The term multilateral environmental agreement relates to a number of legally binding international instruments that are used by States to commit to the achievement of specific environmental goals. These agreements can have different names, such as convention, treaty, agreement and protocol. However, the difference in names does not change the legally binding nature of the agreement. So long as the agreement is intended to be governed by international law and creates binding international obligations, it is an international treaty.
The 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties makes this clear. It defines a treaty as an international agreement concluded between States in written form and governed by international law, whether embodied in a single instrument or in two or more related instruments and whatever its particular designation.
As a principle of international treaty law, multilateral environmental agreements, like any treaty, bind only those States that have agreed to be bound by it. However, multilateral environmental agreements can affect non-Parties, for example by prohibiting or restricting trade by Parties with non-Parties.Following are the major international conventions for the protection of environment.
The evolution of environmental issues on the agenda of International Institutions can be better understood by dividing the post war periods into three periods defend by two major land mark meetings the United Nations Conference on human environment, which was convened in Stockholm in June, 1972 and United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), otherwise known as ‘Earth Summit’, which was held in Rio de Janeiro in June, 1992. Although United Nations Charter does not explicate mention the environmental or conservation resources, the U.N. convened its 1st environmental conference in 1949 and hosted many negations prior to the Stockholm in 1972.
The first or Pre-Stockholm era extends to 1948, the year in which the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to convene the Stockholm conference 4 years later. However, the Stockholm declaration was not the first step in the International efforts in the protection of the Environment. There were several other steps taken by the U.N. from time to time, i.e., prior to 1968. However, these steps were in piece meal manner and the outer peace treaty, 1966 etc., the second or the Stockholm era, spans 2 decades from 1968 to 1987.
It encompasses the 1972, Stockholm conference, including the extensive array of precautionary meetings in the years preceding it, as well as the implementation of its recommendations over the following decade. The Stockholm conference became the prototype for spate of major world conferences, sometimes referred to as, ‘Global town meetings’, which focused worldwide attention on International issues. In 1989, the United Nations adopted the ‘Basel convention on the controls of Transboundary Movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal’s, 1989, which is aimed at controlling improper treatment of hazardous wastes 46 and mitigate the damages arising out of Transboudary movements and disposal of such wastes. In 1972, U.N. also adopted the ‘convention’ for the Protection of World cultural and natural heritage, 1972.
The conduct of hostilities does not relieve states of their responsibilities to the environment. The 1977 convention, on the prohibition of Military or any other hostile use of environmental modifications techniques and protocol 1 of the 1980 conventional weapons treaty prohibits mode of warfare having a severe and long term effect on the environment and requires respect to be shown for the natural environmental and its protection from severe wide spread and lasting damage. Even in UNCLOS, 1982 reference was made to the general obligation to protect and reserve the environmental lay down in article 192. In 1982, U.N. also adopted another convention on conservation of marine living resources.
The third or Rio de Janeiro era, commences in 1987 with the release of the influential report of the Brundtland Commission, entitled ‘Our Common Future’ which set the stage for the earth summit and follow-up efforts to implement the summit’s lengthy and elaborate plan of action entitled agenda 21. The U.N. on Environment and Development (Rio, 1992) provides a platform for putting flesh on the bones of sustainable development in International Law and to address the concern, noted in the Brundtland Report, of the ‘Sectoral’ and ‘Piece meal’ nature of International Environmental Law.
The concept of “Sustainable Development” was brought into common use by World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission) in its 1987 Report over Common Future. The World Commission on Environment and Development was set up by the General Assembly of the United Nations in the year 1983.
Brundtland Report defines Sustainable Development as follows: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs.
According to the Brundtland Report, it contains two key concepts:
Brundtland Report emphasizes that sustainable development means an integration of economic and ecology in decision-making at all levels. Further it clarifies that the critical objectives for environment and development policies that follows from that concept of sustainable development include – reviving growth, changing quality of growth, meeting essential needs for jobs, food, energy, water and sanitation, ensuring the resource base, reorienting technology and managing risk, and merging environment and economics in decision making. Thus in its broadest sense, the strategy for sustainable development aims at promote harmony among human beings and between humanity and nature.
