The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
(UNCED), also called the Earth Summit, took place in Rio de
Janeiro, Brazil, in June 1992. This largest-ever world meeting
brought Heads of State and government officials together with
international organizations and representatives of non-government
organizations (NGOs) from around the world.
A 700 page global plan of action called Agenda 21 was produced as
a result of the Earth Summit: it represents the consensus reached
by 178 States on how we can secure OUR future. Agenda 21 is like a
blueprint (or maybe we should call it a "greenprint"!) for global
partnership aiming at a high quality environment and a healthy
economy for all peoples of the planet.
Agenda 21 addresses the critical issues we face as a global
community: continuing damage to ecosystems, the worsening of
poverty, hunger and ill health, increasing world population and
illiteracy. Agenda 21 is composed of 40 chapters that identify
each challenge and propose simple realistic solutions towards
sustainable development which is: meeting the needs of the present
without compromising the ability of future generations to meet
their own needs.
Around the world, governments, businesses, non-governmental and
other organizations are already putting the ideas from Agenda 21
to work. It is crucial to maintain the momentum of the Rio process
and implement the agreements that were reached. This task will
require not only the leadership and funding of governments and
business, but also the vision, cooperation and work of every
citizen. Sustainable development cannot
be achieved without all sectors of society working together.
This section focuses on the importance of international
cooperation to implement and speed up our progress toward
sustainable development. It stresses the necessity for the
governments of each individual developed and developing country to
implement new policies, laws and strategies aimed at socially
responsible development. However, governments cannot do it alone,
they will need to work with the private sector, non-governmental
organizations and individuals.
Preamble to Agenda 21: No nation can secure its future
alone, but all countries can assure themselves of a safer, more
prosperous future by dealing with environment and development
issues TOGETHER in global partnership.
The Role of TRADE: Trade and environment should be
mutually supportive since international economic relations and the
economic policies of every country have great relevance to
Combatting POVERTY: Poverty is caused by hunger, illiteracy,
inadequate medical care, unemployment and population pressures.
The poor need access to basic education and health care, safe
water and sanitation, and to resources, especially land.
Changing CONSUMPTION PATTERNS: New concepts of wealth and
prosperity which are more in harmony with the Earth's carrying
capacity need to be developed, particularly in the industrialized
countries. Individuals need to accept that they have choices when
making decisions about their own consumption patterns.
POPULATION Dynamics: The world's population is expected
to exceed 8 billion by the year 2020. Countries need to know their
national population carrying capacity and deal with the
combination of population growth, health of the ecosystem,
technologies and access to resources.
Protecting and Promoting HEALTH: Every year in the
developing world, nearly 15 million children under 15 die from
infection and malnutrition. Human health depends on a healthy
environment, clean water supply, sanitary waste disposal, adequate
shelter and healthy food. The overall goal is health for all by
the year 2000.
Sustainable Human settlements: By the year 2000, half the
world's population will be living in cities. Governments should
reduce migration to the big cities by improving rural living and
see that the homeless get access to land, credit and low-cost
MAKING DECISIONS for Sustainable Development: There is a
tendency to treat the environment as a "free good" and to pass the
cost of environmental damage to other parts of society, other
countries or future generations. Nations and corporate enterprises
should integrate environmental protection and restoration costs in
Protecting the ATMOSPHERE: Our atmosphere is under
increasing pressure from greenhouse gases that threaten to change
the climates and chemicals that reduce the ozone layer. Greater
energy efficiency out of existing power stations is needed as well
as developing new,
renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, ocean and
human power, while reducing reliance on non-renewable sources of
energy such as fossil fuels.
Planning and Management of LAND-USE: Increasing demand
for land and its natural resources is creating competition and
conflicts. Sustainable use and management of land should include
landscape ecological planning, traditional and indigenous land
practices and the active participation in decision-making by
people affected by land planning.
Combatting DEFORESTATION: There is a need for concerted
international research and conservation efforts to control the
harvesting of forests by promoting indigenous technologies and
agroforestry and expanding the shrunken world-forest cover.
Combatting DESERTIFICATION: Desertification and drought
result in poverty and starvation, which brings about more soil
degradation. One of the major tools to fight the spread of deserts
is the planting of trees and other plants that retain water and
maintain soil quality.
MOUNTAIN Development: About 10% of the Earth's population
live in mountain areas, while about 40% occupies watershed areas
below. Measures are needed to protect mountain ecosystems from
erosion, landslides and the rapid loss of habitat, animals and
AGRICULTURE and Rural Development: The world's long-term
ability to meet the growing demand for food and other agricultural
products is uncertain. The priority must be to maintain and
improve the capacity of agricultural lands with new technologies
to support an expanding population.
Conservation of BIODIVERSITY: The use of biological
resources to feed and clothe us, to provide us with housing and
medicines accelerates the loss of bio-diversity. Urgent and
decisive action is
needed to conserve and maintain genes, species and ecosystems.
Sustainable BIOTECHNOLOGY: The success of biotechnology
programs depends on highly trained scientific professionals who
use traditional knowledge and modern technology to change the
genetic material in plants, animals and microbes and create new
products such as vaccines, increase soil fertility and crop
resistance, improve treatment of sewage, etc.
