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Frequently Asked Questions


What is meant by the term ‘sustainable development’?

There are a range of definitions of sustainable development, and how it is defined will in many cases depend on who you talk to. However, there is a general consensus that sustainable development entails the three pillars for development: economic, social and environmental.

The most commonly used and widely accepted definition of sustainable development is from the Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, which was published in 1987 as the outcome report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED)chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland:

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”

Who and what is a ‘stakeholder’?

In its broadest sense, a stakeholder is any individual, organisation, sector or community who has a ‘stake’ in the outcome of a given decision or process.  In the context of international decision making processes, such as those at the UN level, the term stakeholder usually refers to a global constituency or group such as farmers, NGOs, trade unions and workers etc.  It is also important to note that contrary to the term ‘civil society’, which remains a very vague term in the context of international processes, the term stakeholder can help to define different constituencies within civil society.

What is meant by the term 'stakeholder engagement'?

Stakeholder engagement has become an often used but seldom defined phrase in the context of intergovernmental processes.  Indeed, in a number of contexts it has been used to refer to any relations with external stakeholder groups, which in the context of the UN system, usually means any constituency other than a Member State.  Stakeholder Forum defines the term to mean a series of activities that seek to inform, consult and ensure the participation of stakeholders.  An effective engagement strategy is usually one that defines a set of stakeholder groups, allows more than six months for stakeholders to prepare themselves, provides predictable spaces for stakeholders to formally contribute to the content of the meeting or the working groups, and involves a programme of activities and events to ensure a broad base of participation.  For more information please see the Stakeholder Empowerment Project.

 Who are the Major Groups?

At the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 it was recognised that ‘one of the fundamental prerequisites for the achievement of sustainable development is broad public participation in decision-making’ Agenda 21.  As a result, a number of key stakeholder groups were recognised for achieving sustainable development namely; Business and Industry; Trade Unions; Indigenous Peoples; Children and Youth; Women; Farmers; Local Government; Non-governmental Organisations; Science and Technology community.  These stakeholder groups have become known as the Major Groups, and are officially recognised within the Commission on Sustainable Development, a two year policy cycle at the UN for developing and reviewing policies on sustainable development   In this context, each Major Group has a number of coordinators whose role it is to reach out to their global constituency, prepare them for the coming CSD cycle, and prepare position papers and inputs.  The Major Groups system has also been recognised by a number of other UN processes including UNEP and the UN Forum on Forests.

What are the UN policy processes related to sustainable development?

The main ongoing policy processes relating to sustainable development at a UN level are:

The Commission on Sustainable Development – responsible for enhancing progress towards and reviewing action taken in relation to the commitments outlined in Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (see below)

The Commission on Social Development – this Commission under the UN seeks to focus on primarily social issues that are critical for achieving sustainable development on a global level

The Millennium Development Goals – the MDGs focus more heavily on more traditional development issues – including poverty, hunger, infant mortality etc. However, the 7th MDG commits countries to ‘ensuring environmental sustainability’, and within that includes a target on biodiversity and management of natural resources. There are ad hoc reviews of progress towards them MDGs, and there will be a Millennium Summit  in 2010

Earth Summit 2012 – this will take place in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, twenty years on from the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and ten years on from the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002. Focus areas include the Green Economy, Global Environmental Governance. Stakeholder Forum is conducting stakeholder engagement and outreach for the Summit. For more information please visit

What have been the main developments in sustainable development at the international level?

There have been a series of milestones in sustainable development at the international level. The following are widely considered to be the most significant developments:

1987: The Brundtland Commission, formally known as the World Commission on Environment and Development, publishes ‘Our Common Future’ and identifies the actions required to achieve sustainable development.

1992: World Conference on Environment and Development, aka Rio Earth Summit – Agenda 21 - the outcome document of the Summit -  outlines the policy changes needed and the means of implementation and finance to deliver sustainable development for the 21st century. This also resulted in three important Conventions – the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

2000: Millennium Summit – this conference resulted in the now famous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with the aim of enhancing progress towards major development objectives. There are eight MDGs, and the 7th Goal (MDG7), commits countries to ‘ensuring environmental sustainability’.

