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Q. What is Agenda 21?

Agenda 21, the world's plan of action for sustainable development, was adopted by the international community at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Agenda 21 was a landmark achievement, incorporating environmental, economic and social concerns into a single framework. It contains over 2,500 wide-ranging and achievable recommendations for action on issues such as:
  • reducing wasteful use of natural resources;
  • fighting poverty;
  • protecting the atmosphere, oceans and animal and plant life; and
  • promoting sustainable agriculture practices that will feed the world's ever-growing population.
Click here for a copy of Agenda 21

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Q. Agenda 21 is nearly 10 years old. Is it still relevant?

Agenda 21 remains just as relevant today as it did in 1992. The proposals set out in Agenda 21 are realistic, wide-ranging, and have led to significant benefits for individual communities and business that have taken concrete actions to implement them. Governments have agreed that they do not wish to renegotiate Agenda 21 at the Johannesburg Summit.

Agenda 21 has been complemented and/or strengthened since 1992. For example, at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000, some 150 world leaders agreed on a range of substantial targets, to be achieved within set timeframes. These include cutting by half the proportion of the world's people whose income is less than one dollar a day, and the proportion of those who lack access to safe drinking water.

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Q. What progress has been made on the implementation of Agenda 21?

Awareness about sustainable development and Agenda 21 has increased since 1992. There has been progress in negotiating environmental agreements on chemicals, hazardous wastes, biosafety and climate change, to name a few.

However, we still have a long way to go to integrate environmental and developmental concerns into decision-making in sectors like energy, transport, tourism, agriculture and water resource development. And little has been done to implement the recommendations of Agenda 21 on finance and technology transfer. The Johannesburg Summit will focus on greatly expanding implementation of this important plan of action.

For a more detailed assessment of the implementation of Agenda 21, see the Secretary-General's report.

A press summary of this report is also available.

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24 August 2006