Campaign for Sustainability: Agenda 21 and the UN

Campaign for a National Sustainability Strategy

Agenda 21, the UN and the call for national sustainability strategies

At the Earth Summit

This idea of a National Sustainability Strategy is not new. The Citizens Network has been calling for this since the 1992 Earth Summit, where President George Bush, Sr. signed the Agenda 21 agreement. This agreement included the statement that "governments...should adopt a national strategy for sustainable development." (Section 8.7, Agenda 21).

Agenda 21 described elements of this stratey, that it should:

Agenda 21

  • Build upon and harmonize the various sectoral economic, social and environmental policies and plans that are operating in the country.
  • Incorporate the experience gained through existing country-based planning exercises such as national reports [on progress towards
    sustainable development], national conservation strategies and environment action plans.
  • Ensure socially responsible economic development while protecting the resource base and the environment for the benefit of future generations.
  • Be developed through the widest possible participation.
  • Be based on a thorough assessment of the current situation and initiatives.

National strategies at the World Summit on Sustainable Development

In 2002, the United Nations conducted its 10-year review of progress on the Agenda 21 plan and commitments, culminating in the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johnanessburg, South Africa. The Summit produced the Johanessburg Plan of Implementation, which called on states to

continue to promote coherent and coordinated approaches to institutional frameworks for sustainable development at all national levels, including through, as appropriate, the establishment or strengthening of existing authorities and mechanisms necessary for policy-making, coordination and implementation and enforcement of laws

and asked that national governments

Take immediate steps to make progress in the formulation and elaboration of national strategies for sustainable development and begin their implementation by 2005

These steps include:

  • Enacting and enforcing clear and effective laws that support sustainable development.
  • Strengthening governmental institutions, including by providing necessary infrastructure and promoting transparency, accountability and fair administrative and judicial institutions.
  • Promoting public participation, including through measures that provide access to information regarding legislation, regulations, activities, policies and programmes.
  • Fostering full public participation in sustainable development policy formulation and implementation, with women able to participate fully and equally in policy formulation and decision-making.
  • Promoting the establishment or enhancement of sustainable development councils and/or coordination structures at the national level, including at the local level, in order to provide a high-level focus on sustainable development policies.
  • Promoting multi-stakeholder participation.
  • Promoting cross-sectoral approaches in the formulation of strategies and plans for sustainable development, such as, where applicable, poverty reduction strategies, aid coordination
  • Encouraging participatory approaches
  • Enhancing policy analysis, management capacity and implementation capacity, including mainstreaming a gender perspective in all those activities.
  • Enhancing the role and capacity of local authorities as well as stakeholders in implementing Agenda 21 and the outcomes of the Summit and in strengthening the continuing support for local Agenda 21 programmes and associated initiatives and partnerships
  • Encouraging partnerships among and between local authorities and other levels of government and stakeholders to advance sustainable development as called for in, inter alia, the Habitat Agenda.


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