that results from economic growth. This has led to an increased realisation that we need to move towards more sustainable economic growth. This is also true of development, which will be of little use to developing countries if it results in climate change and a poorer environment to live in.

International agencies like the IMF and World Bank are increasingly being forced to take account of ecological factors when making decisions on appropriate development and aid strategies. In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) put forward a programme for environmentally responsible development. In Agenda 21 it set out various policies that could be carried out by the international community. The policies were approved by 178 countries and included:

  • Targeting aid to projects that helped improve the environment (the provision of clean water etc.)
  • Research into environmentally friendly farming methods
  • Programmes to help reduce population growth (e.g. family planning and education)

To try to monitor progress towards these targets a Commission on Sustainable Development was established and in 2002 began a ten-year comprehensive review of progress in meeting the Agenda 21 programme.