Sustainable development

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A process of synergetic integration and co-evolution among the great subsystems making up a territory (economic, social, physical and environmental) that guarantees and sustains an increasing level of wellbeing in the long term, without compromising the possibilities of development of surrounding areas and contributing to, or reducing the harmful effects of production, consumption and urbanization on the biosphere.

In various contexts, sustainable development has been defined in many ways. However, the most frequently quoted definition is:

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”[1]

Sustainable development poses dilemmas in public policy to achieve a balance between:

  • “Needs,” in particular, the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which the overriding priority should be given; and
  • The need for the state to manage production and consumption, distribution, technology and social organization within the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.

[1]United Nations, Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future: Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report (Oxford and London: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 41, at:

https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/5987our-common-future.pdf.