What is Agenda 21?

When I hear critics of the United Nations deliver their denunciations of “Agenda 21” (the 1992 report of the UN Conference on Environment and Development), I often get the distinct feeling that they have not read the report — or, worse, they are reading more into the report than is actually there.

One vocal critic of Agenda 21 is a gentleman from southwest Oklahoma whom I have met through Facebook. It is very difficult to engage this man in a deep conversation about Agenda 21. The difficulty seems to stem from our two very different starting places.

When I speak about “Agenda 21,” I’m referring to the final report of the UNCED conference. It is a 300-page compilation of goal statements and objectives — a plan of action that was adopted by the conference more than 20 years ago. You can find a PDF copy of the report … HERE.

By referring to the text of the report, I’m prepared to discuss any of the topics that are mentioned in Agenda 21 — drought mitigation, pest management, disease control, health promotion, etc. This is the subject matter of Agenda 21.

In contrast, when my friend from southwest Oklahoma explains his criticisms of “Agenda 21,” he doesn’t quote from the UNCED report. He doesn’t point out particular features of the report that he disagrees with. Rather, he seems to have more of a philosophical / metaphysical argument against Agenda 21. He abhors the “foundational ideology” of Agenda 21. For example, he writes:

“The foundational ideology of UN Agenda 21 is to move nature, animals, fish and fowl above human lives and use nature, animals fish and fowl as an excuse to destroy your constitutionally protected private property rights an (sic) thus destroy the Constitution.”

Now, I have pointed out to my friend that I can find nothing in the UNCED report suggesting that animal lives are more precious than humans. There is absolutely nothing suggesting that private property rights should be abandoned. Certainly, there is nothing that circumvents our Constitution (or the laws or constitutions of any of the other nations that participated in the UNCED conference).

Yet, my friend insists that he has studied “Agenda 21” for 10 years, and he understands its “foundational ideology” better than I do. But, his evidence is lacking. He doesn’t seem to be able to produce a single statement from the Agenda 21 report with which he disagrees. His arguments are ad hominem.

It is difficult to carry on a conversation with someone who is unwilling to find a common ground.

For the benefit of readers who are curious about the contents of Agenda 21 (and who are sincerely interested in learning), I have prepared the following synopsis of the UNCED report.

First of all, it should be pointed out that the report is lengthy (more than 300 pages), and it covers a broad subject area (40 chapters). The language of the report is somewhat stilted and bureaucratic. “Agenda 21” will never be a best-seller like Glenn Beck’s book of the same name.

Second, you should be aware that many of the statements in the Agenda 21 report are rather bland. Here’s an example:

“The objectives with regard to water management for livestock supply are twofold: provision of adequate amounts of drinking-water and safeguarding of drinking-water quality in accordance with the specific needs of different animal species.”

See? Agenda 21 is a tome that lacks drama. It was intentionally designed that way. It is a statement of things everyone can agree on — or, at least, ideas that the representatives of 178 nations could agree on when those nations attended the UNCED conference in 1992. It is a consensus document. Pretty boring.

So, don’t expect to find controversy on every page. Fact is, Agenda 21 is good nighttime reading if you ever have trouble falling asleep.

One good way to survey the scope of Agenda 21 is to refer to specific topics that are mentioned in the report. I have constructed my own little subject index which you might like to review.

Here are the topics I have found in Agenda 21 and the number of times that each subject is referenced in the report:

Animal Rights … 0
Aquaculture … 23
Biomass … 14
Disease … 69
Drought … 85
Human Health … 53
Livestock … 25
Mortality … 10
National Sovereignty … 2
Pest Management … 15
Poverty … 63
Property Rights … 10
Smart Grid … 0
Wind Energy / Wind Power … 4

Is “Agenda 21” still relevant today? Well, that’s a question that can be discussed. I would say that the UNCED conference was important — because it brought 178 nations together to talk about the sustainable development of our planet. I think the report was important because it represented a consensus statement of those nations. It helped to assure that everyone was on the same page when they discussed improvements that needed to be made. Indirectly, the recommendations of the report led to the negotiation of the Millennium Development Goals. So, the achievements of the conference should not be understated.

On the other hand, that was more than 20 years ago. The world has moved on, and so has the United Nations. The relevance of Agenda 21 is in question.

Twenty years ago, hybrid automobiles were a novelty. The first Prius wasn’t introduced until 1997. Hybrid cars aren’t even mentioned in Agenda 21.

Neither is smart grid technology, which is revolutionizing electrical transmission and distribution systems around the world.

