The creation of a research institute devoted to providing knowledge and capacity to deal with the environmental dimensions of human development and well-being sprang from this UN conference – the first truly international conference to see environmental and economic priorities as two sides of the same coin.

The 26 principles set out in the Stockholm Declaration remain as relevant now as they were almost half a century ago. In 2019 SEI will celebrate its thirtieth year of bridging science and policy on environment and development, which prompts us to reflect on the Stockholm Declaration and our origins to understand how far we’ve come and how much more remains to be done.

The Declaration identifies many issues that are still among the top sustainable development challenges today:

  • basic human freedoms and rights, dignity and well-being (Principle 1 of the Declaration)
  • safeguarding natural resources for both present and future generations (Principle 2)
  • maintaining renewable resources (Principle 3)
  • nature conservation (Principle 4)
  • pollution as a threat to both human health and nature (Principle 6)
  • disaster risk (Principle 9)
  • financial and technological transfer (Principles 9, 12 and 20)
  • urbanization (Principle 15)
  • scientific research (Principle 20)
  • international cooperation (Principle 24)
  • integrated development policy and planning (Principle 13).

The principles in the Declaration have since been repeated, updated and mainstreamed in landmark global forums such as the Brundtland Commission in 1987, the Rio Summit in 1992 and more recently in the articulation of the 2030 Agenda in 2015. They are the foundation and frame of reference for SEI’s conception of sustainable development.

SEI and the Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals reflect a global consensus that economic, social and environmental aspects of development are inextricably linked and mutually dependent. SEI made important contributions to the development of the SDGs. As the goals were being negotiated SEI worked with country delegates and with partners in the Global South to develop capacity on the main issues and implications of the goals. We now offer scientific support on implementation and follow-up on the goals and the broader 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Our contribution will be to bridge science, policy and practice to deliver the necessary change and capacities on the ground.