2002: The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD): This conference was conceived to enhance global political momentum towards achieving the commitments outlined in Agenda 21 ten years beforehand. It also sought to identify commitments in relation to emerging issues. The outcome document, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) is characterised by its focus on ‘Partnerships’ for delivering sustainable development objectives, as opposed to legally binding commitments or Treaties. These partnerships became known as ‘Type II Partnerships.

2002 – 2012: The Commission on Sustainable Development - responsible for enhancing progress towards and reviewing action taken in relation to the commitments outlined in Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

Earth Summit 2012 – this will take place in Rio de Janerio in 2012, twenty years on from the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and ten years on from the World Summit on Sustianabel Development in 2002. Focus areas include the Green Economy, Global Environmental Governance. Stakeholder Forum is conducting stakeholder engagement and outreach for the Summit. For more information please visit

Does Stakeholder Forum have an agenda?

Stakeholder Forum’s agenda is to advance progress towards internationally agreed commitments on sustainable development. It believes that open, informed and transparent decision-making at a global level is critical in achieving this goal, which is why it focuses on stakeholder engagement. Rather than advancing any one particular stakeholder position, it seeks to identify areas of consensus as well as priority issues identified by a range of stakeholders. It does not advance positions or opinions for which there is little consensus, or where they flagrantly contradict the principles of achieving sustainable development.

What is Stakeholder Forum's internal green policy?

To view Stakeholder Forum's Green Policy click here

How is Stakeholder Forum funded?

Stakeholder Forum is funded by a combination of Foundations, charitable trusts, governments and UN agencies. Stakeholder Forum only takes money from organisations and institutions who can demonstrate a commitment to advancing progress towards the achievement of sustainable development.




Board of Directors

The Stakeholder Forum Board of Directors consists of three non-executive Directors.

The Board defines the vision, values and strategic goals for the organisation. It supports the staff in pursuing these goals and ensuring the ongoing financial security of the organisation.  Please click here to see our current Board of Directors and to find out more.

International Advisory Board

Our International Advisory Board exists to inform and advise Stakeholder Forum on how to support stakeholders and sectors around major intergovernmental process.  It also provides guidance on Stakeholder Forum’s books and publications and makes suggestions for members for project advisory boards.  Membership of the IAB consists of representatives from a range of sectors, constituencies and organisations working in the sustainable development arena at the national and international level.

UK Policy Advisory Panel

The UK Policy Advisory Panel (UK PAP) advises Stakeholder Forum on work at the UK level. In particular, it assists in stakeholder engagement, advises SF on the content and balance of its current and future work programmes, and to the forthcoming international agendas and opportunities for engagement on these issues. As Stakeholder Forum's operations in other parts of the world expand, it is likely that other national or regional policy advisory panels will be established in the future.

Membership of the UK PAP consists of representatives from leading UK stakeholder groups as well as eminent individuals who are concerned with the promotion of sustainable development at the international level.

Charles Nouhan March 2014 4 Cropped BWCharles Nouhan - Chair

As Deputy Director and UK Co-ordinator of Stakeholder Forum (2000 to 2002), Charles worked alongside former Stakeholder Forum Executive Director Felix Dodds and then Chair Derek Osborn in the run-up to the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development. He is a Chartered Waste Manager, currently working in the UK local government waste and resource sector where he develops and oversees recycling and waste minimisation services for households and businesses. As Chair of the Kent Waste Minimisation and Recycling Forum (2006-2010), Charles worked within the team that developed the long-term waste strategy for Kent.

Charles' other activities include developing and leading seminars on the drivers of the climate change debate, teaching the science of climate change and introducing participants to the history, politics, and economics surrounding it. He also speaks to community and business groups on a wide-range of environmental issues.

