What is Sustainable Development?

What is sustainable development?

As the Research and Policy Specialist for the World Youth Alliance, I write WYA’s positions on various issues, including sustainable development. To many people, sustainable development is just about the environment. You can certainly see a lot of evidence of that here at Rio+20–lots of people wearing shirts with slogans against fossil fuels, people carrying bags that say vegans make peace, etc. But sustainable development is about much more than the environment. The point of sustainable development is to ensure that we can meet the needs of all the world’s people while also ensuring that the needs of future generations will be met. From WYA’s perspective, and from the perspective of the Rio Declaration, the human person is at the center of concerns for development. That means that all development efforts must be focused on the person first and foremost. Humans possess the Earth’s greatest resource: creativity. This creativity is what allows people to solve problems–to invent new ways of getting energy, food, and other resources. That means that we need policies that allow humanity’s creativity to flourish. Such policies include good governance because it is nearly impossible for people to succeed under a corrupt government. They also include a focus on provision of basic health care, maternal health care, education, nutrition, and professional training. Also critical is the eradication of poverty. Poverty is the root problem of many issues surrounding sustainable development. There is an important distinction to make: eradicating poverty does not mean eradicating poor people. We must celebrate the potential of each person as a problem-solver, a creator, an innovator. WYA is here at Rio+20 to represent youth from around the world and let everyone know that we must respect and promote the dignity of every single person on this planet.


Meghan Grizzle, J.D.
Research and Policy Specialist