Earth Summit History

CONFERENCE ON HUMAN ENVIRONMENT, STOCKHOLM 1972

“Man is unlikely to succeed in managing his relationship with nature unless in the course of it he learns to manage better the relations between man and man.”- From Maurice Strong’s opening statements at the 1972 Stockholm Conference on Human Environment

The 1972 Stockholm Conference put environmental issues on the international agenda for the first time and laid the groundwork for progress in the environment and development. Under the leadership of Canadian Conference Secretary-General Maurice Strong, government officials from industrialized and developing nations met alongside NGOs to create The UN Environment Programme (UNEP). UNEP would address environmental problems humans have created that contribute to economic injustices, mass poverty, and racial prejudices.

 
BRUNTLAND COMMISSION, OUR COMMON FUTURE 1987

“Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

- From Part One of the Brundtland Report, Our Common Future

With the release of Our Common Future, the World Commission on Environment and Development gave sustainable development a concrete definition for the first time. Known more commonly as the Brundtland Commission named for its Chair Gro Harlem Brundtland, the Commission addressed a new generation of environmental issues directly linked to development. The Commission’s 1987 report highlighted how growth rates, in both developing and industrialized nations, would prove to be unsustainable in the long run.

 
UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT AKA EARTH SUMMIT, RIO DE JANEIRO 1992

“Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.”
- Principal 1 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development

Twenty years after the Stockholm conference, UN member states and stakeholders met in Brazil. Canadian Conference Secretary-General Maurice Strong guided the events aiming to hash out the details of a global strategy to reduce human impact on the environment. Governments recognized that increasing consumption goes hand-in-hand with increasing poverty levels, further depleting finite natural resources.

Economic and environmental issues could not be addressed independently. The result of the Rio Conference, known as the Earth Summit 1992, was a series of agreements including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Agenda 21. Agenda 21 is the most comprehensive plan to date outlining necessary actions for sustainable development at local, national and international levels.

 
EARTH SUMMIT +5, NEW YORK 1997

“The special session should take a hard, honest and critical look at what has been done and what has not been done since Rio,” says Mr. Razali Ismail, President of the General Assembly. “We need to recall and re-emphasize the compact that brought about the Earth Summit.”

A special session of the UN General Assembly was held in June 1997. The purpose of the New York summit was to review and accelerate the implementation of Agenda 21 and other agreements made in Rio. Although there had been some successes since the Earth Summit 1992, members who met in New York were frustrated with degrading environmental conditions and rising levels of poverty worldwide. Leaders recommitted to the goals of Agenda 21, and it was agreed that considerable work was yet to be done, especially to address the effects of climate change.

 
WORLD SUMMIT ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, JOHANNESBURG 2002

“From the African continent, the cradle of humankind, we solemnly pledge to the peoples of the world and the generations that will surely inherit this Earth that we are determined to ensure that our collective hope for sustainable development is realized.”
- From the Johannesburg Declaration

 There was broad stakeholder participation in the 2002 summit, from governments, businesses and industries, children and youth, farmers, indigenous people, local authorities, non-governmental organizations, scientific and technological communities, women, workers, and trade unions. The result was the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, which sought to strengthen the implementation of Agenda 21 and the role of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development with special regard to developing countries.