Agenda 21

Agenda 21, agreed to at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (more commonly known as the Earth Summit) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, was the nonbinding plan of action that identified and prioritized environmental, financial, legal, and institutional issues to serve as a guide for countries to direct their resources and energies. Among Agenda 21's most notable elements were calls for the creation of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), whose functions include monitoring the agenda's implementation and conducting negotiations toward a treaty on desertification , a high-priority concern of many developing countries.

The language of Agenda 21 accommodated the more developed countries' preferences for limiting environmental damage, as well as the developing countries' concerns about economic growth and foreign assistance in support of that growth. Critics, however, contend that the agenda's attention to global warming, population growth, and species extinction demonstrates its partiality to the concerns of developed nations.

At the time of a subsequent Earth Summit, Rio + 5, in 1997, the consensus was that some progress had been made in terms of institutional development, international consensus-building , public participation, and private-sector actions, and that, as a result, a number of countries had succeeded in curbing pollution and slowing the rate of resource degradation. But, despite this progress, the global environment continued to deteriorate. Advocates of Agenda 21 persevere; they agreed that the CSD would be the central organizing body for Rio + 10, officially called the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development.



Bryner, Gary C. (1999). "Agenda 21: Myth or Reality." In The Global Environment: Institutions, Law, and Policy, edited by Norman J. Vig and Regina S. Axelrod. Washington, DC: CQ Press.

Dodds, Felix, ed. (1997). The Way Forward: Beyond Agenda 21. London: Earthscan.

Michael G. Schechter

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