Launch of UN Global Sustainable Development Report

By Magdalena A K Muir

GSDR-imagemain400_1454The World Commission on Environment and Development was dominated by politicians with little science presented at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Ten years later, the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, thad a greater but still limited scientific presence. In 2012 at “Rio+20”, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, science was very prominent. One reason is the emergence of  sustainability science as a new interdisciplinary scientific endeavour in the 2000s.

At Rio+20, many scientific and policy assessment reports were presented at side events. Yet, the absence of a comprehensive and authoritative global sustainable development report  was striking – twenty years after the Earth Summit. Our Common Journey (NRC, 1999) and Sustainable Development in the 21st Century (UN, 2012) were important steps toward an authoritative global report that would bring together the range of existing assessments across sectors, assessing past progress and exploring future pathways, taking into account the perspectives of different scientific communities across the world and also responding to the needs of policy makers for the best available scientific evidence on sustainable development issues in an easily digestible form.

It was decided to produce a “prototype” report that could illustrate a range of potential content, alternative approaches and various ways of participation. The prototype report will be useful in supporting Member States’ deliberations on the scopeand methodology of future editions of the Global Sustainable Development Report. The report should ideally inform the agenda and deliberations of the High Level Political Forum and the General Assembly on sustainable development. It is a UN system effort with participation of social and natural scientists, that  seeks to facilitate dialogue between scientists and decision-makers. It focuses on global sustainable development in terms of issues, impacts, institutions and technology. It maps sustainable development assessments and related processes and highlights emerging issues identified by scientists; assesses sustainable development progress; tells the “stories” of future pathways toward sustainable development based on the literature and discusses investment and technology needs; assesses various approaches to measuring sustainable development progress; identifies lessons learnt from national, regional and global case studies of the climate-land-energy-water-development nexus; presents illustrative science digests for decision-makers; and suggests a number of issues for consideration.

Dr. Muir contributed to this report on behalf of the Coastal and Marine Union (EUCC) and under a Fulbright Scholarship implemented as an Adjunct Associate Research Scholar at the Columbia Climate Center  at Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York City, and as Visiting Scholar with the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment at the University of Delaware. Among other aspects, Dr. Muir’s contribution supports Chapter 4: Visions, scenarios and future pathways towards sustainable development, and included a focus on financial approaches and public private partnerships.

The Global Sustainable Development Report can be downloaded as a pdf file here.


Further information on the Global Sustainable Development Report

Sustainable Development Knowledge Plattform: Global Sustainable Development Report webpage

United Nations (2014). Prototype Global Sustainable Development Report Online 

edition. New York: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Sustainable Development,

United Nations (2014). Prototype Global Sustainable Development Report – Executive Summary. Online 

edition. New York: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Sustainable Development


Accompanying BRIEFS

Brief 1: Introduction

Brief 2 Assessments for sustainable development

Brief 3: Review of progress

Brief 4: Visions, scenarios and future pathways

Brief 5: Measuring progress

Brief 6: Climate-land-energy-water-development nexus