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Tang Prize laureate calls for more sustainable development efforts

2014/09/18 15:32:44

Taipei, Sept. 18 (CNA) Former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, who was awarded the first Tang Prize in Sustainable Development Thursday, called for more efforts to be made in sustainable development.

People who inhabit the planet today "must be responsible not only for present but also for all future generations," Bruntland said during her acceptance speech in Taipei after receiving the medal and diploma from President Ma Ying-jeou.

People now are facing challenges such as climate change, energy shortages, emerging disease, clashes of cultures and ideas and shifting world orders, while the ability to chart urgent and necessary change has been desperately lacking, she said.

"As nation states, we are not able so far to be wise enough and farsighted enough to do what is needed," the 75-year-old recipient added.

[Former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland (left) receives her Tang Prize certificate from President Ma Ying-jeou. CNA photo Sept. 18, 2014]

In order to achieve sustainability, every citizen of the global community "must now rise to the challenge, seek the common good, irrespective of where we happen to live on our one planet," Brundtland urged.

"I feel humbled and grateful to be part of these wider efforts for the future of humanity on a fair, safe and secure planet," she said.

As the only female recipient of the first-ever Tang Prize, Brundtland also expressed hope that there will be more female recipients in the future, showing that women and men all have the same potential.

Brundtland, the "godmother of sustainable development," chaired the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) from 1984 to 1987. The WCED, also referred to as the Brundtland Commission in recognition of her leadership, coined the term "sustainable development" in a landmark report in 1987 titled "Our Common Future."

The 1987 "Brundtland Report" by the WCED laid the groundwork for the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which produced a global action plan for sustainable development known as Agenda 21 and initiated the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the lead-up to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

The report defined the term "sustainable development" as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." The concept supports economic and social development while also highlighting the importance of protecting the environment and natural resources.

The report compiled the views of hundreds of experts, scientists, industrialists, government and NGO representatives, and members of the general public, and it continues to have a major impact on UN conferences, including the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development and Conference of the Parties.

Born in 1939 in Oslo, Norway, Brundtland graduated with a medical degree from the University of Oslo and a Master's in public health from Harvard University.

She was Norway's Environment Minister from 1974 to 1979 before becoming the first female Prime Minister of Norway -- and the youngest ever -- in 1981.

She later served as the director-general of the World Health Organization from 1998 to 2003, during which time she was credited for helping to prevent the spread of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and gained recognition for successfully negotiating an agreement on tobacco control.

Brundtland was named a UN Special Envoy on Climate Change from 2007-2010 and was on the UN Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability from 2010-2012.

She currently serves as deputy chair of The Elders, a group of world leaders brought together in 2007 by late South African president Nelson Mandela to work for peace and human rights.

Tang Prize was established in 2012 by Taiwanese entrepreneur Samuel Yin to honor leading lights from around the world in four fields: sustainable development, biopharmaceutical science, sinology and rule of law.

Winners of the award are selected by panels of judges convened by Academia Sinica, Taiwan's top research institute. The panels comprise prominent researchers and scholars from Taiwan and abroad, including Nobel laureates.

The biennial prize takes its name from the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.), a period considered to be the height of classical Chinese civilization, characterized by liberal policies and robust cultural activity.

(By Christie Chen and James Lee)

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