Since, none of the U.N. agencies existing in 1972 was prepared to take primary responsibility for implementing the action plan adopted at Stockholm conference, the General Assembly in 1972 created UNEP to become the Institutional Focus for environmental activities within the U.N. system. However, UNEP’s role was limited to primarily to catalyzing and coordinating environmental programmes both by nations and other international organizations. Apart from it, the General Assembly, in December, 1992 also adopted a resolution providing for the establishment of a commission on sustainable development, to monitor and facilitate efforts to implement the diverse goals and recommendations of the Earth Summit, in particular the Declaration on the Environment and Development or Agenda 21 and the Statement of forest principles.
Agenda 21, in particular, is built on the recognition that the world’s natural and cultural resources are the ultimate basis of survival and that, however monetarily prosperous a country or people may be, it cannot live without fresh air and water. Agenda 21, legally binding conventions on biodiversity and climate change, a framework of principles on the conservations and use of forests, and a series of declarations were the result of the Rio Summit. Together these constitute an impressive commitment to taking the world away from the self-destructive path of conventional “development”. In 1990, at the suggestion of France and Germany, the World bank took the lead in setting up an experimental program named the ‘Global Environmental Facility’ (GEF) to provide funds on favorable terms to low and middle income countries for environmental projects that would have global benefits. Later, the GEF has become a key instrument for dispersing funding for environmental projects in development countries. Apart, from it, International Environmental Protection Act which was passed in 1983 authorizes the president to assist countries in protecting the maintaining the Wild Life Habitat and provides as active role in conservation by the Agency for International Development (AID).
In 1992, UN adopted a convention on the “Trans boundary effects of Industrial accidents”. The convention applies to the prevention of and response to industrial accidents capable of causing trans boundary effects, including the effects of such accidents caused by natural disasters. In 1993, U.N also adopted a convention on the applicability of the development, production and stockpiling and use of chemical weapons and on their destruction, the purpose of which was to prohibit and eliminate all chemical weapons. In 1994, the International law commission has also drafted articles on the Law of the Non-navigational uses of International water courses and to protect the ecosystem and the marine environment. In 1995, U.N. entered into an ‘Agreement on straddling fish stocks and highly migratory Fish stocks’ etc.
The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, having met at Stockholm from 5 to 16 June 1972, having considered the need for a common outlook and for common principles to inspire and guide the peoples of the world in the preservation and enhancement of the human environment, proclaims that:
1) Man is both creature and molder of his environment, which gives him physical sustenance and affords him the opportunity for intellectual, moral, social and spiritual growth. In the long and tortuous evolution of the human race on this planet a stage has been reached when, through the rapid acceleration of science and technology, man has acquired the power to transform his environment in countless ways and on an unprecedented scale. Both aspects of man's environment, the natural and the man-made, are essential to his well-being and to the enjoyment of basic human rights the right to life itself.
2) The protection and improvement of the human environment is a major issue which affects the wellbeing of peoples and economic development throughout the world; it is the urgent desire of the peoples of the whole world and the duty of all Governments.
3) Man has constantly to sum up experience and go on discovering, inventing, creating and advancing. In our time, man's capability to transform his surroundings, if used wisely, can bring to all peoples the benefits of development and the opportunity to enhance the quality of life. Wrongly or heedlessly applied, the same power can do incalculable harm to human beings and the human environment. We see around us growing evidence of man-made harm in many regions of the earth: dangerous levels of pollution in water, air, earth and living beings; major and undesirable disturbances to the ecological balance of the biosphere; destruction and depletion of irreplaceable resources; and gross deficiencies, harmful to the physical, mental and social health of man, in the man-made environment, particularly in the living and working environment.
4) In the developing countries most of the environmental problems are caused by under-development. Millions continue to live far below the minimum levels required for a decent human existence, deprived of adequate food and clothing, shelter and education, health and sanitation. Therefore, the developing countries must direct their efforts to development, bearing in mind their priorities and the need to safeguard and improve the environment. For the same purpose, the industrialized countries should make efforts to reduce the gap themselves and the developing countries.
