4 Brundtland Commission Report, 1987.5 Timothy A. Wise: Overview Essay. In Jonathan M. Harris et. al. (eds.) A Survey of Sustainable Development: Social and Economic Dimensions, Washington DC: Island Press, 2001, p. 47. 6 Connor and Dovers, p. 203. 7 Wise, p. 47.8 ibid.9 ibid. p. 49. 10 UNDP cited in Wise: 49. 11 Cited in Jennifer A. Elliott: An Introduction to Sustainable Development, London and New York: Routledge, 2006: 238.
INTRODUCTION TO THE CONCEPT OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT9Given that, if we are to talk about sustainable development we have to realize that ‘economic growth alone is not enough: the economic, social, and environmental aspects of any action are interconnected’; ‘economic, environmental and social systems must all be kept in relative equilibrium, and also balanced with each other, to be sustainable’. ‘The well being of the environment, of economies, and of people is inextricably linked. … Considering only one of these at a time leads to errors in judgment and “unsustainable” outcomes’ . 12So, what do we need to do to have sustainable outcomes? According to EU’s 5th Environmental Action Programme and the Maastricht Treaty, to achieve sustainable outcomes all these dimensions should be integrated into other policy sectors and in particular into economic policy. This is an ambitious aim that implies a policy-making process, which involves ‘constant strategic planning and concerted effort by a variety of different actors’, 13 which in turn requires institutional change. This was exactly what the Brundtland Commission’s report has called for. Institutional change was needed as the economic and political institutions of the time, both in national and international level, had failed to address the challenges that should be overcome to attain sustainable development. It seems not much has changed in the mean time. Almost 20 years after the report, Connor and Dovers wrote, ‘past patterns of production and consumption; settlement and governance have been unsustainable and have evolved to be so over a long period of time’. Therefore ‘the problems are structural rather than superficial and not amenable to marginal organizational or policy change … there is a prima facie case that the deeper institutional system of modern society is not suited to the different and difficult social goal of sustainable development’. Consequently, ‘(t)here is a strong consensus in the theoretical and empirical literature, and even in official policy, that sustainable development requires significant institutional change’.14This brings in the fourth dimension, which is politics. Obviously, beyond its economic, social, and environmental dimensions, sustainable development is basically a political concept, 15 as the legal and institutional change required cannot be achieved without the involvement of governments.