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

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