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UNCED Conference
Conference United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 June 1992
Informal name The Earth Summit
Host Government Brazil
Number of Governments participating 172, 108 at level of heads of State or Government
Conference Secretary-General Maurice F. Strong, Canada
Organizers UNCED secretariat
Principal themes Environment and sustainable development
NGO presence Some 2,400 representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs); 17,000 people attended the parallel NGO Forum
Resulting document Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the Statement of Forest Principles, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity
Follow-up mechanisms
Follow-up mechanisms: Commission on Sustainable Development; Inter-agency Committee on Sustainable Development; High-level Advisory Board on Sustainable Development
Previous conference UN Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm (1972)



The Earth Summit

The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro was unprecedented for a UN conference, in terms of both its size and the scope of its concerns. Twenty years after the first global environment conference, the UN sought to help Governments rethink economic development and find ways to halt the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources and pollution of the planet. Hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life were drawn into the Rio process. They persuaded their leaders to go to Rio and join other nations in making the difficult decisions needed to ensure a healthy planet for generations to come.

The Summit’s message — that nothing less than a transformation of our attitudes and behaviour would bring about the necessary changes — was transmitted by almost 10,000 on-site journalists and heard by millions around the world. The message reflected the complexity of the problems facing us: that poverty as well as excessive consumption by affluent populations place damaging stress on the environment. Governments recognized the need to redirect international and national plans and policies to ensure that all economic decisions fully took into account any environmental impact. And the message has produced results, making eco-efficiency a guiding principle for business and governments alike.
  • Patterns of production — particularly the production of toxic components, such as lead in gasoline, or poisonous waste — are being scrutinized in a systematic manner by the UN and Governments alike;

  • Alternative sources of energy are being sought to replace the use of fossil fuels which are linked to global climate change;

  • New reliance on public transportation systems is being emphasized in order to reduce vehicle emissions, congestion in cities and the health problems caused by polluted air and smog;

  • There is much greater awareness of and concern over the growing scarcity of water.


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.


 

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© Copyright United Nations 23 May 1997 | Department of Public Information | Revised 23 May 1997