In the years since 1992, the United Nations has convened at least 3 subsequent sessions to discuss sustainable development. The most recent conference — Rio + 20 — produced a report titled, “The Future We Want.” (Find a link to the report … HERE).

Being more recent, “The Future We Want” is more fresh and speaks more directly to the world we inhabit today.

Here’s a final thought. Since our state legislators are presently considering 4 legislative proposals having to do with the United Nations and sustainable development, I would like to suggest they review “The Future We Want.” It is much more concise than “Agenda 21,” and easier to read.

This excerpt, in particular, is recommended:

“We acknowledge that democracy, good governance and the rule of law, at the national and international levels, as well as an enabling environment are essential for sustainable development, including sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development, environmental protection and the eradication of poverty and hunger. We reaffirm that to achieve our sustainable development goals, we need institutions at all levels that are effective, transparent, accountable and democratic.”

I think even my friend from southwest Oklahoma would agree with that!

Bill Bryant
President, Oklahoma City Chapter
United Nations Association of the USA

Then There Were Four

In the 2013 session of the Oklahoma Legislature, set to start on February 4th, there will be at least 4 Anti-UN measures aimed at restricting commerce with international organizations. 

For several weeks now, we have been reporting on Senate Bill 23, the proposed new state law that has been introduced by State Senator Patrick Anderson. SB23 would have the effect of restricting public commerce with UN agencies as well as any international NGO’s that have been involved in any of the UN’s conferences on environment and development.

Now, we know that there will be at least four anti-UN measures in the Oklahoma Legislature. They are:

Senate Bill 23
by Senator Patrick Anderson (R-Enid)
“…The State of Oklahoma and all political subdivisions thereof shall not enter into any agreement, expend any sum of money, or receive funds, contract services or give financial aid to or from any non-governmental or inter-governmental organization as defined in Agenda 21.”

Senate Bill 53
by Senator Nathan Dahm (R – Broken Arrow)
“…The State of Oklahoma and all political subdivisions thereof shall not enter into any agreement, expend any sum of money, or receive funds, contract services or give financial aid to or from any non-governmental or inter-governmental organization as defined in Agenda 21.”

Senate Joint Resolution 2
by Senator Josh Brecheen (R-Coalgate)
“Resolved… THAT the State of Oklahoma and all political subdivisions are prohibited from implementing programs of, expending any sum of money for, being a member of, receiving funding from, contracting services from, or giving financial or other forms of aid to Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), or any other organization promoting the implementation of the United Nations Agenda 21, sustainable development, or smart growth.”

House Bill 1412
by Rep. Sally Kern (R-OKC)
“…The state and all political subdivisions of the state shall not enter into any agreement, expend any sum of money, receive funds contracting services or give financial aid to or from any nongovernmental or intergovernmental organizations accredited or enlisted by the United Nations.”
(Not yet assigned to any committee)

It appears that all 3 Senate measures (SB23, SB53, and SJR2) will be assigned to the Senate Energy Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Cliff Branan, a commercial real estate broker in Oklahoma City. The co-chair of the committee is Sen. Bryce Marlatt, from Woodward, who lists his occupation as “Oil & Gas Services/ Real Estate.”

Other members of the Senate Energy Committee are:

Senator Rick Brinkley … Owasso
Senator Eddie Fields … Wynona
Senator A J Griffin … Guthrie
Senator Jim Halligan … Stillwater
Senator Tom Ivester … Sayre
Senator Constance Johnson … Oklahoma City
Senator Rob Johnson … Kingfisher
Senator Clark Jolley … Edmond
Senator Ron Justice … Chickasha
Senator Susan Paddack … Ada
Senator Frank Simpson … Springer
Senator Rob Standridge … Blanchard
Senator Greg Treat … Oklahoma City
Senator Charles Wyrick … Fairland

The assignment of these bills to the Senate Energy Committee is regarded as a positive development. A quick review of the committee roster shows that several of the committee members have a connection to the state’s agriculture sector — so they should have an appreciation for the value of UN knowledge resources such as those of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. A couple of them are attorneys, so they should clearly understand that Agenda 21 does not represent any sort of threat to due process or property rights. At least two of the senators on the committee have a background in science and technology. A few of them have some tenuous connections to international organizations or experience. For example, Senator Brinkley is a Kiwanian; Senator Standridge has an interest in international commerce.

We are encouraging our members and friends to write or call their State Senator and State Representative — asking them to oppose these Anti-UN measures.

To find the name of your State Representative and State Senator, visit the “Oklahoma Legislature” website, here …


Then, to find their email address, etc., use the member directories that appear at okhouse.gov and oksenate.gov.

