World Summit on Sustainable Development...

The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) or Earth Summit 2002 in Johannesburg produced both advances and setbacks. Targets for a range of sustainable development issues were not set. The Summit adopted the WSSD Plan of Implementation (PI) and the Johannesburg Declaration (JD).

The Plan of Implementation is a framework for action to implement the commitments originally agreed. Unlike Agenda 21, it recognises poverty as a running theme, linked to its multiple dimensions, from access to energy, water and sanitation, to the equitable sharing of the benefits of biodiversity.

The Johannesburg Declaration outlines the path taken to the WSSD, highlights present challenges, expresses a commitment to sustainable development, underscores the importance of multilateralism and emphasizes the need for implementation

Targets set


Governments promised to restore the world's depleted fish stocks by 2015, which should lead to more local food available to coastal communities and less fish going to rich countries to provide catfood.


Perhaps the most important new commitment was the sanitation target - to halve the proportion of people without access to sanitation by 2015 together with the Millennium Declaration Goal to halve the proportion without access to safe drinking water by 2015. The US has announced US$970 million in investments on water and sanitation projects; the EU announced its "Water for Life" initiative.

Type 2 Partnerships

Germany promised 500 million euros over five years to promote renewable energy in developing countries. This is one of the 228 'Type 2 Partnerships' that followed Guiding Principles, where governments promise to work with the private sector on aid and environment projects. The Summit promised to help get affordable energy to some of the two billion people who have no access. With 80 percent of the world's energy coming from fossil fuels, oil, coal and gas producers may well enjoy new, if low-spending, markets.

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Other gains

The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation says locals should share in any benefits Western companies gain from exploiting natural resources found there. There is also a commitment to significantly reducing the extinction rate of the world's plants and animals by 2010.

There is confirmation in the Plan of Implementation that makes it clear that UN Conventions of MEAs are not subservient to World Trade Organisation decisions.

The action plan calls to "actively promote" corporate responsibility - although there will not be a global police force to catch corporate polluters and human-rights abusers. A reference to "intergovernmental agreements" and "international initiative" could open the way to some kind of global convention on corporate behaviour, but you need to keep your fingers crossed.

Both China and Russia announced that they will ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which aims to tackle climate change through the reduction in greenhouse gases. These additional signatures should be enough for the Protocol to take effect despite U.S. resistance.

There was commitment, by 2020, to use and produce chemicals in ways that do not lead to significant adverse effects on human health and the environment. This will be achieved through sound international management of chemicals through implementation of the Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.

Other commitments include

* reducing biodiversity loss by 2010;
* establishing a representative network of marine protected areas by 2012;
* improving developing countries' access to environmentally-sound alternatives to ozone depleting chemicals by 2010;
* and undertaking initiatives by 2004 to implement the Global Programme of Action for the protection of the Marine Environment from Land Based Sources.
* support for the Partnership for Principle 10 (PP10) that calls for various stakeholders to work together to implement practical solutions to provide the public with access to information, participation, and justice to ensure environmentally sustainable decisions. (For more, see


Perhaps the biggest dissapointment was the lack of Renewable energy targets. There was a lot of debate as to what are "renewables" and do they include nuclear energy. A target to boost the use of renewable energies such as wind and solar power was not set.

Rich countries are going to approach the next round of trade talks "with a view to phasing out all forms of export subsidies", However, neither the EU nor USA are under any obligation to phase out massive payments to their farmers which make many Third World exports uncompetitive.

Three areas of challenge and opportunity have been identified:

1. 'Doha round' of WTO negotiations needs to look at aid, trade and subsidies.
2. Corporate responsibility and accountability
3. Multilateral system of governance to find new ways to advance the cause of sustainable development

Ways forward

1. As part of the wider action to change unsustainable consumption and production patterns, "workplace-based partnerships and programmes, including training and education programmes" (PI 17d), "use a range of partnerships --- amongst Governments, intergovernmental organizations, workers, and other stakeholders, to promote transparency and accountability " (PI 44a).

2. The Plan of Implementation recognises measures for corporate accountability and the
strengthening of government roles by taking action "at all levels" to "Actively promote corporate responsibility and accountability, based on the Rio Principles" (PI45).

3. Registering of "type two" partnerships. In the words of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, "This
Summit represents a major leap forward in the development of partnership". Officials said more than 220 partnerships, worth $235 million in resources, were identified during the Summit process, in the form of partnership initiatives by and between governments, civil groups and businesses.

4 The Summit Implementation Plan provides the basis for raising workplace issues as part of the tools for addressing issues for WEHAB (Water, Energy, Health, Agriculture & Biodiversity), many of which are being promoted by Type 2 partnerships.

5. There was also growing support for the "workplace assessments programmes", which enable people like environmental practitioners to assess how their organisations are contributing to environmental improvement and sustainable development.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said: "We have to go out and take action. This is not the end, it is the beginning."

EP@W had adding new elements to the Promote Sustainable Development Programme to help that process.

For more details of what went on

Official UN Site for key outcomes

Extract from EP@W Environmental Practitioner Programme
© 2000 EP@W Publishing Co Ltd
2003 Edition