Gro Harlem Brundtland has had a long and varied career. She began as a doctor before entering politics. She went on to serve three terms as Prime Minister of Norway before turning her focus to environmental issues.
She earned her medical degree from the University of Oslo in 1963 and two years later she graduated with a master’s degree in public health from Harvard University. She then went on to work in the public school health service in Oslo.
Her interest in politics began at a young age when her parents signed her up as a member of the Norwegian Labour Movement in the children’s section. She has been a member of the party ever since. She became Minister for the Environment in 1974 and deputy leader of the party the following year. She went on to become leader of the party in 1981. Later that year the Prime Minister resigned and Gro became the first woman and youngest person ever to lead the country. She went on to serve two more terms as Prime Minister in 1986 – 1989 and 1990 – 1996. During her time as Prime Minister, she supported other women in politics: her cabinets never had fewer than 8 women in them. She also helped in providing more economic and educational chances for women. It was also during her time that she developed an interest in environmental causes.
In 1983 she was chosen by the UN Secretary-General to chair the newly established World Commission on Environment and Development. In 1987 they published their most notable report, known as the Brundtland Report. This put forward for the first time the idea of sustainable development. The recommendations put forward by the organisation led to the Earth Summit in 1992. This was a major event that saw leaders from over 170 countries visit Rio de Janeiro to discuss ways to stop the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources.
In 1998 she was named the director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO). In this role she would have the ability to address a number of public health issues including the dangers of smoking cigarettes. She also dealt with the major SARS epidemic of 2003 as well as the worldwide issue of AIDS. Today she is a member of The Elders, a group of world leaders that aim to work together on issues of human rights and achieving peace. The organisation was founded by Nelson Mandela and Gro serves as their deputy chair.
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