For additional background information on the proposed bills, please see the “Archives” section of this blog. Here are some recommended articles:

January 2013:

December 2012:
   Criticisms Continue
   More Testimony
   Anti-UN Measure Pre-Filed in Oklahoma Legislature
   The Jeane Kirkpatrick Society
   The UN and Property Rights

November 2012:
   The Future We Want


MLK and the UN

Members and friends of the United Nations Association are proud to recall the indirect, informal connections that Dr. King maintained with the UN during his lifetime. 

Dr. King never held an official position within the United Nations organization. But, his memory is cherished within the UN family. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has commented that, “Dr. King remains an unsurpassed advocate of all the UN stands for: peace, economic and social justice, and human rights.”

There are a couple of instances — probably more — in which Dr. King’s appreciation for the United Nations was apparent in his words and actions.

In 1960, Dr. King was among a group of civil rights leaders who signed a letter to President Dwight Eisenhower calling on the president to issue a declaration “placing the administration firmly on the side of the Negroes” in the South.

The letter noted with approval that, days before, Eisenhower’s State Department had made a public statement expressing “regret” for “the tragic loss of life resulting from the measures taken against the demonstrators in South Africa.”

Dr. King and his colleagues compared the situation of civil rights activists in the United States to the demonstrators in South Africa. The letter pointedly noted:

“South Africans cannot hope for help from a government committed to ‘Apartheid;’ Nor can we hope for help from local and state governments committed to ‘White Supremacy.'”

The letter ended with a question: “Africans are turning to the UN for moral support and encouragement; Must we?”

(Click here to read a pdf copy of the letter “To Dwight D. Eisenhower”)

In 1964, after it was announced that Dr. King had won the Nobel Prize for Peace, Dr. King made a stop at the United Nations in New York City on his way to Oslo, Norway, to accept his prize.

He was invited there by his good friend, Dr. Ralph Bunche, who was then serving as the UN’s Under-Secretary General for Special Political Affairs. In the UN archives, there is a black-&-white photograph of Dr. King and his wife being greeted by Dr. Bunche (who was, like King, a Nobel Peace Prize winner).

The friendship between Ralph Bunche and Martin Luther King extended over many years. In August, 1963, Bunche introduced King when MLK delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC. In 1965, Bunche joined Dr. King on the dangerous march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

Upon arriving at the State Capitol after the walk from Selma, Dr. Bunche was invited to speak. He praised Dr. King for his leadership of the march. Then, he noted that Alabama’s governor had made some disparaging comments about the “outsiders” who had come to take part in the protest.

Bunche said:

“I say to Governor Wallace that no American can ever be an ‘outsider’ anywhere in this country.

“And, Governor, all these people out here, who have come in a great phalanx, are very great Americans, black and white, the greatest, for they seek to bring unity and maximum strength to this country to the end that it may become, as it can become, white and black together, the greatest society not only of contemporary times but in the entire history of mankind.”

Before concluding his remarks, Dr. Bunche commented:

“In the UN we have known from the beginning that secure foundations for peace in the world can be built only upon the principles and practices of equal rights and status for all peoples, respect and dignity for all men. 

“The world, I can assure you, is overwhelmingly with us.” 

Those are good words to remember.

When we as Americans strive to uphold the equal rights and dignity of all people, the world is with us. And, the United Nations is on our side.


Glenn Beck’s Best-Selling Novel, “Agenda 21,” Carries the Same Title as the Report of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) 

A couple of our volunteers went to the State Capitol last week to distribute copies of a 1-page fact sheet to our State Senators. It was part of our chapter’s efforts to educate about Senate Bill 23, the proposed new law that would restrict the ability of Oklahomans to learn from global experts.

In our message to the senators, we described the difference between “Agenda 21” (the 1992 UNCED report) and “Agenda 21” (the 2012 novel by radio and television commentator Glenn Beck).

We wrote:

What is Senate Bill 23?
It is a proposed new state law that was first introduced in Alabama in 2012. It can be traced to “Agenda 21,” a best-selling novel by Glenn Beck. The book is classified as a work of speculative fiction. Proponents of SB23 believe the new law is needed to prevent global domination by an emerging new world government.
“Agenda 21” is also the title of the final report of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). Over 300 pages in length, the UNCED report (pdf) is used as a reference work by urban and regional planners, public health professionals, development specialists, and others. It is a comprehensive set of non-binding recommendations on topics ranging from drought control to pest management to efforts to fight infectious diseases like West Nile Virus, etc. These topics are important to people around the world — including people right here in Oklahoma. 

