Five years' work for a greener world: UN reviews progress since Earth Summit

A Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly opened on 23 June to review progress during the five years since the UN Conference on Environment and Development - popularly known as the Earth Summit - was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

Heads of state and government, representatives of international and non-governmental organizations, and members of the private sector gathered in New York for the weeklong meeting. FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf addressed the assembly on Thursday, 26 June. He emphasized that sustainable development and food security are inseparable and that the urgent measures to eliminate hunger and rural poverty outlined in the Rome Declaration and Plan of Action adopted by the World Food Summit last November are natural extensions of the Rio Summit.

"FAO is convinced that food requirements of the world's population can be met for decades to come under systems of sustainable development," Dr Diouf said. But he stressed that this would only be achieved if the international community acted "to give the least privileged rural populations control over water resources and access to effective technologies, modern inputs, credit and markets".

Progress made on the recommendations of Agenda 21, which represents the consensus blueprint for achieving sustainable development into the next century reached by the 179 states that attended UNCED, was expected to come under particular scrutiny.

The General Assembly has stressed that there should be no attempt to renegotiate Agenda 21, nor any of the other intergovernmental accords, including the Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and the Forest Principles, reached at the Earth Summit.

Instead, the objectives set out for the meeting in New York, referred to as Earth Summit +5, were:

  • to revitalize and energize commitments to sustainable development
  • to recognize failures frankly and identify reasons for them
  • to recognize achievements and identify actions that will boost them
  • to define priorities for the post-1997 period
  • to raise the profile of issues addressed insufficiently by the Rio conference

FAO participation

At the 1992 Earth Summit, FAO was made task manager of four of Agenda 21's key chapters - planning and management of land resources, combating deforestation, sustainable mountain development, and sustainable agriculture and rural development. The Organization is also actively involved in other important fields - such as combating desertification and drought, and conservation of biological diversity - and in broader areas covered by Agenda 21, particularly climate change and energy.

A series of Agenda 21 Progress Reports was prepared by FAO for the UN Special Session, describing the challenges addressed by Agenda 21, progress since the Earth Summit, key issues to be resolved, future directions, FAO's role and contact points.

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27June 1997


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