The two-week Earth Summit was the climax of a process, begun in December 1989, of planning, education and negotiations among all Member States of the United Nations, leading to the adoption of Agenda 21, a wide-ranging blueprint for action to achieve sustainable development worldwide. At its close, Maurice Strong, the Conference Secretary-General, called the Summit a historic moment for humanity. Although Agenda 21 had been weakened by compromise and negotiation, he said, it was still the most comprehensive and, if implemented, effective programme of action ever sanctioned by the international community. Today, efforts to ensure its proper implementation continue, and they will be reviewed by the UN General Assembly at a special session to be held in June 1997.
The Earth Summit influenced all subsequent UN conferences, which have examined the
relationship between human rights, population, social development, women and human
settlements and the need for environmentally sustainable development. The World
Conference on Human Rights, held in Vienna in 1993, for example, underscored the right of
people to a healthy environment and the right to development, controversial demands that
had met with resistance from some Member States until Rio.
Some 2,400 representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were
present at the UN conference; 17,000 people attended the parallel NGO Forum. NGOs were
present at the Earth Summit to put their views across and emphasise the roles all parts of
society have to play in moving towards sustainable development. Their involvement
reflected the importance attached to the role of civil society in sustainable development,
a role that continues to be emphasized by the Commission on Sustainable Development.
Agenda 21 identifies nine "major groups" as partners with Governments in the global implementation of the Rio agreements. They are:
Agreements reached at Rio and since
Agreement was reached at Rio on a number of documents, Conventions and processes:
Agenda 21 - negotiated by governments during preparation for the Earth Summit, Agenda 21 does not represent any binding commitment by governments, but constitutes a 'blueprint for sustainable development'. Its 40 chapters covered most areas of human activity, with some notable omissions (energy, tourism, transport) which have been revisited this year.
The Rio Declaration - a set of 27 Principles endorsed by governments supporting 'the goal of establishing a new and equitable global partnership through the creation of new levels of co-operation among States, key actors of societies and people'
The Framework Convention on Climate Change, a legally binding agreement; the parties to the Convention meet to agree shared targets and commitments (so-called "Conferences of the Parties").
The Convention on Biological Diversity, a legally binding agreement; the parties to the Convention meet to agree shared targets and commitments (so-called "Conferences of the Parties").
The UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) - set up after the Earth Summit as the focus within the UN System for monitoring implementation of the Rio agreements. Intended as a catalyst for action at national and international levels
Related international agreements reached since 1992 include
the Convention to Combat Desertification (1994),
the Conference on Small Island Developing States (1994),
the Conference on Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (1995), and
the CSD Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (1996 - 7).
High-level Advisory Board on Sustainable Development (concluded in 1997)
* taken and adapted from: