Revisiting Brundtland Report 1987

Khor Reports: The risks in unequal trade deals has long been recognized, even in the earliest days of the international push for change for sustainability in its broadest sense (inter-generational equity and more) . The UN’s "Our Common Future" / Brundtland Report of 1987 was still heavy on a government role and the principle of “sharing” and conflict mitigation between unequal institutions in the developed world and the developing world. This thinking seems of lower currency in the 2000s sustainability movement (or not highly practiced), including in the sector of palm oil sustainability, which has been narrowly driven on the basis of eco-certification or labeling. The narrower approach is associated with greater competition among NGOs for control of market share in eco-labels and market access policies, as seen across various agro-commodities. In palm oil, top Indonesia policy makers and industry associations are stepping up on regulatory changes and plans for national spatial landuse mapping. Is this the return of government to mediate the uneven negotiations of the big B2NGO2B deal phase? Also witness Australia state government moves to raise the standard on NGO claims and reduce the problem of market boycotts; /khorreports-palmoil/2014/04/australia-resource-industries-seek-ban.html.

The Brundtland Report states: “Effective cooperation with transnational corporations (TNCs) is possible in creating equal conditions for all parties. This can be attained by a strict observance of the principle of sovereignty of the host country. For their part, many corporations have recognized the need to share managerial skills and technological know-how with host country nationals and to pursue profit-seeking objectives within a framework of long-tern sustainable development....But mutual suspicions still exist, usually because of an asymmetry in bargaining power between large corporations and small, poor, developing countries. Negotiations are often made one sided by a developing country's lack of information, technical unpreparedness, and political and institutional weaknesses. Suspicions and disagreements remain, particularly concerning the introduction of new technologies, the development of natural resources, and the use of the environment. If multinationals are to play a larger role in development, these conflicts and suspicions must be reduced.....Strengthening the bargaining posture and response of developing countries vis-a-vis transnationals is therefore critical. Where nations lack indigenous capacity to deal with large TNCs, regional and other international institutions should assist” (Brundtland and Khalid 1987, 76).

Brundtland, Gro Harlem , and Mansour Khalid. 1987. "Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future (Brundtland Report)." United Nations. Accessed April 12, 2014. http://www.un-documents.net/our-common-future.pdf.