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Gro Harlem Brundtland

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Preceded by
Kare Willoch

Hanne Harlem


Succeeded by
Thorbjorn Jagland

Gro Brundtland

Preceded by
Jan Syse

Succeeded by
Jan Syse

Jorgen Brundtland

Gro Harlem Brundtland FileGro Harlem Brundtland 2009jpg Wikimedia Commons

Arne Olav Brundtland (m. 1960)

Madam Prime Minister: A Life in Power and Politics

University of Oslo, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University

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Kare Willoch, Jens Stoltenberg, Thorbjorn Jagland, Eskil Pedersen, Einar Gerhardsen

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Gro Harlem Brundtland ([ˈɡruː ˈhɑːɭem ˈbrʉntlɑnː]; born Gro Harlem, 20 April 1939) is a Norwegian politician, who served three terms as Prime Minister of Norway (1981, 1986–89, and 1990–96) and as Director-General of the World Health Organization from 1998 to 2003. She is also known for having chaired the Brundtland Commission which presented the Brundtland Report on sustainable development.


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Educated as a physician, Brundtland joined the Labour Party and entered the government in 1974 as Minister of the Environment. She became the first female Prime Minister of Norway on 4 February 1981, but left office already on 14 October 1981; she returned as Prime Minister on 9 May 1986 and served until 16 October 1989. She finally returned for her third term on 3 November 1990. From 1981 to 1992 she was leader of the Labour Party. After her surprise resignation as Prime Minister in 1996, she became an international leader in sustainable development and public health, and served as Director-General of the World Health Organization and as UN Special Envoy on Climate Change from 2007 to 2010. She is also deputy chair of The Elders and a former Vice-President of the Socialist International.

Gro Harlem Brundtland Gro Harlem Brundtland The Elders

Brundtland belonged to the moderate wing of her party and supported Norwegian membership in the European Union during the 1994 referendum. As Prime Minister Brundtland became widely known as the "mother of the nation." Brundtland received the 1994 Charlemagne Prize, and has received many other awards and recognitions.

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Early life

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Brundtland was born in Oslo in 1939, the daughter of physician and politician Gudmund Harlem.

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In 1963, Brundtland graduated with a medical degree, a from the University of Oslo. She took her master's degree at Harvard University in 1965, as a Master of Public Health.

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From 1966 to 1969, she worked as a physician at the Directorate of Health (Helsedirektoratet), and from 1969 she worked as a doctor in Oslo's public school health service.

Political career

She was Norwegian Minister for Environmental Affairs from 1974 to 1979.

Prime Minister of Norway

Brundtland became Norway's first female Prime Minister in 1981. She served as Prime Minister from February to October.

Brundtland became Norwegian Prime Minister for two further, and more durable, terms. The second ministry was from 9 May 1986 until 16 October 1989 and this cabinet became known worldwide for its high proportion of female ministers: nearly half, or eight of the total eighteen ministers, were female. The third ministry was from 3 November 1990 to 25 October 1996.

Brundtland became leader of the Labour Party in 1981 and held the office until resigning in 1992, during her third term as Prime Minister. In 1996, she resigned as Prime Minister and retired completely from Norwegian politics. Her successor as both Labour Party leader in 1992 and as Prime Minister in 1996 was Thorbjørn Jagland.

International career

In 1983, Brundtland was invited by then United Nations Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar to establish and chair the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), widely referred to as the Brundtland Commission. She developed the broad political concept of sustainable development in the course of extensive public hearings, that were distinguished by their inclusiveness. The commission, which published its report, Our Common Future, in April 1987, provided the momentum for the 1992 Earth Summit/UNCED, which was headed by Maurice Strong, who had been a prominent member of the commission. The Brundtland Commission also provided momentum for Agenda 21.

During her third ministry, the Norwegian government in 1993 took the initiative to sponsor secret peace talks between the Government of Israel led by Yitzchak Rabin - like Brundtland, leader of a Labour Party - and the PLO led by Yasser Arafat. This culminated with the signing of the Oslo Accords. For several years afterwards Norway continued to have a high-profile involvement in promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace, though increasingly displaced by the United States from its role as the mediator.