Protection of the OCEANS: Oceans are under increasing
stress from pollution, over-fishing and general degradation.
Nations must control and reduce the pollution of the marine
environment and maintain its
life support capacity.
Protecting and Managing WATER: In the developing world,
one person in three lacks safe drinking water and sanitation ­p;
basic requirements for health and dignity. A cleanup of the most
obvious sources of pollution is needed in order to have safe water
and sanitation for all by the year 2025.
Management of TOXIC CHEMICALS: There are presently no
less than 100,000 commercial man-made chemicals. Countries need to
develop and share expertise for a sound management of toxic
chemicals and prevent illegal international traffic in toxic and
HAZARDOUS WASTES: Developing countries have come under
pressure to accept unpleasant imports of hazardous waste which
pose a risk to people and the environment. Developed countries
have an obligation to promote the transfer of sound technologies
and reduce hazardous waste.
SOLID WASTE and SEWAGE: Growing quantities of garbage and
sewage from our cities pose threats to our health and environment.
An urban waste prevention approach needs to be implemented so that
by 2010, all countries should have national plans for waste
RADIOACTIVE WASTE: The use of radioactive substances is
growing in nuclear power production of electricity, medicine,
research and industry and so is the waste. It is important to
ensure training and financial support to developing countries that
have nuclear programs to ensure safe and responsible
Preamble: Sustainable development is primarily the
responsibility of every government, but the commitment and
involvement of all social groups is critical to the effective
implementation of the objectives, policies and mechanisms agreed
to by all governments at the Earth's Summit.
WOMEN: Governments are urged to give girls equal access to
education, to make health-care systems responsive to women's needs
and to bring women into full participation in social, cultural and
CHILDREN and YOUTH: Children and youth make up nearly
one-third of the world population. Governments are urged to combat
abuse of the rights of youth, especially females in certain
cultures, and to ensure that all children have access to
INDIGENOUS PEOPLE: Indigenous people comprise about 4% of
the world's population and their numbers are decreasing.
Governments and international organizations should protect their
rights and patrimony, recognize their traditional knowledge and
resource management practices and enroll them in full global
NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS: Non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) form a network in both developed and
developing countries and play a vital role in the shaping and
implementation of participatory democracy which is integral to the
implementation of sustainable development.
LOCAL AUTHORITIES: Local authorities, such as municipal
governments, should consult citizens and community, business and
industrial groups on local programs, policies, laws and
regulations to achieve Agenda 21's objectives.
WORKERS and TRADE UNIONS: Workers will be among those
most affected by the changes needed to achieve sustainable
development. Through elected representatives, workers must be
involved in promoting socially responsible economic
BUSINESS and INDUSTRY: Responsible behavior in the
private sector is a prerequisite to achieving sustainable
development. Entrepreneurship can play a major role in improving
the efficiency of resource use, minimizing wastes and protecting
human health and environmental quality.
SCIENCE and TECHNOLOGY: Scientists and technologists
(engineers, architects, industrial designers, urban planners, and
other professionals) have special responsibilities to search for
knowledge and to help protect the biosphere.
FARMERS: Farmers are directly responsible for one third
of the land surface of the Earth. They require economic and
technical assistance that will encourage them to implement
self-sufficient, low-input and low-energy agricultural practices.
Women, who do much of the world's farming, should have access to
tenure and the use of land, to credits and technologies.
FINANCIAL RESOURCES: Developing nations need free trade
and access to markets in order to achieve sustainable economic
growth. Special attention should be given to nations whose
economies are in transition.
Transfer of TECHNOLOGY: Scientific knowledge can help
prevent shortages of energy, water and non-renewable resources.
Developing countries should access environmentally-sound
technology and know-how through a collaborative international
network of laboratories.
SCIENCE for Sustainable Development: In the face of
threats of irreversible environmental damage, improved knowledge
of the Earth's systems is crucial as well as the integration of
the natural, social and engineering sciences.
EDUCATION and PUBLIC AWARENESS: Education gives people
the environmental and ethical awareness, values and attitudes,
skills and behaviour needed for sustainable development.
sustainable development must ultimately involve everyone, access
to education must be increased for all children and adult
illiteracy must be reduced.
CREATING CAPACITY FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: All
countries share the need to strengthen national capabilities.
Developing countries especially need to build their own capacity
to implement Agenda 21 in cooperation with UN organizations,
developed countries and with each other.
INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS: A large
responsibility for following-up with Agenda 21 rests with the
United Nations organizations. It is recommended that the UN create
a high-level Commission on Sustainable Develop-ment which would
draw on expertise of UN organizations, international financial
organizations and NGOs, industry, business and scientific
INTERNATIONAL LAW AND MECHANISMS: It is essential that
all countries and all sectors within countries, participate in the
negotiation of international agreements that create effective
international standards for environmental protection.
SHARING INFORMATION AND DATA FOR DECISION-MAKING: In
order to base decisions on sound information, the availability,
quality and accessibility of data needs to be improved between
developed and developing countries.