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Who's Who in Environmental Science

Gro Harlem Brundtland

Harlem Brundtland

Gro Harlem Brundtland, born 1939, is one of the most important figureheads and leaders of the environmental movement. In 1987, she chaired the famous World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), known more commonly as the Brundtland Commission, for the UNO, which established Sustainable Development as a central goal of development and environmental protection.

    • Nationality
    • Norwegian

    • Subject
    • Environmental Politics

    • Fields
    • climate change, development, health

    • Distinction/Qualifications
    • Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture, 2008.

      Tang Prize in Sustainable Development, 2014 (first recipient).

      Policy Leader of the Year, 2003, Scientific American.

    • Positions
    • Prime Minister of Norway 3 times: 1981 (first female), 1986-89, 1990-96.

      Norwegian Minister for Environmental Affairs, 1974 - 1979.

      Special Envoy on Climate Change with the United Nations

      Deputy Chair of The Elders

      Vice-President of Socialist International

      Director General of the UN World Health Organization, 1998 - 2003

      Member of the Norwegian Humanist Association (Human-Etisk Forbund)

      Member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters

      Chairperson of the WCED, World Commission on Environment and Development (aka Brundtland Commission).

      Member of the Council of Women World Leaders, dealing with equitable development and women's issues.

    • Publications
    • Our Common future, report of the WCED, World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987. This report introduced sustainable development, and created the basis for the 1992 UNCED Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It was also the blueprint for Agenda 21.

      Married to Gro and Still Married to Gro, by Arne Olav Brundtland.

      Madam Prime Minister: A Life in Power and Politics, 2002, Autobiography.

      She was born Gro Harlem, and took on her husband's surname. She studied medicine at the University of Oslo (1963), and a Master of Public Health at Harvard University (1965). Her first career was as a doctor at the Directorate of Health in Oslo, gaining experience in the city's public school health service.

      She became minister for the environmental affairs, then prime minister for three terms. In these roles she brokered peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine in the Oslo Accords, and promoted women to greater participation in politics.

      She is a driving force in the series of UN conferences and commissions. In 1986-7, she chaired the WCED, World Commission on Environment and Development, which everyone knows as the Brundtland Commission. The Commission's report Our Common Future was a beacon of clarity and inspiration for a generation of environmentalists, leading to the Earth Summit and Kyoto Protocol, and other ground-breaking international agreements.

      As an encore, she became Director-General of the World Health Organization in 1988, which was distinctive in its broad inclusiveness, such as bringing in the economist Jeffrey Sachs to chair the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health. She took an aggressive stance against tobacco usage.