"A global agenda for change" – this was what the world Commission on Environment and Development was asked to formulate. It was an urgent call by the General Assembly of the United Nations:
- to propose long-term environmental strategies for achieving sustainable development by the year 2000 and beyond:
- to recommend ways concern for the environment may be translated into greater co-operation among developing countries and between countries at different stages of economical and social development and lead to the achievement of common and mutually supportive objectives that take account of the interrelationships between people, resources, environment, and development;
- to consider ways and means by which the international community can deal more effectively with environment concerns; and
- to help define shared perceptions of long-term environmental issues and the appropriate efforts needed to deal successfully with the problems of protecting and enhancing the environment, a long-term agenda for action during the coming decades, and aspirational goals for the world community.
When I was called upon by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in December 1983 to establish and chair a special, independent commission to address this major challenge to the world community, I was acutely aware that this was no small task and obligation, and that my day to day responsibilities as Party leader made it seem plainly prohibitive. What the General Assembly asked for also seemed to be unrealistic and much too ambitious. At the same time, it was a clear demonstration of the widespread feeling of frustration and inadequacy in the international community about our own ability to address the vital global issues and deal effectively with them.
That fact is a compelling reality, and should not easily be dismissed. Since the answers to fundamental and serious concerns are not at hand, there is no alternative but to keep on trying to find them.