From 1998 to 1999, Charles was a project manager and advisor to the directors of the International Hotels Environment Initiative and the Resource Centre for the Social Dimensions of Business Practice, both programmes of the International Business Leaders Forum.

Charles holds a Master’s Degree in Environmental Management, and is a Member of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management and Rotary International.


Derek Osborn - Stakeholder Forum President

A former Chair and a former President of Stakeholder Forum, Derek has been a driving force at Stakeholder Forum for nearly 20 years. He served 30 years in the UK Civil Service, the latter 6 years as Director General for Environmental Protection within the Department of the Environment until he retired from the Civil Service in 1996. Derek represented the United Kingdom and was Chair of the Management Board of the European Environment Agency (1995-1999) and was on the Board of the Environment Agency for England and Wales (1996-98), having been involved with its planning and creation. He has been a non-executive director of Severn Trent PLC, and chair of Jupiter Global Green Investment Trust.

In addition to his work with Stakeholder Forum, Derek continuities to share his knowledge and experience as a Board Member of several other promenent environmental organisations.



Jan-Gustav Strandenaes

Jan-Gustav had his debut with the UN and the environment in the 1970s through the Stockholm Conference for Environment in 1972 and has stayed with this arena ever since, worked on disseminating information on and teaching about UN issues during the 80s and early 90s, has followed and worked with the UN Commission for Sustainable Development since 1997, when he that year, was a liaison officer between the UN and the NGO community at the UN headquarters in New York. After his first assignments for the UN in Latin America in the 70’s, Jan-Gustav has worked and lived in Botswana, Uganda, the US and Sweden in addition to Norway. He has extensive NGO experience developed through three decades in almost all continents in the world, speaks several languages and has lectured and given workshops all over the world on the UN, governance, the environment and sustainable development, evaluated projects and organisations, advised governments on relations with civil society, chaired UN meetings and facilitated UN processes, translated several books from English to Norwegian and authored two books and numerous articles on the environment and sustainable development.

He serves on a global civil society committee for UNEP and is presently the global UN CSD NGO Co-Organising Partner coordinating global NGO input into the UN CSD process and into preparatory process for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development to be organised in 2012 in Brazil. Jan-Gustav joined Stakeholder Forum in London in 2011.While also operating as a free-lance adviser, Jan-Gustav is part time employed by the Brussels-based, international NGO, ANPED, as their Policy Adviser, advices on CSR issues for a private sector think tank in Norway, but works out of his home outside Oslo, Norway, when he is not travelling the world, writing, lecturing or otherwise working abroad on environment, governance and sustainability issues while observing and writing on political behaviour. 



Farooq Ullah

Farooq became a member of the Board of Directors after stepping down as the organisation's Executive Director in December 2016. He origianally joined Stakeholder Forum in September 2011 as Head of Policy and Advocacy, after his role with the UK Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) for nearly five years. During that time Farooq worked on strategic assessment at the SDC analysing public policy, sustainable operations and procurement, strategy, governance, and decision-making in order to hold the UK Government to account and improve its sustainability performance. Key elements of this work included policy advice, stakeholder engagement and capability building. In all, Farooq has over ten years of experience at international, national and local levels in public policy and sustainable development, with a further three years of private sector consultancy experience.

Farooq is also a Specialist Advisor to the UK Parliament Environmental Audit Committee, a member of Future Earth’s Engagement Committee, and a member of the Alliance for Future Generations. Additionally, he is a founding member of Brighter Future, a climate-change action group in London.

Farooq holds a BComm in Management Science from the University of Alberta and an MSc in Public Policy from the London School of Economics.


Governance for Global Sustainability

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A Partnership of the Earth System Governance Project and Stakeholder Forum

To strengthen understanding of transformative governance for sustainability through integrating scientific research and multi-stakeholder advocacy.

Healthier Planet - Healthier Lives 

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The SDGs: Connecting Health and the Environment
The analysis concentrated on those environment and health related SDG targets that have close connections to each other so as to show the most important links between the two themes.