The concept of sustainable development refers to a form of development policy which seeks to satisfy society's economic, social and environmental needs in terms of well-being in the short, medium and - above all - long term. It is founded on the assumption that development must meet today's needs without jeopardising the welfare of future generations. In practical terms, this means creating the conditions for long-term economic development whilst ensuring due respect for the environment.
Sustainable development is an overarching objective of the EU, which has published its own Sustainable Development Strategy. In the context of cohesion policy, sustainable development is a key principle identified in the Common Provision Regulation, which provides the policy framework for all programmes co-financed by the European Structural and Investment Funds.