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The concept of sustainable development is the result of concerted action by nations to promote a model of global economic development compatible with environmental conservation and social equity.

His background goes back to the 50s of the twentieth century, when concerns about the damage to the environment caused by the Second World War germinate. However, it is until 1987 when the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development (CMMAD), chaired by Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, presents the report “Our Common Future”, also known as the “Brundtland Report”, in which the best known definition of sustainable development is disseminated and coined:

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (CMMAD, 1987: 24)

Sustainable development has become a “political manifesto”, that is, it has been raised as a powerful proclamation that is addressed to citizens, civil organizations, businesses and governments to promote actions, ethical principles and new institutions aimed at a common goal: sustainability

In accordance with the above, sustainable development is affirmed on three analytical axes:

  1. A development that takes into account the satisfaction of the needs of the present generations.

This intragenerational thesis refers to the fact that political participation is required to create new institutions in line with cultural changes that allow reducing social exclusion, that is, that reorganize daily life and social reproduction. This requires addressing aspects such as:

a. The demographic pattern. The reduction in mortality and the large population quotas that are being integrated into the consumer society, among other aspects, have caused an exponential growth in the demand for food, resulting in a food crisis in some parts of the world; This is why it is necessary to act on the demographic pattern, for example, by introducing a voluntary regulation of births that will lead to a gradual stabilization of the population.

b. Social equity. Intragenerational solidarity is another elementary aspect in sustainable development. For this, it is necessary to redefine policies and goals to achieve greater equity in the distribution of income and thus reduce the gaps between developed and developing countries. To achieve equity it is necessary that there be economic growth but that this generate jobs; make it more equitable, that is, that the fruits of labor benefit everyone and not just a few; that includes the voices of the communities through democratization; that it be a growth that strengthens the cultural identity; growth that takes care of natural resources and the environment to move towards a more accurate future.

c. New policies for new institutions. Political reform is a necessary condition for sustainable development and through it reduce social inequality and avoid the destruction of the environment, promoting comprehensive political decisions that when, for example, deal with economic aspects do not neglect the social or environmental impact that That policy would have. Likewise, institutional reform requires modifying the processes of international cooperation and global governance.

d. A new civilizing culture. Historical evolution has been unsustainable in relation to the environmental, economic and social situation. The transformations need to reach the deepest part of being through a civilizing change, of values, of redefinition of priorities, of substantial options that place the material in its right dimension so that the human being is fully realized and in harmony with his natural environment and with the community to which it belongs.

  1. An environmentally friendly development.

The central premise that supports this thesis implies that development should not degrade the biophysical environment or deplete natural resources. This premise is what has given meaning to the entire international agreement since the Stockholm Summit in 1972, which goes through the “Our Common Future” report in 1987, but especially with a strategic sense from the Rio Summit in 1992, promoting reflection on how to reconcile the needs and aspirations of human societies, with the maintenance of the integrity of natural systems. In addition, it is recognized that the environmental deterioration of human activities is not a homogeneous phenomenon, but depends on the development styles, the way of life and the conditions of the environment.

  1. A development that does not sacrifice the rights of future generations.

While it is difficult to define what the basic needs of unborn generations might be, what they should meet and how they will do it, intergenerational justice is a condition linked to both social equity and environmental conservation at the present time. In other words, poverty cannot increase now because the poor cannot be poorer in the future and rich sectors and countries must necessarily reduce their living and consumption levels in order not to mortgage the present and future of the planet. Likewise, maintaining the integrity of the planetary ecosystem in the long term is also a requirement of the sustainability of the present generations.

In this way, the notion of development, focused mainly on progressive material growth, has been challenged by a broader, more complex and holistic vision – where the quantitative is subsumed in the qualitative – that articulates the care of the environment, as well as the Ecosystem integrity, solidarity social relations oriented towards equity and institutional policy environments for the exercise of democratic governance, constitutive axes of the holistic vision of sustainable development.

Indeed, from this perspective, the concept of sustainable development emerges as a holistic conceptual proposal that articulates at least five dimensions: economic, environmental, social, political and cultural. These dimensions include issues such as equity, employment opportunities, access to production goods, environmental impacts, social spending, gender equality, good governance, an active civil society in terms of social participation, among others, considering both quantitative and qualitative aspects of development.

Sustainable development in Mexico


For decades, development policies in Mexico did not give importance to the economic and social costs of population growth. The unequal territorial distribution of the population, the impact of productive activities and urbanization on the quality of air, water and soil, ignoring the implications of the degradation and destruction of natural resources, caused the emergence of serious environmental crises, especially in metropolitan areas, as well as soil degradation caused by deforestation in rural areas.

Given the growing demand of civil society for the emergence of these crises, the first institutions were created in the 1970s to address pollution problems: in 1971 the Federal Law to Prevent and Control Environmental Pollution was enacted; In 1972, the Undersecretariat for Environmental Improvement was created, within the framework of the Ministry of Health and Public Assistance, and in 1976 the General Directorate of Urban Ecology was established within the Secretariat of Human Settlements and Public Works.

