Sustainable development

Sustainable Development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Brundtland Report, 1987

What is the challenge ahead of us? - One common goal, lots of global actors and actions - nrg4SD action on behalf ot its members - Advocacy and Position Papers - Policy papers and background documents - Media documents - Workshops, seminars and other events - What's coming up?

What is the challenge ahead of us?

Sustainable development is a pattern of resource use that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come. Despite the growing number of institutions and processes addressing sustainable development, environmental problems have intensified globally. It is therefore vital that in an ever globablising world, all actors work together to truly achieve sustainable development.

The most definitive and well used explanation of sustainable development is from the Brundtland Commission (formally the World Commission on Environment and Development) which was created to address growing concerns about the accelerating deterioration of the human environment and natural resources and the consequences for economic and social development.

In establishing the Brundtland Report in 1987, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly recognised that environmental problems were global in nature and determined that it was in the common interest of all nations to establish policies for sustainable development.

The conceptualisation of sustainable development that has emerged is one of development that integrates three pillars: economic development; social development; and environmental protection. Progress across all three pillars in a consolidated manner is seen as a critical step towards the achievement of sustainable development. 

One common goal, lots of global actors and actions     

Since the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972, the goal of achieving sustainable development has expanded considerably at international, regional, national, subnational and local levels. The UN Conference in Stockholm led to the establishment of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).     

The UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Rio Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 1992. The UN sought to help governments rethink economic development and find ways to halt the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources and pollution of the planet.The Rio Earth Summit resulted in what is known as the three Rio Conventions: (i) UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), (ii) UN Convention on Biological Diversity (UN CBD) and (iii) UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UN CDD). It also resulted in the adoption of Agenda 21 - a comprehensive global action plan for sustainable development to be taken globally, nationally and locally by UN organisations, governments, and civil society stakeholders (organised around the so-called Major Groups) in every area in which human impact on the environment.        

The UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was established in 1992 to ensure effective follow up of the Rio Earth Summit and the implementation of Agenda 21. It provides policy guidance to follow up the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) at the local, national, regional and international levels. The JPOI reaffirmed that the CSD is the high-level forum for sustainable development within the UN. The CSD meets annually in New York with the most recent meeting taking place in April 2011. 

The World Summit on Sustainable Development (also known as Rio +10), was held in September 2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa. This Summit focused on turning plans into actions to achieve sustainable development, and assessed the global changes in the relationship between environment and economic development since the 1992 Earth Summit. The WSSD presented the opportunity to build on the knowledge gained over the past decade, and provided a new impetus for commitments of resources and specific action towards global sustainability.

nrg4SD was formed by the regional governments that attended the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, and was legally registered in 2004 as an "International non-profit-making association".      

The World Summit on Sustainable Development included the voices, experiences and perspectives of a wide range of stakeholders committed to sustainable development. Delegates at the Summit represented a broad range of constituencies, including the Major Groups. These nine groups are the sectors of society recognised in Agenda 21 as having a substantive contribution to make to the achievement of a sustainable future.  nrg4SD participates in the Local Authorities Major Group.

The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UN CSD) or better known as Rio +20 or Earth Summit 2012 will take place in Brazil in June 2012 to mark the 20thAnniversary of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and the 10thAnniversary of the 2002 WSSD. It is envisaged as a Conference at the highest possible level, including Heads of State and Government or other representatives. The objective of the Conference is to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and address new and emerging challenges. The Conference will focus on two themes: (a) a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and (b) the institutional framework for sustainable development.

The European Union (EU) plays a key role towards achieving sustainable development. In 2006, the European Council adopted an ambitious and comprehensive renewed Sustainable Development Strategy for an enlarged EU (EU SDS). It builds on the Gothenburg Strategy of 2001 and is the result of an extensive review process that started in 2004. This is designed to be a strategy for the whole EU and therefore proposes mechanisms for improving the coordination with other levels of governments, calling upon business, NGOs and citizens to become more involved in working for sustainable development. In 2009, the EU carried out a review of the Strategy, taking stock of EU policy measures in the areas covered by the EU SDS. In 2009, the European Council confirmed that ‘Sustainable development remains a fundamental objective of the EU’.

