( Article Type: Explanation )
‘Agenda 21’, so named because of its position in the meeting agenda, is a global plan of action for sustainable development agreed to by most United Nations member nations at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (also called the Earth Summit or UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. The member nations agreed to aim for more balanced development in order to minimises any negative environmental impact on the earth.
The Agenda 21 document contains some 40 separate sections of concerns and outlines a total of over 2 500 recommendations. Agenda 21 focuses on partnerships involving the public and all relevant stakeholders to resolve developmental problems and to plan strategically for the future. It also tries to address the practicalities of applying sustainable development principles in human activity and development. The global Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was created in December 1992 to ensure effective follow-up of UNCED, and to monitor and report on the implementation of the agreements at local, national, regional and international levels.
The South African ‘custodian’ for Agenda 21 is the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT). Chapter 28 of Agenda 21 sets out targets and an approach that local authorities in each country should undertake a consultative process with their populations and achieve a consensus on a local Agenda 21 for the community. At the 19th special session of the UN General Assembly (UNGASS), popularly known as Earth Summit + 5, held in June 1997, Thabo Mbeki (the then vicepresident of South Africa) stated that Agenda 21 remained the fundamental programme of action for achieving sustainable development for South Africa.
The 55th General Assembly session decided in December 2000 that the CSD would serve as the central organising body for the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), which was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in August 2002.