5) In the industrialized countries, environmental problems are generally related to industrialization and technological development. The natural growth of population continuously presents problems for the preservation of the environment, and adequate policies and measures should be adopted, as appropriate, to face these problems. Of all things in the world, people are the most precious. It is the people that propel social progress, create social wealth, develop science and technology and, through their hard work, continuously transform the human environment. Along with social progress and the advance of production, science and technology, the capability of man to improve the environment increases with each passing day.
6) A point has been reached in history when we must shape our actions throughout the world with a more prudent care for their environmental consequences. Through ignorance or indifference we can do massive and irreversible harm to the earthly environment on which our life and well being depend. Conversely, through fuller knowledge and wiser action, we can achieve for ourselves and our posterity a better life in an environment more in keeping with human needs and hopes. There are broad vistas for the enhancement of environmental quality and the creation of a good life. What is needed is an enthusiastic but calm state of mind and intense but orderly work. For the purpose of attaining freedom in the world of nature, man must use knowledge to build, in collaboration with nature, a better environment. To defend and improve the human environment for present and future generations has become an imperative goal for mankind-a goal to be pursued together with, and in harmony with, the established and fundamental goals of peace and of worldwide economic and social development.
7) To achieve this environmental goal will demand the acceptance of responsibility by citizens and communities and by enterprises and institutions at every level, all sharing equitably in common efforts. Individuals in all walks of life as well as organizations in many fields, by their values and the sum of their actions, will shape the world environment of the future. Local and national governments will bear the greatest burden for large-scale environmental policy and action within their jurisdictions. International cooperation is also needed in order to raise resources to support the developing countries in carrying out their responsibilities in this field. A growing class of environmental problems, because they are regional or global in extent or because they affect the common international realm, will require extensive cooperation among nations and action by international organizations in the common interest. The Conference calls upon Governments and peoples to exert common efforts for the preservation and improvement of the human environment, for the benefit of all the people and for their posterity.
Principles state the common conviction that:
Principle 1 Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being, and he bears a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations. In this respect, policies promoting or perpetuating apartheid, racial segregation, discrimination, colonial and other forms of oppression and foreign domination stand condemned and must be eliminated.
Principle 2 The natural resources of the earth, including the air, water, land, flora and fauna and especially representative samples of natural ecosystems, must be safeguarded for the benefit of present and future generations through careful planning or management, as appropriate.
Principle 3 The capacity of the earth to produce vital renewable resources must be maintained and, wherever practicable, restored or improved.
Principle 4 Man has a special responsibility to safeguard and wisely manage the heritage of wildlife and its habitat, which are now gravely imperiled by a combination of adverse factors. Nature conservation, including wildlife, must therefore receive importance in planning for economic development.
Principle 5 The non-renewable resources of the earth must be employed in such a way as to guard against the danger of their future exhaustion and to ensure that benefits from such employment are shared by all mankind.
Principle 6 The discharge of toxic substances or of other substances and the release of heat, in such quantities or concentrations as to exceed the capacity of the environment to render them harmless, must be halted in order to ensure that serious or irreversible damage is not inflicted upon ecosystems. The just struggle of the peoples of ill countries against pollution should be supported.
Principle 7 States shall take all possible steps to prevent pollution of the seas by substances that are liable to create hazards to human health, to harm living resources and marine life, to damage amenities or to interfere with other legitimate uses of the sea.
Principle 8 Economic and social development is essential for ensuring a favorable living and working environment for man and for creating conditions on earth that are necessary for the improvement of the quality of life.
Principle 9 Environmental deficiencies generated by the conditions of under-development and natural disasters pose grave problems and can best be remedied by accelerated development through the transfer of substantial quantities of financial and technological assistance as a supplement to the domestic effort of the developing countries and such timely assistance as may be required.
Principle 10 For the developing countries, stability of prices and adequate earnings for primary commodities and raw materials are essential to environmental management, since economic factors as well as ecological processes must be taken into account.
