Back to UNESCO WCS Home page


Transition to Sustainability and FORUM BLED'99
Bled (Slovenia) 6-9 June, 1999

Regional European Meeting

Bled Declaration on Sustainable consumption -
a European viewpoint   


Preamble     Back to top

Organized by the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, the Ministry of Science and Technology of the Republic of Slovenia, the Association ’International Science and Technology FORUM BLED and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Center for Sustainable Development, the present meeting was sponsored by All European Academies (ALLEA), the Slovene National Commission for UNESCO, UNESCO’s Regional Office in Venice, Italy (ROSTE), and major national research institutes and industries in Slovenia.

Over 100 participants from 16 European countries, Japan and the USA, as well as from regional and international organizations with high-level expertise in the sectors of science, education, culture, government, industry, civil society and mass media discussed the role of science and the use of scientific knowledge for sustainable development.

The following conclusions and recommendations have been selected for submission to the World Conference on Science (WCS).

Research support for efforts to change the main global problems into developmental opportunities should be strongly emphasized with the aim of replacing:

  • population explosion with reproductive health,
  • poverty and environmental degradation with sustainable human development, and
  • violence with peace and cooperation.

Knowledge and creativity of all, men and women, are needed for achieving these changes. The rich talent of women – making up half of the global population - calls for much stronger attention at the World Conference on Science (WCS) than presented in the Draft Declaration on Science and the Use of Scientific Knowledge.

Science alone cannot solve the major global problems. For economic development, knowledge has to be, further developed into know-how and applied in entrepreneurial activities. For balanced social development, knowledge has to be integrated with culture. Ruthless competition has to be changed into competitive cooperation for achieving common goals based on an increased awareness of social responsibilities.     Back to top

Sustainable development is a common concern for all people involved in sciences, humanities and technologies. It can be achieved only by increasing the quality of processes, products and human relations. It implies responsibility and solidarity. Its major characteristic, sustainable consumption, was defined by ALLEA and actions for the transition to sustainability proposed for the European region (see the Declaration: Sustainable Development: a European Viewpoint).

Research for sustainable development should be oriented towards sustainability in nature and development of eco-technologies to make better use of all resources, thereby enabling the saving of materials and energy, waste minimization and recycling. Also, research should support the implementation of an efficient policy for sustainable development, particularly by defining:

  • major obstacles,
  • basic human needs and their coverage,
  • bearers of responsibility and their role,
  • human and material resources needed,
  • constraints on human capacity for behavioural change and opportunities for lifting these,
  • mechanisms for motivation and creation of a favourable social environment,
  • opportunities for employment and self-employment.

While many voice their concern and express ideas for promoting sustainable development, transition to sustainability requires a change in behaviour on the part of individuals, companies and institutions. Regarding individuals, education is the most effective means in which science must play an essential role. Regarding companies and institutions, transparency and their environmental performance, including compliance with existing regulations, will increase their awareness, sense of responsibility and involvement. Promoting knowledge can create awareness which leads to respect for existing values and development of new values which influence our behaviour and promote joint actions.    Back to top

Awareness of market realities is essential. However, market mechanisms - essential for free society - tend to reflect current situations and be short-sighted. Companies must realize that they can gain without.the environment losing and vice versa. Companies must become part of the solution instead of being part of the problern, by contributing intellectually as well as technically to the transition to sustainability. The environment, which is not only a social but also an economic good, must not be treated as a commodity with no price label.

A longer-term perspective, coupled with developmental strategies, needs to be provided by networking all sources of knowledge, ie. in academia, industry, government and others. Technical support and particularly the culture for intersectorial and interdisciplinary cooperation, need to be developed. The concept of a ‘network society’ should be promoted in research and development. Efficient information theory applications and information technology are essential for this major task.

Three dimensions of science have to be respected:

  • science as a source of knowledge,
  • a science as a condition for development,
  • science as an essential part of culture.

As for the first part, it is an obligation of scientists from all countries not only to contribute to the world treasury of knowledge, but also to help use this knowledge for the benefit of their countries and the global society.

In development, the essential role of science is to recognize and widen the limits of growth. Economic growth must go on to satisfy urgent needs of developing countries. Scientists can contribute to the creation and more just distribution of wealth - without endangering the environment - by developing knowledge-intensive processes and high-quality products.

