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Agenda 21 is a non-binding and voluntarily implemented action plan of the United Nations (UN) related to sustainable development. It was a core work product from the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. Succinctly, Agenda 21 is a comprehensive blueprint of action to be taken globally, nationally, and locally by organizations of the UN, governments, and major groups in every area in which humans directly affect the environment. The "21" in Agenda 21 refers to 21st Century. The blueprint has been affirmed and modified at subsequent UN conferences.

Structure and contents

Agenda 21 has 300 pages (approx 351 in PDF & HTML) divided into 40 chapters, grouped into four main sections:

Section I: Social and Economic Dimensions

This section is directed toward combating poverty, especially for developing countries, changing consumption patterns, promoting health, achieving a more sustainable population and sustainable settlement in decision making.

Section II: Conservation and Management of Resources for Development

Includes atmospheric protection, combating deforestation, protecting fragile environments, conservation of biological diversity (biodiversity), control of pollution and management of biotechnology and radioactive wastes.

Section III: Strengthening the Role of Major Groups

Includes the roles of children and youth, women, NGOs, local authorities, business and workers and strengthening the role of indigenous peoples, their community and farmers.

Section IV: Means of Implementation

Implementation includes science, technology transfer, education, international institutions and financial mechanisms.

Development and evolution of Agenda 21

The full text of Agenda 21 was revealed at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit), held in Rio de Janeiro on June 13, 1992, where 178 governments voted to adopt the program. The final text was the result of drafting, consultation, and negotiation, beginning in 1989 and culminating at the two-week conference. The number 21 refers to an agenda for the 21st Century.

Rio+5 (1997)

In 1997, the General Assembly of the UN held a special session to appraise five years of progress on the implementation of Agenda 21 (Rio +5). The Assembly recognized progress as 'uneven' and identified key trends including increasing globalization, widening inequalities in income and a continued deterioration of the global environment. A new General Assembly Resolution (S-19/2) promised further action.

Rio+10 (2002)

Template:Rellink Template:See Also The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, agreed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Earth Summit 2002) affirmed UN commitment to 'full implementation' of Agenda 21, alongside achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and other international agreements.

Agenda 21 for culture (2002)

Template:Rellink During the first World Public Meeting on Culture, held in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2002, it came up with the idea to draw up document guidelines for local cultural policies, a document comparable to what Agenda 21 meant in 1992 for the environment.[1]

The Agenda 21 for culture is the first document with worldwide mission that advocates establishing the groundwork of an undertaking by cities and local governments for cultural development.

In the various subsections of the Agenda 21 document, the agenda will be carried out through a wide range of sub-programs, and various Acts which will be enacted starting in various G8 countries, etc.

Rio+20 (2012)

Template:Rellink In 2012, at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development the attending members reaffirmed their commitment to Agenda 21 in their outcome document, "The Future We Want".

Implementation of Agenda 21

The commission on Sustainable Development acts as a high level forum on sustainable development and has acted as preparatory committee for summits and sessions on the implementation of Agenda 21. The United Nations Division for Sustainable Development acts as the secretariat to the Commission and works 'within the context of' Agenda 21.

Implementation by member states remains essentially voluntary and its adoption has varied.

Local Agenda 21

Template:See also The implementation of Agenda 21 was intended to involve action at international, national, regional and local levels. Some national and state governments have legislated or advised that local authorities take steps to implement the plan locally, as recommended in Chapter 28 of the document. These programs are often known as 'Local Agenda 21' or 'LA21'.[2] For example, in the Philippines, the plan is 'Philippines Agenda 21' (PA21). The group, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability formed in 1990, today counts members in more than 1200 cities, towns, counties, and their associations in 70 countries comprise, and is widely regarded as an example vehicle promoting the implementation of Agenda 21.[3]

In other countries, opposition to Agenda 21's ideas has surfaced to varied extents. In some cases, opposition has been legislated into several States limiting or forbidding the participation and/or funding of local government activities that support Agenda 21.[4]

Agenda 21 in various countries

The United Nations has a program that monitors and evaluates progress towards the adoption of Agenda 21 across the world.[5] Most country's progress can be found onThe UN's Economic and Social Affairs Website (ESA) under the Division for Sustainable Development page.

