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Gro Harlem Brundtland

(b. 1939) Norwegian Labour stateswoman


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(b. 20 Apr. 1939).

Prime Minister of Norway 1981, 1986–9, 1990–6

Early career

Born in Oslo as the daughter of a former government minister, she studied medicine in Oslo and at Harvard and became a Medical Officer of Health in Oslo. A member of the Labour Party, she served as Minister for Health and Social Security (1965–7), and Minister for the Environment (1974–9). She became deputy leader of her party in 1975, but did not enter the Storting (parliament) until 1977.

In office

She was elected party leader in 1981, when she also became the country's first woman Prime Minister. She led a minority government during her first two periods in office, but nevertheless managed to introduce several controversial economic reforms to reduce the country's budget deficit. She received a worldwide reputation as a leading spokeswoman on issues regarding the environment, the equality of women, and international cooperation. In her report as chairwoman of the UN World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) she introduced the concept of sustainable growth. This discounted a country's industrial growth by its social, environmental, and cultural costs, so that it described the optimal rate of growth at which environmental and other negative side effects are kept to a minimum. Her report was widely received, and triggered the 1992 environmental conference in Rio de Janeiro. She was also a driving force behind the 1995 UN women's conference in China. She was a passionate advocate of Norway's participation in the process of European integration. However, her application for entry into the EU was rejected in a referendum in 1994. Despite this political blow, her popularity remained high at home and abroad. She stepped down in 1996, and two years later she became the Director‐General of the World Health Organization.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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