Seventeenth Session

Rome, 31 March-4 April 2003

Follow-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD)

1. The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), held in Johannesburg, South Africa, (26 August-4 September 2002) made notable achievements in translating the basic principles agreed upon in Agenda 21, ten years ago in Rio de Janeiro, into attainable targets with timetables and commitments.

2. The WSSD produced negotiated outcomes among states (Type I outcomes) and non-negotiated outcomes involving governments, major groups, civil society and international agencies (Type II outcomes). The negotiated outcomes included the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development and the Plan of Implementation (PoI). The Declaration reaffirmed the agreements of the Rio Summit and the urgent need for action to attain sustainable development worldwide.

3. The WSSD PoI achieved a high level of specificity in expected outcomes by assigning targets and timetables in areas ranging from poverty eradication to access to water resources and sanitation, energy and health, fisheries and forestry, as well as biodiversity. Many of these targets complement those established by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and link them to the management of the natural resource base with a view to enhancing integration of the economic, social and environmental 'pillars' of sustainable development. The PoI time-bound targets include: halving the proportion of the world’s population that lives on less than US$1 a day by 2015 in line with the first MDG; halving the proportion of people without basic sanitation by 2015; setting a new target for restoration of depleted fish stocks by 2015; reducing biodiversity loss by 2010, and using and producing chemicals in ways that do not harm human health and environment by 2020.

4. The WSSD PoI underscored FAO’s role at the intergovernmental level in fisheries and recognized the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and its International Plans of Action. The critical role, under FAO’s chairmanship, of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests in support of the United Nations Forum on Forests was emphasized. The PoI called for ratification and implementation of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Specific elements of the Plan falling within the purview of FAO's work include the call for development of integrated water resources management and water efficiency plans by 2005 to meet future food production needs, especially in developing countries; the role of renewable energies in poverty reduction; and actions on HIV/AIDS, women's empowerment, and information for decision making. FAO's contributions to the WSSD preparatory process and the Summit itself can be accessed on the FAO website at and found in summary form in the information document on the WSSD submitted to the one-hundred and twenty-third FAO Council (CL 123/INF/19; Rome, 28 October-2 November 2002).

5. Through Type II outcomes, the Johannesburg Summit took a different approach to invigorating actions by various stakeholders, in addition to governments. Partnerships/Initiatives (P/I) were launched by governments, international agencies, the private sector, NGOs and civil society organizations and others to carry out actions to attain sustainable development. Even though not all partnerships are new, many of them are expected to bring new and additional resources to the priority actions agreed in the WSSD PoI and to enhance implementation by bringing diverse stakeholders together. FAO was a principal actor in the launching of key Partnerships/Initiatives at Johannesburg. Examples of such initiatives include the Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD) Initiative, the International Partnership for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions, and the FAO/UNESCO1 Flagship on Education for Rural People. Since P/I is an ongoing process, FAO could launch others in areas of agriculture, forestry and fisheries where its mandate and comparative advantage permit it to play a lead role in the UN system and globally.

6. Another important non-negotiated outcome of the WSSD was the UN Secretary-General’s initiative identifying five key thematic areas - Water, Energy, Health, Agriculture and Biodiversity (WEHAB) - as a framework for action as part of the implementation process of the PoI. During the Summit's plenary debate on this initiative, FAO called attention to the Anti-Hunger Programme (AHP), which was used as a major input into the WEHAB Framework for Action on Agriculture. The AHP will serve as a conceptual framework for action with regard to the various FAO programmes as well as a mechanism to provide FAO’s input to the implementation of the MDGs. The paper on the Anti-Hunger Programme will be submitted to the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) at its next session in May 2003, for formal endorsement.

7. Discussions on the mechanisms for WSSD follow-up and institutional arrangements in the UN system are still ongoing at various levels and in various fora. A clearer picture may emerge after the forthcoming 11th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development in April/May 2003. During inter-agency consultations on WSSD follow-up, some ideas were voiced: WEHAB could be used as a framework for action and inter-agency collaboration in the implementation of WSSD; the MDGs and the quantitative, time-bound targets adopted by WSSD could constitute an organizing concept for follow-up to UN conferences and summits; new inter-agency mechanisms for WSSD follow-up should not be created if existing ones can perform the same tasks, and where new mechanisms are absolutely necessary, form should follow function; greater emphasis is needed on substance and results, rather than process; the Task Manager System, now focused largely on reporting, must move towards arrangements that would concretely contribute to helping countries achieve the MDG and WSSD targets, with emphasis on implementation at country level.

8. FAO stands ready to support, in partnership with others, country-owned and international enabling efforts to implement those Johannesburg commitments for which it has relevant capacity.


1 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.