Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of action on sustainable development for the 21st century, that was drawn up after the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. It is intended to be applied globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, national governments, and groups in all areas whose human activities have an impact on the environment. It is a response to a call for documents and measures on how to create a more sustainable world made by the Brundtlandt Commission five years earlier.
Agenda 21 was adopted by the 178 countries of the UN Rio Conference on Sustainable Development of 1992.
The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was created in December 1992 to ensure effective follow-up of Agenda 21 and to monitor and report on implementation of the agreements at the local, national, regional and international levels.
The Agenda 21 declaration is composed of 40 chapters organised into 4 sections:
- Section 1: Social and Economic Dimensions:
Calls for international cooperation to accelerate sustainable development in developing countries and for the development of relevant domestic policies. Within this section the need to fight poverty, change consumption patterns, address demographic dynamics and sustainability, protect and promote human health conditions, promote sustainable human settlement development and integrate environmental-costs and development aspects into decision-making is also covered.
- Section 2: Conservation and Management of Resources for Development
This section addresses the need to preserve the atmosphere and biological diversity (biodiversity), to fight deforestation and pollution, to protect fragile environments, and to manage biotechnology and radioactive waste.
- Section 3: Strengthening the Role of Major Groups
As a guarantee of future life, sustainable development involves children and youth, women, NGOs, local authorities, businesses and workers. It states the importance of recognising and strengthening the role of indigenous people, their community and farmers in working towards sustainable development.
- Section 4: Means of Implementation
The UN Commission on Sustainable development is in charge of the implementation of Agenda 21. Progress in science, the transfer of technology related to sustainability, education, the organisation and activities of international institutions and, financial mechanisms are listed as strategies to implement sustainable development as stipulated in the original document.
Children, young people and Agenda 21
Chapter 25 of Section III of Agenda 21, titled 'Children & Youth in Sustainable Development' states, 'Youth comprise nearly 30 per cent of the world's population. The involvement of today's youth in environment and development decision-making and in the implementation of programmes is critical to the long-term success of Agenda 21'. The chapter states that the involvement of youth from all over the world in decision making processes is imperative as it affects their lives today and has implications for their futures. In addition it says that beyond their intellectual contribution and their ability to mobilize support, children and young people bring unique perspectives that need to be taken into account.
The chapter sets out two fundamental programme areas for the involvement of children and young people:
A. ADVANCING THE ROLE OF YOUTH AND ACTIVELY INVOLVING THEM IN THE PROTECTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE PROMOTION OF ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
This programme area calls on governments to take measures to ensure the participation of youth in decision making processes concerning the environment; their presence in international meetings; their involvement and the international, regional and local voices of youth in drafting and evaluating environment plans and programmes; access to education and training that reflects needs and incorporates environmental awareness and sustainable development; support of youth initiatives and the involvement of national and local media, non-governmental organizations, businesses and other organizations.
B. CHILDREN IN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
This programme area calls on governments to ensure the survival, protection and development of children and ensure that the interests of children are taken fully into account in the participatory process for sustainable development and environmental improvement.
- Agenda 21, United Nations Conference on Environment & Development, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 3rd to 4th June 1992.
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