However, the concept of sustainable development as such began to be given importance in Mexico until the late 1980s, thanks to the work done by research groups that promoted it from the academy and the official position to comply with international agreements that proposed its implementation , thus moving towards a second stage of creation of new dependencies and laws for the realization of this process oriented towards sustainability at national and local level.

Although the first antecedent in the country dates from 1983, when the Subsecretariat of Ecology was created within the Secretariat of Urban Development and Ecology (SEDUE), with which new responsibilities were assigned and functions related to the environment were regrouped. They were dispersed in different federal agencies, it was in 1988 when the global process agitated by the “Brundtland Report” opens the way to sustainability and particularly echoes in Mexico with the promulgation of the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection (LGEEPA).

In 1992, SEDUE became the Ministry of Social Development (SEDESOL) to promote a more articulated institutional framework between social and environmental policies. Shortly thereafter, the Subsecretariat of Ecology separated its regulatory functions and those of inspection and verification, giving rise to the National Institute of Ecology (INE) and the Federal Office of Environmental Protection (PROFEPA). In the same year, the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO) was also created.

In 1994, Mexico made a great institutional leap with the creation of the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Fisheries (SEMARNAP), which strengthened government management considering ecological conservation and sustainable use of resources. In 2000, SEMARNAP became the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and the area of ​​responsibility for fisheries was absorbed by the agricultural sector. And from that moment there have been several changes in the institutional engineering of the government sector associated with environmental management, which seek to respond better to the complex tasks involved in this activity. Some relevant laws that have been enacted are:

In addition to the strengthening that has been given to the institutional framework with the creation of the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) in 2000 and the National Forestry Commission in 2001.

However, in order to establish the priority of sustainable development, institutional changes are required at different levels that allow the integrated policy decisions that go beyond the secretarial jurisdictions to be operated and efficiently, that is, these changes must involve all sectors and The three orders of government.

This is due to the fact that the modus operandi of traditional state structures for the formulation of public policies continues to predominate and is inadequate to induce the transit to sustainable development, since it reproduces an institutional dynamic that does not favor information to the public, the transparency of the management and accountability, as well as the effective participation of interested agents and the definition of scheduled scheduled goals subject to scrutiny and compliance with regulations and policies.

In Mexico, environmental degradation and depletion of natural resources has been increasing. The Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics (INEGI) has estimated through the System of Economic and Ecological Accounts of Mexico (SCEEM) that the negative impacts by determining the total costs for environmental depletion and degradation, in 2016 was equivalent to 4.6 % of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This measurement is expressed through the Ecological Gross Domestic Product (PIBE), an indicator that identifies the impact on the economy of the use and deterioration of natural resources due to the economic activities of production, distribution and consumption.

In addition to this and in a synchronous manner, the social aspects have deteriorated markedly since the implementation of the economic model of international openness and the emergence of neoliberal policy since 1982. This deterioration has been manifested mainly in the weakening of formal employment and employment. purchasing power of wages, in the loss of quality of health care services and education, as well as in the increase in the cost of housing.

To assess this problem, the National Population Council (CONAPO) created the marginalization index that accounts for the state that state and municipal social conditions have. In 2005 the percentage of urban population with a very high marginalization rate was 5.1% and with a high marginalization rate of 15.8%, while for the year 2010, the percentage increased to 4.6% at the very high marginalization level. 20.1% at the high level; giving this sample of the indicated thing previously on the increasing deterioration of the economic and social conditions of the population. Continuing with the above, in 2005 the proportion of urban population with middle level marginalization was 24.8%, low level was 33.5% and very low level 20.9%; while in 2010 the percentages were 35.6%, 20.4% and 19.3%, respectively.

Also, within the challenges to move to sustainability, it is important to highlight the complicated process of transition to democracy, which has a turning point in the 1968 student movement, from which a social process that seeks to establish an electoral system is derived representative of the different political forces of the country. The creation of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) in 1990, the establishment of the Federal Institute of Access to Information in 2003; The constitutional reform in electoral-political matters, published on February 10, 2014, redesigned the Mexican electoral regime and transformed the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) into a national authority: the National Electoral Institute (INE), in order to standardize standards with which federal and local electoral processes are organized to ensure high levels of quality in our electoral democracy. And the Attorney General’s Office (PGR), in order to reaffirm in the national and international spheres, the conviction of the government of the Republic to fight corruption by abusing all impunity practices, on March 12, 2014 published in the Official Gazette of the Federation the Agreement A / 011/14 establishing the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes related to Corruption Facts, which aims at the investigation and prosecution of crimes related to acts of corruption, with the exception of those committed by public servants of the PGR. Which are part of the changes necessary for democratic life.