Agenda 21 in the United States

The United States is a signatory country to Agenda 21 but since Agenda 21 is not a treaty, it's not possible for it to be formally debated/voted on by the Senate nor introduced/ratified by the executive branch. However, several congressmen and senators have spoken on the the floor of Congress directly in support of Agenda 21, like Representative Nancy Pelosi, Senator John Kerry, and Senator Harry Reid.[6]Within the executive branch of the US government, President H.W. Bush, President Clinton, and President Obama have all signed executive orders that broadly support the tenets of Agenda 21 but do not make reference to Agenda 21 by name.Template:Cn Locally across the United States, over 528 cities are members of ICLEI, an international sustainability organization that broadly helps implement the Agenda 21 and Local Agenda 21 concepts across the world. The United States boasts nearly half of the ICLEI's global membership of 1,200 cities promoting sustainable development at a local level.[7] As a first world nation, the United States features one of the most comprehensively documented Agenda 21 status reports of any global nation. [8]

During the last decade, opposition grew to some aspects of Agenda 21 within the United States at the local, state, and federal levels. Notably, some Tea Party linked activists view Agenda 21 as a conspiracy by the United Nations to deprive individuals of property rights.[9] Several state and local governments have considered or passed motions and legislation opposing Agenda 21.[10][11][12][13][14] Alabama became the first state to prohibit government participation in Agenda 21.[15] The John Birch Society (JBS) is an organization that opposes Agenda 21. [16]

Agenda 21 in other countries

Template:Expand section Australia is a signatory to Agenda 21 and eighty-eight (88) of its municipalities are subscribers to ICLEI, an organization that promotes Agenda 21 globally. Australia's membership is second only to that of United States.[17] Opposition to Agenda 21 in Australia is either not present or not covered in the popular media but there are minor groups, which might be considered by some as fringe entities, like the political group Act Australia which has labeled Agenda 21 "a threat to freedom" and publishes a series of articles against the agenda.[18]

France is a typical western european country with respect to Agenda 21 support. It's national government is a signatory to Agenda 21 and fourteen (14) of its cities have signed on to ICLEI's Agenda 21 and Local Agenda 21. [19] Opposition to Agenda 21 in France can be described as low as there is little negative popular media coverage of Agenda 21, but minor reports do surface and in one case opposers came out to call Agenda 21 a "sham." [20] European countries generally possess well documented Agenda 21 status Reports on the UN's website with france being an exemplary example. [21] France also has national level programs for support of Agenda 21 for all their territories and can be seen as a global leader in the execution of Agenda 21.

In Africa, Agenda 21 support at the national government level is notably present and most African countries are signatories to Agenda 21 but support is generally closely tied to specific environmental challenges that each country is facing.[22] However, there is little mention of Agenda 21 at the local level in indigenous media; not surprising since internet penetration in much of Africa is low and societies there still suffer from a lack of basic utilities, access to technology, and education. Only major municipalities in subsaharan African countries are members of ICLEI. Agenda 21 participation in North African countries mirrors that of Middle eastern participating countries with most countries being signatories but little evidence of internal adoption by local governments. Subsaharan African countries and North African countries generally have poorly documented Agenda 21 status reports. By contrast, South Africa's participation in Agenda 21 mirrors that of modern Europe with twenty-one (21) city members of ICLEI and support of Agenda 21 by the national level government.

See also

  • Ecologically sustainable development
  • EarthCheck
  • Earth Summit
  • Education for sustainable development
  • ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability USA
  • National Strategy for a Sustainable America
  • Polytely
  • Global Map


  • Template:Cite journal
  • Template:Cite journal

External links