Subnational governments are particularly well placed for identifying the needs and the strengths of their societies in sustainable development, and they are often responsible for the elaboration and implementation of policy, legislation, fiscal mechanisms and public investments plans in several areas - such as transport, energy, the environment, agriculture, forestry, industry, spatial planning, resource management, technology development and transfer, civil protection or development cooperation - that directly contribute to the long term goal of achieving sustainable development.

nrg4SD action on behalf of its members         

nrg4SD takes part in international decision-making process within the Local Authorities Major Group coordinating and representing the positions of subnational governments and advocating for a better recognition of the crucial contributions of subnational governments to sustainable development. The network regularly brings into the debates delegations and grass roots initiatives from the subnational level, thus contributing to the elaboration of responsible and ambitious policies, tools and resources with a territorial dimension.

nrg4SD offers specialised and technical products adapted to subnational governments and relevant to different thematic areas under sustainable development. This implies a wide coverage of interconnected topics essential to the delivery of both thematic and comprehensive sustainable development strategies; as much as it contributes to an integrated approach at subnational level.

Detailed information on nrg4SD services to members can be found here.

nrg4SD is accredited towards United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Governing Council within the Local Authorities Major Group. Thanks to this accreditation, the network takes part in UNEP’s Major Groups Facilitating Committee as an alternate member for the Local Authorities Major Group and participates in the annual Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum, as well as in the Global Environmental Ministerial Forum.

The network also works closely with the Secretariat of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development USD in order to bring the voice of subnational governments into UN CSD Sessions and its inter-sessional preparatory meetings, as well as into the UN Preparatory Committee for Rio +20.

nrg4SD priviledged partnerships

nrg4SD also establishes direct links with UN Habitat, the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS) and the UN Global Sustainability Panel.

Through the years nrg4SD has established close partnerships with other organisations representing local governments, such as ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability and United Cities and Local Government UCLG, or The Stakeholder Forum.

nrg4SD and Rural Development

Working closely with the Northern Forum, nrg4SD is developing it work on rural development in regions. nrg4SD recently participated in the Rural Development Workshop organised by the Northern Forum in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia from 26-30 September 2011. Find out more about the event >

nrg4DS work with the UN Global Sustainability Panel

In March 2011 nrg4SD took part in a consultation conducted by UN NGLS upon the the request of the Secretariat of the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability (GSP). The submission from nrg4SD focused on the contribution of subnational governments and local authorities to the achievement of sustainable development (SD) goals at global level. In this context, nrg4SD called for a full revision of the global environmental governance and the SD framework capable of embracing a true multistakeholder and multilevel governance approach, which also recognises the full potential of “governmental stakeholders” such as subnational governments and local authorities in achieving SD. Click here to access the contribution by nrg4SD >

Following this first input, nrg4SD was invited to contribute again in November 2011. Click here to access nrg4SD’s contribution to the works of the UN Global Sustainability Panel November 2011 >

nrg4SD at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development Rio +20, June 2012

nrg4SD was fully involved in the Rio +20 process and established a Task Force to coordinate the works of the Network in this field. nrg4SD actively participated in the preparatory meetings for Rio +20 as well as the Conference itself which took place in June 2012 as one of the Organising Partners of the Local Authorities Major Group. nrg4SD is currently engaging in the Post Rio +20 phase and towards the Post 2015 UN Development Agenda.

World Summit of Federated States and Regions

From 17 to 18 June, nrg4SD convened its annual statutory meetings - Steering Committee and annual General Assembly. On the 18 in the evening, a reception was hosted by the Governor of Rio de Janeiro. On 19 June the World Summit of Federated States and Regions was co-organised by the host State of Rio de Janeiro, nrg4SD, The Climate Group and Regions-United/FOGAR. More information available here >

Documents relevant to the Post 2015 UN Development Agenda

nrg4SD documents



Documents relevant to the Post Rio +20 phase

nrg4SD documents

Useful resources

Documents relevant to Rio +20

UN Documents

  • The Zero Draft of the outcome of Rio +20 is available here
  • The composed text following amendments and comments of 25 - 27 January 2012 is available here - non-paper distributed at the negotiations on 27 January at 11 AM

Position and Advocacy Papers

Technical Papers

Consultation responses and statements


Preparatory meetings by nrg4SD members

News and media

Documents relevant to Sustainable Development

Advocacy papers

Consultation responses and statements

Policy Papers, briefing notes and background documents

Workshops, seminars and other events

19 December 2012: UN Day for South-South Cooperation

17 – 18 December 2012, Brussels, Belgium - Brussels Sustainable Development Summit 2012 - nrg4SD collaboration as partner