Principle 11 The environmental policies of all States should enhance and not adversely affect the present or future development potential of developing countries, nor should they hamper the attainment of better living conditions for all, and appropriate steps should be taken by States and international organizations with a view to reaching agreement on meeting the possible national and international economic consequences resulting from the application of environmental measures.
Principle 12 Resources should be made available to preserve and improve the environment, taking into account the circumstances and particular requirements of developing countries and any costs which may emanate- from their incorporating environmental safeguards into their development planning and the need for making available to them, upon their request, additional international technical and financial assistance for this purpose.
Principle 13 In order to achieve a more rational management of resources and thus to improve the environment, States should adopt an integrated and coordinated approach to their development planning so as to ensure that development is compatible with the need to protect and improve environment for the benefit of their population.
Principle 14 Rational planning constitutes an essential tool for reconciling any conflict between the needs of development and the need to protect and improve the environment.
Principle 15 Planning must be applied to human settlements and urbanization with a view to avoiding adverse effects on the environment and obtaining maximum social, economic and environmental benefits for all. In this respect projects which are designed for colonialist and racist domination must be abandoned.
Principle 16 Demographic policies which are without prejudice to basic human rights and which are deemed appropriate by Governments concerned should be applied in those regions where the rate of population growth or excessive population concentrations are likely to have adverse effects on the environment of the human environment and impede development.
Principle 17 Appropriate national institutions must be entrusted with the task of planning, managing or controlling the 9 environmental resources of States with a view to enhancing environmental quality.
Principle 18 Science and technology, as part of their contribution to economic and social development, must be applied to the identification, avoidance and control of environmental risks and the solution of environmental problems and for the common good of mankind.
Principle 19 Education in environmental matters, for the younger generation as well as adults, giving due consideration to the underprivileged, is essential in order to broaden the basis for an enlightened opinion and responsible conduct by individuals, enterprises and communities in protecting and improving the environment in its full human dimension. It is also essential that mass media of communications avoid contributing to the deterioration of the environment, but, on the contrary, disseminates information of an educational nature on the need to project and improve the environment in order to enable mal to develop in every respect.
Principle 20 Scientific research and development in the context of environmental problems, both national and multinational, must be promoted in all countries, especially the developing countries. In this connection, the free flow of up-to-date scientific information and transfer of experience must be supported and assisted, to facilitate the solution of environmental problems; environmental technologies should be made available to developing countries on terms which would encourage their wide dissemination without constituting an economic burden on the developing countries.
Principle 21 States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.
Principle 22 States shall cooperate to develop further the international law regarding liability and compensation for the victims of pollution and other environmental damage caused by activities within the jurisdiction or control of such States to areas beyond their jurisdiction.
Principle 23 Without prejudice to such criteria as may be agreed upon by the international community, or to standards which will have to be determined nationally, it will be essential in all cases to consider the systems of values prevailing in each country, and the extent of the applicability of standards which are valid for the most advanced countries but which may be inappropriate and of unwarranted social cost for the developing countries.
Principle 24 International matters concerning the protection and improvement of the environment should be handled in a cooperative spirit by all countries, big and small, on an equal footing. Cooperation through multilateral or bilateral arrangements or other appropriate means is essential to effectively control, prevent, reduce and eliminate adverse environmental effects resulting from activities conducted in all spheres, in such a way that due account is taken of the sovereignty and interests of all States.
Principle 25 States shall ensure that international organizations play a coordinated, efficient and dynamic role for the protection and improvement of the environment.
Principle 26 Man and his environment must be spared the effects of nuclear weapons and all other means of mass destruction. States must strive to reach prompt agreement, in the relevant international organs, on the elimination and complete destruction of such weapons.
The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Having met at Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992, Reaffirming the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, adopted at Stockholm on 16 June 1972, a/ and seeking to build upon it, With the goal of establishing a new and equitable global partnership through the creation of new levels of cooperation among States, key sectors of societies and people, Working towards international agreements which respect the interests of all and protect the integrity of the global environmental and developmental system. The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development is a set of principles that recognize the importance of preserving the environment and set forth international guidelines for doing so. They were compiled at the United Nations Conference for Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and are found in the report of this conference.