The connection between Glenn Beck and SB23 goes back to June of 2011 when Mr. Beck was fulminating against the United Nations on his old Fox News television program. Here is a sampling of his invective against the 1992 UNCED report:

“Some people now have begun questioning and standing up to what, on the surface, seems like a harmless initiative just to save the environment. But it is not. Be awake. Spread the word. Watch your local community. The answer will be found with the individual. The answers and the solutions will be found in the local communities. But once they put their fangs into our communities, they’ll suck all the blood out of it, and we will not be able to survive. Watch out.”

You can read more of his fiery commentary here.

The latest manifestation of Mr. Beck’s conspiracy theory is “Agenda 21,” his fanciful novel. It has been a best seller for many weeks. By now, many more readers have cast their vision upon Beck’s fictional work than have ever laid an eye on the 1992 UNCED report.

As a result, it is now necessary to draw a sharp distinction between “Agenda 21” the novel and “Agenda 21” the 1992 UNCED report. When we hear someone say they have read “Agenda 21,” we must now assume they’re talking about Mr. Beck’s work of fiction — unless they explicitly inform us otherwise.

After Mr. Beck’s 2011 warning about the “fangs” of the UN vampire, Senate Bill 23 appeared — or, rather, the first version of SB23 appeared. It was introduced in the 2012 session of the Alabama Legislature. It had the designation of Senate Bill 477.

Oklahoma’s Senate Bill 23 is taken from Alabama’s SB477, virtually word for word.

That’s why we say that SB23 can be “traced to” Glenn Beck’s fictional novel. The common connection is the wild conspiracy theory promulgated by Mr. Beck on his Fox News television program in 2011.

Even the language of SB23 reflects Mr. Beck’s fearful vision of the 1992 UNCED report — describing it as a “plan of action that contravenes the Constitution of the United States….”

To be clear: We don’t oppose SB23 because it shares the bad suppositions first pronounced by Glenn Beck the radio and TV commentator. Mr. Beck is free to espouse any kind of nutty theory he can imagine. 

Rather, our opposition to SB23 stems from the bad aspects of the proposed new law that would result in limits on our intellectual freedom and suppression of the people’s access to valuable information resources. And, we believe that good public policy should be based on solid facts rather than sloppy speculation.

That’s the gist of our argument against SB23. Meanwhile, we will bear in mind that the term “Agenda 21” refers to a work of fiction (Beck’s) as well as a work of non-fiction (the UNCED report).


Our First News Release on Senate Bill 23

Proposed New Law is “Anti-Knowledge,” Says UN Association of Oklahoma City

The Oklahoma City chapter of the United Nations Association, a non-profit group that advocates for American leadership in the UN, is bringing attention to Senate Bill 23 which is up for consideration in the 2013 session of the Oklahoma State Legislature. As an organization that encourages knowledge proliferation, this is a legitimate concern because of the Anti-Knowledge aspects of the proposed new law.
Background: Senate Bill 23 has been filed in the Oklahoma State Legislature by State Senator Patrick Anderson. The measure has received attention in several news articles because of its focus on the recommendations of the final report of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), which the proposed law refers to as “Agenda 21.”
“The potential consequences of Senate Bill 23 go far beyond the recommendations of the UNCED report,” said Bill Bryant, President of the Oklahoma City chapter of the UNA.

Senate Bill 23 would prohibit public libraries from acquiring books and journals from any agency of the United Nations. State universities would be barred from purchasing data sets from the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and many other UN organizations. The limitations on commerce with UN agencies would also apply to public libraries, local health departments, cities, counties, and towns.

Senate Bill 23 would have a heavy-handed impact on state agencies, universities, and local governments that are struggling with real-world issues like drought, pest management, health promotion, and so on. It would have an inevitable effect on teachers, students and researchers who frequently rely on UN publications for data on a broad range of topics.

Bryant explained the UN Association’s opposition to Senate Bill 23 by referring to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration recognizes that all people have the right to ‘receive and impart information and ideas regardless of frontiers.

“This suggests to us that the State of Oklahoma should not prohibit the people of our state from benefiting from the knowledge of global experts. At a time when the state of Oklahoma aspires to be a global leader in science, technology, and agriculture, it makes no sense for us to bar valuable knowledge resources from our schools, libraries and universities. Intellectual freedom helps to drive social and technological progress. We don’t want to give that up,” he concluded.

The United Nations Association is a membership organization dedicated to inform, inspire, and mobilize the American people to support the ideals and vital work of the United Nations. For more information on the UN Association of OKC and their activities, please visit www.una-okc.org …. .

For more background on Senate Bill 23, see the “Archive” section of this blog. Refer to articles published in November and December, 2012: “The UN and Property Rights,” “Consequences,” “More Testimony,” and “Criticisms Continue.”