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What is sustainable development?


Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:
  • the concept of 'needs', in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
  • the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment's ability to meet present and future needs.

Seen as the guiding principle for long-term global development, sustainable development consists of three pillars: economic development, social development and environmental protection. It basically means that whilst we still continue developing and growing we do so by taking care not to overuse our resources and degrade our planet since we and future generations both need it. 

Sustainable development stems from concern over the social and environmental impacts of economic development, and it aims to achieve progress through 'win-win-win' solutions based on the integration of environment, economic and social policy objectives. Sustainable development takes into consideration the needs of the future as well as the present, and it is in this sense that development, or improvements to people's quality of life, is considered 'sustainable' into the future. The concept of sustainable development also places high priority on the benefits of development being spread in a fair manner through society. One of the main policy priorities of sustainable development is the integration of environmental concerns into all the areas of government and private initiative.

Sustainable development cannot however be the task only of government, although government has the role to champion more sustainable development patterns and implement policies and measures to achieve this. Ultimately, sustainable development requires changes to consumption and production patterns such as how we travel, how we eat and how we heat and cool our homes on the one hand and how we produce industrial goods and food on the other. Due to the importance of society as a whole being involved in the transition to more sustainable lifestyles, public participation in sustainable development projects and policy-making is given much importance.

In Malta one of the most important sustainable development initiatives has been the formulation of the
National Strategy for Sustainable Development.  Sustainability needs to be further integrated into all areas of government policy and decision-making through legislative and other measures. In this regard, the Sustainable Development Act will serve to mainstream sustainability thinking across the workings of Government.
Sustainable Development policy on an international, European, Mediterranean and national level is made within the framework provided by sustainable development strategies at all these levels.