The Rio Declaration serves as some of the standards by which UN Member countries create domestic and international environmental policies and by which they form agreements or organizations with one another, as it pertains to the environment and conservation. All the Principles under Rio- Declaration has the nexus under the Principles defines the sustainable Development; namely the Polluter Pays Principle, Precautionary Principle, Inter- generational Equity, Public trust doctrine, by reading the provisions which are clearly defined under the declaration, a fair idea can be obtained.
Principle 1 Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.
Principle 2 States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental and developmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.
Principle 3 The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.
Principle 4 In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it.
Principle 5 All States and all people shall cooperate in the essential task of eradicating poverty as an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, in order to decrease the disparities in standards of living and better meet the needs of the majority of the people of the world.
Principle 6 The special situation and needs of developing countries, particularly the least developed and those most environmentally vulnerable, shall be given special priority. International actions in the field of environment and development should also address the interests and needs of all countries.
Principle 7 States shall cooperate in a spirit of global partnership to conserve, protect and restore the health and integrity of the Earth's ecosystem. In view of the different contributions to global environmental degradation, States have common but differentiated responsibilities. The developed countries acknowledge the responsibility that they bear in the international pursuit of sustainable development in view of the pressures their societies place on the global environment and of the technologies and financial resources they command.
Principle 8 To achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all people, States should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and promote appropriate demographic policies.
Principle 9 States should cooperate to strengthen endogenous capacity-building for sustainable development by improving scientific understanding through exchanges of scientific and technological knowledge, and by enhancing the development, adaptation, diffusion and transfer of technologies, including new and innovative technologies.
Principle 10 Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level. At the national level, each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in their communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. States shall facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely available. Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided.
Principle 11 States shall enact effective environmental legislation. Environmental standards, management objectives and priorities should reflect the environmental and developmental context to which they apply. Standards applied by some countries may be inappropriate and of unwarranted economic and social cost to other countries, in particular developing countries.
Principle 12 States should cooperate to promote a supportive and open international economic system that would lead to economic growth and sustainable development in all countries, to better address the problems of environmental degradation. Trade policy measures for environmental purposes should not constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade. Unilateral actions to deal with environmental challenges outside the jurisdiction of the importing country should be avoided. Environmental measures addressing trans-boundary or global environmental problems should, as far as possible, be based on an international consensus.
Principle 13 States shall develop national law regarding liability and compensation for the victims of pollution and other environmental damage. States shall also cooperate in an expeditious and more determined manner to develop further international law regarding liability and compensation for adverse effects of environmental damage caused by activities within their jurisdiction or control to areas beyond their jurisdiction.
Principle 14 States should effectively cooperate to discourage or prevent the relocation and transfer to other States of any activities and substances that cause severe environmental degradation or are found to be harmful to human health.
Principle 15 In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation. Principle 16 National authorities should endeavour to promote the internalization of environmental costs and the use of economic instruments, taking into account the approach that the polluter should, in principle, bear the cost of pollution, with due regard to the public interest and without distorting international trade and investment.
Principle 17 Environmental impact assessment, as a national instrument, shall be undertaken for proposed activities that are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment and are subject to a decision of a competent national authority.
Principle 18 States shall immediately notify other States of any natural disasters or other emergencies that are likely to produce sudden harmful effects on the environment of those States. Every effort shall be made by the international community to help States so afflicted.
Principle 19 States shall provide prior and timely notification and relevant information to potentially affected States on activities that may have a significant adverse trans-boundary environmental effect and shall consult with those States at an early stage and in good faith.
Principle 20 Women have a vital role in environmental management and development. Their full participation is therefore essential to achieve sustainable development.
Principle 21 The creativity, ideals and courage of the youth of the world should be mobilized to forge a global partnership in order to achieve sustainable development and ensure a better future for all.
Principle 22 Indigenous people and their communities and other local communities have a vital role in environmental management and development because of their knowledge and traditional practices. States should recognize and duly support their identity, culture and interests and enable their effective participation in the achievement of sustainable development.
Principle 23 The environment and natural resources of people under oppression, domination and occupation shall be protected.
