The last century has witnessed growing awareness that a healthy environment is critical for human and economic development. The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm, 1972) was a turning point in global environmental awareness. It was the first international conference on the environment whose agenda – at the request of developing countries – included development issues. Twenty years later, the Earth Summit (Rio, 1992) emphasized the importance of economic and environmental development and developed a global action programme Agenda 21 – a blueprint for environmental management. While many countries have shown indifference to environmental commitments made at Rio, the summit significantly helped legitimise environmental issues in political agendas worldwide: over 50 countries currently have national constitutions recognizing the rights of citizens to a healthy environment and many have national legislation to protect the environment. By An. Ba. and Ma. Sn.
Although there have been achievements, especially to build awareness and develop legislation on environmental management, the world continues to sink deeper into environmental
and poverty decline. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, today’s consumption is 30 percent higher than the earth’s resources can sustain; and millions of people are still undernourished, unemployed and lack access to resources. The WSSD in Johannesburg will review progress in environmental management and provide new impetus for commitment of financial resources towards global sustainability.
Milestones in global environmental awareness:
1970s: Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment; First Global Climate Conference.
1980s: World Conservation Strategy launched; International Decade of Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation; UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Montreal Protocol to Protect the Ozone Layer and the Basel Convention; Panel on Climate Change established; Brundtland Report.
1990s: GEF established; Earth Summit in Rio; Convention on Biological Diversity, UN Convention on Climate Change; World Business Council for Sustainable Development created.
2000s: Millennium Summit; WSSD Johannesburg.
An. Ba. and Ma. Sn.