Global Sustainability: The Sequel

Development Policy Centre Discussion Paper No. 19

12 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2012 Last revised: 22 Jul 2012

See all articles by Robin Davies

Robin Davies

Australian National University - Crawford School of Public Policy, Development Policy Centre

Date Written: June 1, 2012


The Global Sustainability Panel (GSP), formed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in August 2010, was asked to think big – to come up with a 'new development paradigm' and mechanisms for putting it into practice. Its product was, among other things, meant to help frame the forthcoming third global conference on environment and development, Rio 20. The imposing precedent for this was Our Common Future, the 1987 report of Gro Harlem Brundtland’s World Commission on Environment and Development. The GSP report, Resilient People, Resilient Planet, inevitably borrows much its content from Brundtland but also exhibits interesting differences. This paper is a selective reflection on what the GSP report adds to, and subtracts from, Brundtland’s bedrock. The comparison is anchored in a discussion of two specific themes: international cooperation and resilience. The first is prominent in Brundtland and largely absent in the GSP report; the second, vice versa. I suggest that much of what is puzzling or unsatisfactory in the GSP report flows from a systematic blindness with respect to the need for policy cooperation between states, and with respect to the uses of the concept of resilience.

Keywords: development, sustainability, UN, Brundtland, Rio 20

JEL Classification: K32, P16, P26, Q20, Q28

Suggested Citation

Davies, Robin, Global Sustainability: The Sequel (June 1, 2012). Development Policy Centre Discussion Paper No. 19, Available at SSRN: or

Robin Davies (Contact Author)

Australian National University - Crawford School of Public Policy, Development Policy Centre ( email )

7 Liversidge Street
Lennox Crossing
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory ACT 0200

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