Principle 24 Warfare is inherently destructive of sustainable development. States shall therefore respect international law providing protection for the environment in times of armed conflict and cooperate in its further development, as necessary.
Principle 25 Peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible.
Principle 26 States shall resolve all their environmental disputes peacefully and by appropriate means in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.
Principle 27 States and people shall cooperate in good faith and in a spirit of partnership in the fulfilment of the principles embodied in this Declaration and in the further development of international law in the field of sustainable development.
The Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development was adopted at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002. It is built on earlier declarations made at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment at Stockholm in 1972 and the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The Declaration commits the nations of the world to build a humane, equitable and carry global society, cognizant of the need for human dignity for all. In terms of the political commitment of parties, the Declaration is a more general statement than the Rio Declaration. It is an agreement to focus particularly on ''the worldwide conditions that pose severe threats to the sustainable development of our people, which include: chronic hunger; malnutrition; foreign occupation; armed conflict; illicit drug problems; organized crime; corruption; natural disasters; illicit arms trafficking; trafficking in persons; terrorism; intolerance and incitement to racial, ethnic, religious and other hatreds; xenophobia; and endemic, communicable and chronic diseases, in particular HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
We, the representatives of the peoples of the world, assembled at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 2 to 4 September 2002, reaffirm our commitment to sustainable development.
We commit ourselves to building a humane, equitable and caring global society, cognizant of the need for human dignity for all.
At the beginning of this Summit, the children of the world spoke to us in a simple yet clear voice that the future belongs to them, and accordingly challenged all of us to ensure that through our actions they will inherit a world free of the indignity and indecency occasioned by poverty, environmental degradation and patterns of unsustainable development.
As part of our response to these children, who represent our collective future, all of us, coming from every corner of the world, informed by different life experiences, are united and moved by a deeply felt sense that we urgently need to create a new and brighter world of hope.
Accordingly, we assume a collective responsibility to advance and strengthen the interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars of sustainable development - economic development, social development and environmental protection - at the local, national, regional and global levels.
From this continent, the cradle of humanity, we declare, through the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the present Declaration, our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life and to our children.
Recognizing that humankind is at a crossroads, we have united in a common resolve to make a determined effort to respond positively to the need to produce a practical and visible plan to bring about poverty eradication and human development. From Stockholm to Rio de Janeiro to Johannesburg Thirty years ago, in Stockholm, we agreed on the urgent need to respond to the problem of environmental deterioration.
Ten years ago, at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, we agreed that the protection of the environment and social and economic development are fundamental to sustainable development, based on the Rio Principles. To achieve such development, we adopted the global programme entitled Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, to which we reaffirm our commitment. The Rio Conference was a significant milestone that set a new agenda for sustainable development.
Between Rio and Johannesburg, the world's nations have met in several major conferences under the auspices of the United Nations, including the International Conference on Financing for Development, as well as the Doha Ministerial Conference. These conferences defined for the world a comprehensive vision for the future of humanity.
At the Johannesburg Summit, we have achieved much in bringing together a rich tapestry of peoples and views in a constructive search for a common path towards a world that respects and implements the vision of sustainable development. The Johannesburg Summit has also confirmed that significant progress has been made towards achieving a global consensus and partnership among all the people of our planet.
We recognize that poverty eradication, changing consumption and production patterns and protecting and managing the natural resource base for economic and social development are overarching objectives of and essential requirements for sustainable development.
The deep fault line that divides human society between the rich and the poor and the ever-increasing gap between the developed and developing worlds pose a major threat to global prosperity, security and stability.
The global environment continues to suffer. Loss of biodiversity continues, fish stocks continue to be depleted, desertification claims more and more fertile land, the adverse effects of climate change are already evident, natural disasters are more frequent and more devastating, and developing countries more vulnerable, and air, water and marine pollution continue to rob millions of a decent life.
Globalization has added a new dimension to these challenges. The rapid integration of markets, mobility of capital and significant increases in investment flows around the world have opened new challenges and opportunities for the pursuit of sustainable development. But the benefits and costs of globalization are unevenly distributed, with developing countries facing special difficulties in meeting this challenge.