After the end of her term as PM, Brundtland was then elected Director-General of the World Health Organization in May 1998. In this capacity, Brundtland adopted a far-reaching approach to public health, establishing a Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, chaired by Jeffrey Sachs, and addressing violence as a major public health issue. Brundtland spearheaded the movement, now worldwide, to achieve the abolition of cigarette smoking by education, persuasion, and increased taxation. Under her leadership, the World Health Organization was one of the first major employers to make quitting smoking a condition of employment. Under Brundtland's leadership, the World Health Organization was criticized for increased drug-company influence on the agency.

Brundtland was recognized in 2003 by Scientific American as their 'Policy Leader of the Year' for coordinating a rapid worldwide response to stem outbreaks of SARS. Brundtland was succeeded on 21 July 2003 by Jong-Wook Lee. In 1994, Brundtland was awarded the Charlemagne Prize of the city of Aachen.

In 2006 Brundtland was a member of the Panel of Eminent Persons who reviewed the work of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). In May 2007, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named Brundtland, as well as Ricardo Lagos (the former president of Chile), and Han Seung-soo (the former foreign minister of South Korea), to serve as UN Special Envoys for Climate Change.

Brundtland's hallmark political activities have been chronicled by her husband, Arne Olav Brundtland, in his two bestsellers, Married to Gro (ISBN 82-516-1647-6) and Still married to Gro (ISBN 82-05-30726-1).

In 2007, Bruntland was working for Pepsi as a consultant.

Gro Harlem Brundtland is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, an international network of current and former women presidents and prime ministers whose mission is to mobilize collective action on issues of critical importance to women and equitable development.

Brundtland is also a member of the Club of Madrid, an independent organization of former leaders of democratic states, which works to strengthen democratic governance and leadership.

Brundtland serves as Deputy Chair of The Elders, a group of world leaders convened by Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel and Desmond Tutu in order to tackle some of the world's toughest problems. Mandela announced the launch of the group on 18 July 2007 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Brundtland has been active in The Elders’ work, participating in a broad range of the group’s initiatives. She has travelled with Elders delegations to Cyprus, the Korean Peninsula, Ethiopia, India and the Middle East. Brundtland has also been involved in The Elders’ initiative on child marriage, including the founding of Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage.

Brundtland has attended the Bilderberg meetings.

Assassination attempt by Breivik

Brundtland narrowly escaped assassination by Anders Behring Breivik on 22 July 2011. She had been on the island of Utøya hours before the massacre there to give a speech to the AUF camp; Breivik stated that he originally intended Brundtland to be the main target of the attack (along with Eskil Pedersen and Jonas Gahr Støre), but he had been delayed while travelling from Oslo. Breivik arrived on Utøya about two hours after Brundtland had left.

During his trial in 2012, Breivik revealed detailed assassination plans for Brundtland. He told the court that he had planned to handcuff her and then record himself reading out a prepared text detailing her "crimes", before decapitating her on camera using a bayonet and uploading the footage to the internet. Breivik said that while Brundtland had been his main target, he had still planned to massacre everyone else on the island.

Personal life

She married Arne Olav Brundtland on 9 December 1960. They had four children; one is now deceased. They own a house in the south of France.

Health issues

Brundtland was operated on for uterine cancer in 2002 at Oslo University Hospital, Ullevål. In 2008 it became known that during 2007 she had received two treatments at Ullevål, paid for by Norwegian public expenditures. Since she had previously notified the Norwegian authorities that she had changed residence to France, she was no longer entitled to Norwegian social security benefits. Following media attention surrounding the matter, Brundtland decided to change residence once more, back to Norway, and she also announced that she would be paying for the treatments herself. Brundtland has claimed to suffer from electrical sensitivity which causes headaches when someone uses a mobile phone near her.


Brundtland has received many awards and honours, including

  • Indira Gandhi Prize (1988)
  • Charlemagne Prize (1994)
  • Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture (2008)
  • Tang Prize in Sustainable Development (2014)
  • Honorary member of the Norwegian Association for Women's Rights (2016)
  • Member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters
  • The National German Sustainability Award
  • References

    Gro Harlem Brundtland Wikipedia

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