Greater emphasis on cultural, particularly ethical dimensions of science is called for. Scientific discoveries carry no moral signs. The same knowledge can serve good or evil. It is the cultural dimension of science which combines knowledge with values resulting in wisdom. Ethical principles are a part of the global culture.     Back to top

Creating awareness among the general public of ethical and moral aspects of problems and opportunities is a major task of scientists. In many ethical and technological discussions, scientists have lost credibility. This can be re-built via ethical debates, which should become a pail of everyday life. To pursue their historic function, i.e. scholarly and scientific reflection serving society at large, scientists need a more favourable social environment in which independence in expressing opinions and ideas is guaranteed.

Governments and other political structures should include the scientific community in their activities, particularly in planning development in which risk assessment and ethical considerations should become a part of every step. This could contribute to increasing the trust between different parties.

Scientists need to develop better communication skills for multidisciplinary and multisectorial

cooperation, and for the use of natural language in presenting their proposals and views.

Education is a decisive factor for achieving sustainable development, enabling each member of society to participate actively in civic life. Education for promoting a healthy way of life and a responsible attitude towards the natural environment should become a part of the curriculum at every educational level. However, a much more profound change is needed. The emphasis must he put on combining critical thinking with problem-solving,,innovative skills with entrepreneurial abilities, communication skills with group work and leadership skills, and abilities to master a chosen discipline with the ability to synthesize the approaches of many disciplines.

Universities need to develop as centres of research, education and innovation. Whereas the first two activities are well developed in most European universities, the innovation part still needs to be strenthened. University-industry cooperation has become not only a need, but a major opportunity for applied research, transfer of knowledge and development of entrepreneurship.

Research centres of excellence (independent ones, in academies of science, universities, industry and others) have a crucial mission in setting examples of quality, efficiency and relevance in creating, transferring and applying new knowledge, including training of researchers at the highest level. An important task of these centres is to involve different types of expertise in harmonious cooperation leading to synergetic effects.

It is hoped that this contribution to the WCS will help delegates to clarify elements of the policy for sustainable development and its implementation.

We, the participants in FORUM BLED '99 are aware of the fact that these statements and

Rrecommendations have - like knowledge itself - only potential value. The results of FORUM BLED'99 will be measured by the extent to which these recommendations have been. put into practice. Not recommendations of what should be done, but reports of what has been achieved will be the most valuable input to FORUM BLED 2000.

We, participants in the Regional Meeting on the Transition to Sustainability and FORUM BLED ‘99,

Recognizing that it is necessary to increase research in science and innovative technologies to advance the limits to growth without impairing the environment,

Recognizing that it is becoming increasingly clear that technological innovations alone at the present pace of development will not meet sustainability standards in the foreseeable future

Support the Bled declaration On Sustainable Consumption as one of the necessary measures to achieve sustainable development.


Bled Declaration on Sustainable consumption -
a European viewpoint   
Back to top

  1. Consumption is defined here as the human transformation of materials, fluids and energy. It is of concern when the transformed materials, fluids and energy become less available for future use or negatively impact biophysical systems in such a way as to threaten human health, welfare or other things people value. Unsustainable consumption is a serious impediment to sustainable development.

  2. Drivers of consumption are multiple and complex. They should not be attributed to a single factor such as population growth since they involve economic activity, unequal distribution, technology choices, social values and lifestyle, institutions and policies.

  3. Scientific and technological advances can address food production efficiency, solar energy capture, new energy sources, creation of new materials and better quality products, and clean technologies. Doing more from less is of paramount importance if we are to shift towards sustainable consumption.

  4. Radical attempts to raise awareness about the problem of unsustainable consumption lead to questions about material and non-material values in multicultural societies. Proposals include the introduction of realistic prices having regard to long-term scarcity and environmental impact; adequate laws and regulations for enforcement; reform of indicators of national productivity and quality of life using environmental economics and reformulated tax systems; removal of market distortions introduced by perverse subsidies that damage the environment; and strengthened mechanisms for international co-operation and decision-making.

  5. A special case is Central and Eastern European countries in transition from a planned to a market economy. This change has raised tremendous expectations for rapid economic growth to increase living standards and solve the existing structural problems. Here, too, it is necessary to raise awareness about the sustainability of the projected growth and the necessity of development of sustainable consumption patterns.

  6. Transition to sustainability is the title of an international symposium to be held in Tokyo May 2000. Papers from Europe will address the question of how to move towards sustainable consumption - potentially the most challenging and urgent issue of the next century. The challenge demands the combined efforts of scientists, technologists, economists and social scientists. Science and technology alone cannot meet sustainability standards without altered consumption patterns led by changes in human behaviour.


Contacts    Back to top
For further information, please contact:


Associated Meetings List

Back to UNESCOBack to Natural SciencesBack to WCS