As the world's largest summit meeting ended in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the heads of state and their representatives assembled at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), commonly referred to as Agenda 21. They embraced Agenda 21 as “a dynamic programme” which can “evolve over time in the light of changing needs and circumstances,” and as a process making “the beginning of a new global partnership for sustainable development.” Agenda 21 is premised on two factual perspectives. First, the documentation of trends in the deterioration of the environmental conditions in many parts of the world is key. The United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development articulated these challenges and called for nations to build the systems needed for a “sustainable” development that could successfully counter these trends. Second, the recognition is needed that the political, social and economic development programs established after the Second World War were largely failing. Not only were socio-economic conditions in a significant number of “developing” nations in fact declining, but expenditures of natural resources and labor were making it likely that the present generation would prejudice the options of future generations for the improvement of their condition. Thus, “sustainable development” would be the paradigm which would reverse these factual perspectives.
Nicholas A. Robinson, Comparative Environmental Law Perspectives on Legal Regimes for Sustainable Development, 3 Widener L. Symp. J. 247 (1998), http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/lawfaculty/377/.