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What are the main principles of sustainable development

What are the main principles of sustainable development

The basic principles of sustainable development make it possible to harmonise the various sectoral and development strategies with the horizontal strategy on sustainable development (hereinafter: Strategy) and they also provide a general type of guidance for determining the Strategy’s priorities, more specifically defined goals and tasks, the frameworks and means of implementation, in a coordinated and harmonised way. The basic principles have been formulated, clarified, and adopted at the highest levels by the relevant bodies of both the UN and the EU. On account of their national relevance the following should be highlighted from the complete set of principles:


  • The principle of holistic approach. Things must be viewed as a system of inter-related elements, the elements themselves also being systems interacting with one another. Any intervention may trigger ripple effects even in remote systems. So local challenges can be adequately addressed relying on the knowledge of the wider environment and global trends alike.
  • Principle of intra-generational and inter-generational solidarity. The interests of sustainable development are focused on people. The development and environmental needs of present generations must be addressed without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
  • The principle of social justice. The right to adequate conditions for living must be recognised and fundamental human rights must be guaranteed for all. All people should have equal opportunities for acquiring knowledge and skills required to become worthy members of society.
  • The principle of sustainable management of resources. Sustainable management of resources with a view to the limitations of the carrying capacity of the environment; by using natural resources in a prudent and thrifty way it preserves resources required for future development. Biodiversity is also a natural resource and we attach high priority to its conservation.
  • The principle of integration. In the course of elaborating, evaluating, and implementing sectoral policies, plans, and programmes, economic, social, and environmental considerations and their relationships must also be taken into account to ensure that they can mutually reinforce each other. Local, regional, and national activities must be coordinated.
  • The principle of utilising local resources. Efforts should be made to supply the needs of communities on a local level, from local resources. Local features and diversity should be preserved. Preservation and sustainable utilisation of the man-made environment and cultural heritage are also very important tasks.
  • The principle of public participation. Adequate access to information affecting social/economic life and the environment, to information on decision making processes must be provided for all. People’s knowledge about sustainable development, its social/economic and environmental implications, and about sustainable solutions and approaches must be clarified and enhanced. Public participation in decision making should be strengthened.
  • The principle of social responsibility. To enable sustainable development and to make a higher quality of life possible, unsustainable patterns of production and consumption must be changed. Businesses’ social responsibility must be strengthened, along with cooperation between the private and the public sector.
  • The principle of precaution and prevention. The precautionary approach means that wherever the possibility of severe or irreversible damage is perceived, a lack of complete scientific certainty may not be used as an excuse for delaying effective action to prevent damage to the environment or endangering human health; i.e. action must be taken in view of the gravity of the perceived threat. Human activities must be planned and carried out in line with this precautionary principle and activities damaging or polluting the environment endangering natural systems and human health must be prevented and – where it is not possible – reduced, and finally, damages must be restored to their original state as far as possible.
  • The polluter pays principle. Prices must reflect the real costs paid by society for activities involved in consumption and production as well as for their impacts, including the costs of using natural resources. Those engaged in activities damaging/polluting the environment must pay for damage caused to human health or the environment.


Sustainable Development Video

Also read below:

The 16 principles of  Sustainable Development Act (Québec)

  1. “Health and quality of life”: People, human health and improved quality of life are at the centre of sustainable development concerns. People are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature;
  2. “Social equity and solidarity”: Development must be undertaken in a spirit of intra- and inter-generational equity and social ethics and solidarity;
  3. “Environmental protection”: To achieve sustainable development, environmental protection must constitute an integral part of the development process;
  4. “Economic efficiency”: The economy of Québec and its regions must be effective, geared toward innovation and economic prosperity that is conducive to social progress and respectful of the environment;
  5. “Participation and commitment”: The participation and commitment of citizens and citizens’ groups are needed to define a concerted vision of development and to ensure its environmental, social and economic sustainability;
  6. “Access to knowledge”: Measures favourable to education, access to information and research must be encouraged in order to stimulate innovation, raise awareness and ensure effective participation of the public in the implementation of sustainable development;
  7. “Subsidiarity”: Powers and responsibilities must be delegated to the appropriate level of authority. Decision-making centres should be adequately distributed and as close as possible to the citizens and communities concerned;
  8. “Inter-governmental partnership and cooperation”: Governments must collaborate to ensure that development is sustainable from an environmental, social and economic standpoint. The external impact of actions in a given territory must be taken into consideration;
  9. “Prevention”: In the presence of a known risk, preventive, mitigating and corrective actions must be taken, with priority given to actions at the source;
  10. “Precaution”: When there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty must not be used as a reason for postponing the adoption of effective measures to prevent environmental degradation;
  11. “Protection of cultural heritage”: The cultural heritage, made up of property, sites, landscapes, traditions and knowledge, reflects the identity of a society. It passes on the values of a society from generation to generation, and the preservation of this heritage fosters the sustainability of development. Cultural heritage components must be identified, protected and enhanced, taking their intrinsic rarity and fragility into account;
  12. “Biodiversity preservation”: Biological diversity offers incalculable advantages and must be preserved for the benefit of present and future generations. The protection of species, ecosystems and the natural processes that maintain life is essential if quality of human life is to be maintained;
  13. “Respect for ecosystem support capacity”: Human activities must be respectful of the support capacity of ecosystems and ensure the perenniality of ecosystems;
  14. “Responsible production and consumption”: Production and consumption patterns must be changed in order to make production and consumption more viable and more socially and environmentally responsible, in particular through an ecoefficient approach that avoids waste and optimizes the use of resources;
  15. “Polluter pays”: Those who generate pollution or whose actions otherwise degrade the environment must bear their share of the cost of measures to prevent, reduce, control and mitigate environmental damage;
  16. “Internalization of costs”: The value of goods and services must reflect all the costs they generate for society during their whole life cycle, from their design to their final consumption and their disposal.


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