26 November – 7 December 2012,  Doha, Qatar, UNFCCC 10th Conference of the Parties COP18 - nrg4SD participating - Official side event with TCG - participating in side events and Climate Change Studio - partner at Sustainable Innovation forum

22 - 23 October 2012, Colombia - 2nd Summit of World Regions for Food Security

10 October 2012: International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction

8 - 19 October 2012, Hyderabad, India - UN Convention on Biological Diversity 11th Conference of the Parties COP11 - On 16 October, the Summit of Subnational Governments for Biodiveristy co-organised by nrg4SD an the State of Andhra Pradesh, in collaboration with the Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity CBD takes place as part of the 'Cities for Life: City and Subnational Biodiversity Summit' on 15 - 16 October

8 - 11 October 2012,  Brussels, Belgium - EU Open Days 2011

6 – 15 October 2012, Korea - IUCN Conservation Congress

3 October 2012 - World Habitat Day

24 - 26 September 2012, Evian, France - 7th edition of the Planetworkshops’ Global Conference - nrg4SD participating

16 September 2012 - International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer

1 - 7 September, Naples, Italy - World Urban Forum - nrg4SD invited

30 August - 5 September 2012, Bangkok, Thailand - UNFCCC AWG-KP 17 informal and AWG-LCA 15 informal - nrg4SD participating

5 July 2012, Brussels, Belgium - Rio +20 debriefing session – Go Sustainable Be Responsible organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) Sustainable Development Observatory - nrg4SD participating

20 - 22 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - UN Conference on Sustainable Development Rio +20 - On 17 -18 June nrg4SD held its Statutory meetings - General Assembly and Steering Committee and on 19 June co-organised the World Summit of Federated States and Regions with the State of Rio de Janeiro, The Climate Group and Regions-United/FOGAR - more info on nrg4SD activities here

16 - 19 June 2012, Rio de Janiero, Brazil - Sustainable Development Dialogue Days - nrg4SD followed and members participating

13-15 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Third Rio +20 Preparatory Committee - nrg4SD engagement in negotiations

5 June 2012: World Environment Day

22-25 May 2012, Brussels, Belgium - EU Green Week

30 April-4 May 2012, New York, USA - Third informal informals on the Zero Draft of the outcome document - nrg4SD participating

23 - 24 April 2012, Buenos Aires, Argentina - 5th Latin American meeting in preparation of Rio +20 - Co-organised by nrg4SD and Buenos Aires

26 - 27 March 2012, New York, USA - Third interessional meeting of UN CSD - nrg4SD participating

26-29 March 2012, London, UK - Planet Under Pressure Conference

19 - 23 March 2012, New York, USA - First round of informal-informals on the Zero Draft of the outcome document - nrg4SD participating

15 March 2012, Basque Country, Spain - 1st technical meeting of the Rio de Janeiro-nrg4SD-The Climate Group Green Economy Coalition for Federated States and Regions

20 – 22 February 2012 , Nairobi, Kenya - 12th special session of UNEP’s Governing Council/ Global Ministerial - nrg4SD participating sponsored by UNEP

18 – 19 February 2012 , Nairobi, Kenya - UNEP’s Thirteenth Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum - nrg4SD participating sponsored by UNEP

7 - 8 February 2012, Brussels, Belgium -EESC conference 'Go sustainable, be responsible! European civil society on the road to Rio+20' - nrg4SD participating

31 January 2012, New York (virtual meeting) - World Federation of UN Associations WFUNA Webinar 1 of 3 Get Rio: Sustainable Development basics, virtual meeting - nrg4SD participating

30 January 2012, Addis Ababa- Launch of Final Report of UN High-level Panel on Global Sustainability

25 - 27 January 2012, New York, USA - Initial discussions on the Zero Draft of the outcome document - nrg4SD contributes with input to the Major Group

11 – 12 January 2012 - Sixth and final meeting on the UN High-level Panel on Global Sustainability - Ongoing work by Sherpas on the Final Report of UN GSP (12 - 13 January)

9 January 2012 - Zero draft of the outcome document of Rio +20 is out - nrg4SD preliminary analysis on the recognition of subnational governments

More past events available here >

What's coming up?

2013 Calendar of events available here >



Follow us


Currently, there is no event scheduled