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Far from being a burden, sustainable development is an exceptional opportunity - economically, to build markets and create jobs; socially, to bring people in from the margins; and politically, to give every man and woman a voice, and a choice, in deciding their own future.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan


From this continent, the cradle of humanity, we declare, through the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the present Declaration, our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life and to our children.

(Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development, para.6)

Who we are

The United Nations Division for Sustainable Development (DSD) is a part of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, located in New York.

The Division promotes sustainable development as the substantive secretariat to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and through technical cooperation and capacity-building at the international, regional and national levels.

CSD is a high-level forum on sustainable development which reviews progress and monitors and reports on implementation of Agenda 21, the Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA) and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) at the national, regional and international levels. The Commission meets annually, in New York, in a two-year cycle of review and policy.

1992 | The UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED, Earth Summit) (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) establishes linkages among economic and social development and environmental protection and adopts Agenda 21 and the Rio Principles. December 1992 - The UN General Assembly creates the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) to ensure effective follow-up to UNCED.

1994 | The Global Conference on Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) (Bridgetown, Barbados) adopts the BPOA, which sets forth specific actions and measures for the sustainable development of SIDS.

1997 | The special session of the General Assembly Earth Summit + 5 (New York) adopts the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21, including a programme of work of CSD for 1998-2002.

2002 | The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) (Johannesburg, South Africa) evaluates obstacles to progress and results achieved since the 1992 Earth Summit. WSSD adopts the JPOI, which provides for a more focused approach, with concrete steps and quantifiable and time-bound targets and goals.

2005 | At the 10-year review of the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (Port Luis, Mauritius), States adopt the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the BPOA.

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What we do

As secretariat to CSD, the Division for Sustainable Development facilitates and manages the CSD process, including the CSD sessions, the meetings of the CSD Bureau and other intersessional activities, and it prepares the reports of the Secretary-General and background documents for the CSD sessions. In addition to the engagement of the Member States, key to the CSD process are the participation of the major groups, partnerships and the Learning Centre.

Agenda 21 recognizes that broad public participation in decision-making is one of the fundamental prerequisites for the achievement of sustainable development, and identifies specific roles and responsibilities for nine major groups of civil society: women, children and youth, indigenous people, non-governmental organizations, local authorities, workers and trade unions, business and industry, scientific and technological communities, and farmers. The Division supports the participation and contribution of the major groups to the CSD process and facilitates their interactive participation in official sessions of CSD.

Partnerships for sustainable development are voluntary, multi-stakeholder initiatives that contribute to implementation of internationally agreed sustainable development goals. More than 200 partnerships were launched during the WSSD process and the number continues to grow. Partnerships Fairs at CSD sessions offer a venue for showcasing progress in existing partnerships, launching new partnerships and networking among partners. Partnerships may be registered through the DSD website.

The Learning Centre provides training on a practical level on CSD issues. A variety of courses are offered during each CSD session by distinguished professors and practitioners.

The substantive work of the Division largely corresponds to the multi-year Programme of Work adopted by CSD at its 11th session in 2003. Based on two-year cycles of review and policy years, the current programme of work extends from 2004 to 2017, and is organized around clusters of issues.

2004-2005: Water, sanitation and human settlements

2006-2007: Energy for sustainable development, industrial development, air pollution/atmosphere and climate change

2008-2009: Agriculture, rural development, land, drought, desertification and Africa

2010-2011: Transport, chemicals, waste management, mining and 10-year framework of programmes on consumption and production patterns

2012-2013: Forests, biodiversity, biotechnology, tourism and mountains

2014-2015: Oceans and seas, marine resources, small island developing States, and disaster management and vulnerability

2016-2017: Overall appraisal of implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the JPOI

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