We risk the entrenchment of these global disparities and unless we act in a manner that fundamentally changes their lives the poor of the world may lose confidence in their representatives and the democratic systems to which we remain committed, seeing their representatives as nothing more than sounding brass or tinkling cymbals.
Our commitment to sustainable development. We are determined to ensure that our rich diversity, which is our collective strength, will be used for constructive partnership for change and for the achievement of the common goal of sustainable development.
Recognizing the importance of building human solidarity, we urge the promotion of dialogue and cooperation among the world's civilizations and peoples, irrespective of race, disabilities, religion, language, culture or tradition.
We welcome the focus of the Johannesburg Summit on the indivisibility of human dignity and are resolved, through decisions on targets, timetables and partnerships, to speedily increase access to such basic requirements as clean water, sanitation, adequate shelter, energy, health care, food security and the protection of biodiversity. At the same time, we will work together to help one another gain access to financial resources, benefit from the opening of markets, ensure capacity building, use modern technology to bring about development and make sure that there is technology transfer, human resource development, education and training to banish underdevelopment forever.
We reaffirm our pledge to place particular focus on, and give priority attention to, the fight against the worldwide conditions that pose severe threats to the sustainable development of our people, which include: chronic hunger; malnutrition; foreign occupation; armed conflict; illicit drug problems; organized crime; corruption; natural disasters; illicit arms trafficking; trafficking in persons; terrorism; intolerance and incitement to racial, ethnic, religious and other hatreds; xenophobia; and endemic, communicable and chronic diseases, in particular HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
We are committed to ensuring that women's empowerment, emancipation and gender equality are integrated in all the activities encompassed within Agenda 21, the Millennium development goals and the Plan of Implementation of the Summit.
We recognize the reality that global society has the means and is endowed with the resources to address the challenges of poverty eradication and sustainable development confronting all humanity. Together, we will take extra steps to ensure that these available resources are used to the benefit of humanity.
In this regard, to contribute to the achievement of our development goals and targets, we urge developed countries that have not done so to make concrete efforts reach the internationally agreed levels of official development assistance.
We welcome and support the emergence of stronger regional groupings and alliances, such as the New Partnership for Africa's Development, to promote regional cooperation, improved international cooperation and sustainable development.
We shall continue to pay special attention to the developmental needs of small island developing States and the least developed countries.
We reaffirm the vital role of the indigenous peoples in sustainable development.
We recognize that sustainable development requires a long-term perspective and broad-based participation in policy formulation, decision-making and implementation at all levels. As social partners, we will continue to work for stable partnerships with all major groups, respecting the independent, important roles of each of them.
We agree that in pursuit of its legitimate activities the private sector, including both large and small companies, has a duty to contribute to the evolution of equitable and sustainable communities and societies.
We also agree to provide assistance to increase income-generating employment opportunities, taking into account the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work of the International Labour Organization.
We agree that there is a need for private sector corporations to enforce corporate accountability, which should take place within a transparent and stable regulatory environment.
We undertake to strengthen and improve governance at all levels for the effective implementation of Agenda 21, the Millennium development goals and the Plan of Implementation of the Summit. Multilateralism is the future 31. To achieve our goals of sustainable development, we need more effective, democratic and accountable international and multilateral institutions.
We reaffirm our commitment to the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, as well as to the strengthening of multilateralism. We support the leadership role of the United Nations as the most universal and representative organization in the world, which is best placed to promote sustainable development. We further commit ourselves to monitor progress at regular intervals towards the achievement of our sustainable development goals and objectives.
We are in agreement that this must be an inclusive process, involving all the major groups and Governments that participated in the historic Johannesburg Summit.
We commit ourselves to act together, united by a common determination to save our planet, promote human development and achieve universal prosperity and peace.
We commit ourselves to the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development and to expediting the achievement of the time-bound, socio-economic and environmental targets contained therein.
From the African continent, the cradle of humankind, we solemnly pledge to the peoples of the world and the generations that will surely inherit this Earth that we are determined to ensure that our collective hope for sustainable development is realized.