Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland is widely regarded as the mother of sustainable development and she is a highly effective political and environmental activist. On January 18, 2016, Dr. Brundtland received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Zayed Future Energy Prize 2016 for her global leadership on sustainability. Dr. Brundtland is the first female recipient of this award.
On behalf of the UN Foundation, President and CEO Kathy Calvin congratulated Dr. Brundtland and highlighted the legacy of her work:
“We congratulate Dr. Brundtland for receiving the prestigious Zayed Future Energy Prize in recognition of her lifetime commitment to promote sustainable development for the people and the planet. As she defined sustainable development: ‘to meet the needs of the present without comprising the needs of future generations,’ we must make sustainable energy a top priority for the global community. Few people have had as much of an impact on global society as Dr. Brundtland, and this award could not be presented to a more fitting individual whose constant leadership of the climate movement continues to inspire us all. Dr. Brundtland who has consistently inspired us as the woman at the forefront of global issues, from being the first female Prime Minister of Norway, to her appointment as first female Director-General of the World Health Organization.”
She has been a lifelong champion of human rights, global security issues, sustainable development and the environment. She studied at Oslow University and the Harvard School of Public Health and she is very well versed in the sciences and public health.
Dr. Brundtland was an environment minister, a prime minister, and a party leader in Norway, her home country. Norway is a leading country in the sustainability movement today thanks in part to Dr. Brundtland’s wise environmentally focused leadership. Norway consistently ranks as among the most sustainable countries in the world.
Dr. Brundtland’s efforts also encompass some notable achievements on the world stage. She was chair of the United Nations’ World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). During this time a seminal document was produced that bears her name. The 1987 Brundtland report aka “Our Common Future,” now forms the basis of our understanding of sustainable development. It was written by what eventually came to be known as the Brundtland Commission. It is during this period almost 30 years ago that Dr. Brundtland developed the broad political concept of sustainable development.
Now sustainable development is one of the most mainstream concepts on the planet. It is employed by governments, NGOs, businesses, think tanks and civic society. It is also the origin of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals that formally came into effect last year. Sustainable development is also a powerful driving force behind the COP21 agreement reached in Paris at the end of last year.
Dr Brundtland understands the many different ways in which the environment is inextricably linked to development she also understands the importance of global cooperation and common responsibility.
“To bring all countries and all people into an era of sustainable progress while protecting Planet Earth, only a broad and consistent approach to overcome poverty and secure dignity, human rights, health and education for all, will be a viable and acceptable alternative,” Brundtland says. “This means international as well as national and local plans of action…Only this way, and by global collaboration, will we see the private resources coming forward, in a manner that is consistent with an approach that is acceptable for the future.”
After leaving her position as chair of the WCED, she served as Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) from 1998 to 2003. In May 2007, she was named by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to serve as UN Special Envoy for Climate Change. Dr Brundtland is currently UN Foundation Board Vice Chair.
In this YaleGlobal interview early last year Dr. Brundtland, discusses climate change, the environment and development as well as other challenges facing the world. She expresses concerns about underdevelopment, the growing economic inequality in the developed world and rising anti-immigrant, anti-Islamic sentiment in Europe.
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