Development is considered sustainable when it meets "the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" – according to the definition in the UN report of the so-called Brundtland Commission in 1987 which remains relevant to this day. Contrary to wide-spread opinion, sustainability goes beyond environmental protection and addresses the connection and equal implementation of environmental, economic and social goals (Brundtland report, 1987).
The objective of human rights is to ensure a person can live an autonomous life, in dignity, equality and freedom, including the freedom from fear and want. Human rights and sustainability are therefore complementary: Without the sustainable use of resources, human rights are futile, for example if water resources are depleted. At the same time, human rights are indispensable to shape the process of sustainable development, for instance to determine priorities for the use of water.