The Human Rights Approach to Sustainable Development

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In 1987, the Bruntland Commission published its report, Our Common Future, in an effort to link the issues of economic development and environmental stability.[1] The Brundtland Commission’s brief definition of sustainable development as the “ability to make development sustainable—to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. On development, the report states that human needs are basic and essential; that economic growth— but also equity to share resources with the poor—is required to sustain them; and that equity is encouraged by effective citizen participation.[2] It will be interesting to note that some of the approaches to sustainable development are innovative as well as appealing, like sustainable development, now the emphasis is on moving towards ‘sustainable society’, ‘sustainable human well-being’, “sustainable communities”, “green communities” and “green development”.[3]Respect for and enforcement of human rights is a precondition for sustainable development. This implies that without acknowledging and acting to defend the rights of people, sustainable development is not possible. it is people who are at the centre of sustainable development: human beings who are entitled to certain basic living conditions. By effectively linking human rights and sustainable development, the increasing state of uncertainty for the environment that surrounds and nurtures us is given a human face, directly impacting the well-being of all.[4] “It makes perfect sense to link human rights to sustainable development: the right to life cannot be realized without basic rights to safe water, air and land. A human rights approach allows the quality of life of all people to be a central part of decision-making.”

[1]Information Technology Act 2000, India, available at:

[2] Information Technology Act 2000, India, available at:

[3] Information Technology Act 2000, India, available at:

[4] P.S. Jaswal and Nishtha Jaswal, Environmental Law: Environment Protection, Sustainable Development and     the Law, Allahabad law agency, U.p., India 3rd Edn 2009.



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