History of the Citizens Network [work in progress]

Time for Change1991

From the Preface to Time for Change: A New Approach to Environment and Development, Hal Kane and Linda Starke, Island Press, Washington, DC, 1991:

The U.S. Citizens Network on the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) grew out of a meeting of some 200 representatives of U.S. non-governmental organizations (NGOs) held in Washington, D.C., in October 1990. With less than two years left before the U.N. meeting in Rio, which many felt to be the most important gathering of its kind in our time, it twas clear that the NGO community could benefit from sharing its views on the many vital issues to be addressed at the Earth Summit, and from presenting these views to the government and as broad a range of people as possible. The Rio meeting has been the focus of a great deal of interest in much of the world, but the American public knows little of its import yet. In part, this is due to the little substantive attention it has received from the U.S. government and its many agencies, all of which should be concerned about their impact on our environment and development future.

Since its enthusiastic launch in late 1990, the Network has worked with hundreds of groups around the United States to bring the Rio meeting to the public's attention and to let the U.S. government know the full range of views on issues to be addressed there. It has participated in the five Round Tables held by the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality to discuss the draft of the government's report to the UNCED. More important, perhaps, it has brought together groups from around the country who did not realize how much they had in common, or how much they should. In that sense it is truly a network, not a lobbying group on single topics or just a discussion group on the U.S. government's report.

Cooperation and learning about each other's viewpoints is what the Network is all about. That work will continue through the Earth Summit in June 1992, and will no doubt forge new alliances to ensure that sustainable development--the rallying cry of groups around the world--remains at the top of the U.S. agenda....

The Citizens Network includes dozens of organizatoins and hundreds of individuals, and this book [Time for Change] does not try to cover their wide-ranging views on the topics it addresses. But we endorse fully the principle on which it is based--the all-important connections among our economic, environmental, social and cultural systems.

Frances Spivy-Weber
Chair, Administrative Committee
U.S. Citizens Network

Washington, D.C.
September 30, 1991


Earth Summit logoOn June 3-14, 1992, the United Nations held the biggest gathering in history of government officials, business representatives, and civil society organizations and individuals meeting to date on sustainable development. This was the year of the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The meeting was chaired by Maurice Strong, who at the time pointed out "this is a launching pad, not a quick fix."

The topics were biodiversity, climate, pollution, waste, poverty, health, consumption, production, and a host of other items making up what was often described as a blueprint for the 21st century.

The meeting was attended by heads of state or senior officials from 179 countries, 2,400 NGO delegates at the official session and 17,000 at the parallel NGO Global Forum, with the story covered by 8,000 journalists. The New York Times described the meeting then as "a new prominence and an effective blandness."

Kathy Session describes the official outcomes of the Earth Summit as including three agreements and two international conventions. Between the official meeting and the NGO Global Forum a range of documents and agreements were produced.

CitNet plays a key role in the NGO Global Forum with members actively participating in the development of the People's Treaties, integrating the various views and priorities of NGOs from the perspective of citizens, public interest groups and grassroots organizations -- a somewhat different perspective from the official documents, which some believe were more compromised because of the political influence of other global players.


This was the year in which the UN Commission on Sustainable Develoment (CSD) was created to monitor and facilitate discussion and implementation of the Agenda 21 commitments made the year before at the Earth Summit in Rio.

This was also the year in which President Clinton launched the President's Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD).


CitNet General Assembly in Davenport, Iowa.

Population Conference, in Cairo.


UN Summit on Social Development, in Copenhagen.


National Strategy Meeting, held in Washington, DC.


International Sustainable Communities Forum, held in New York.

Rio+5 meeting. UN General Assembly Special Session  (UNGASS). The 5-year review of progress.

Conference on Climate Change, in Kyoto.


National Town Meeting for a Sustainable America, held in Detroit. Last meeting of the PCSD. CitNet Campaign for a U.S. Office of Sustainable Development.


World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Citizens Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

US Caucus at Johannesburg.









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