World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD): Background and Prospective Issues

Report for Congress
World Summit on Sustainable Development
(WSSD): Background and Summary
Updated October 25, 2002
Susan R. Fletcher
Senior Analyst in International Environmental Policy
Resources, Science, and Industry Division

Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress

World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD):
Background and Summary
Marking the 10th anniversary year after the 1992 “Earth Summit” held in Rio de
Janeiro, Brazil, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) convened
heads of state from around the world, charged by the United Nations to consider
progress since the 1992 conference and map out a plan for future development that
would be sustainable in social, environmental, and economic terms. The WSSD,
held in Johannesburg, South Africa, August 26-September 4, 2002, was preceded by
preparatory meetings that engaged in lengthy and contentious negotiations on
possible decisions and documents. The final preparatory meeting was held in Bali,
Indonesia, May 27-June 7, but left several controversial elements of the negotiations
unresolved. Many observers questioned whether the final negotiations in the days
just preceding the August 26 beginning of the Summit could resolve the remaining
differences, but by the end of the meeting, agreement had been reached on both a
“Plan of Implementation” covering the wide spectrum of issues related to sustainable
development and a “Political Declaration” approved by the 100 heads of state
attending the meeting. President Bush declined to attend; Secretary of State Colin
Powell led the U.S. delegation.

Issues .......................................................1
Background ..................................................1
Treaties Signed at UNCED: Climate Change and Biodiversity......3
Earth Summit + 5: a Review of Issues..........................3
WSSD: Key Issues ............................................4
PrepCom 2...............................................5
PrepCom 3...............................................6
PrepCom 4...............................................8
Summary of the WSSD Outcomes.................................8
Conclusions .................................................11

World Summit on Sustainable Development
(WSSD): Background and Summary
The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), held August 26-
September 4, 2002, was charged by the United Nations General Assembly with
assessing progress and charting a future course regarding implementation of “Agenda
21," the action plan for sustainable development agreed upon 10 years before at the
United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). Four
preparatory meetings (PrepComs) to formulate and negotiate possible outcomes of
the WSSD were held and final discussions were conducted at the Summit itself.
Several of the most difficult issues, including additional financial resources for
developing countries, “good governance,” and capacity building, reached somewhat
of a stalemate between developing and developed countries in the preparatory period.
As a result, although agreement was reached among the world’s nations–most of
which sent delegations to the PrepComs–on some 73% of the text for a draft plan of
implementation for sustainable development before the WSSD, the press and manyth
observers described the status of negotiations at the conclusion of the 4 PrepCom
in Bali, Indonesia, as “failed” or “collapsed.”
In addition to the draft implementation plan, a political declaration and a series
of “Type 2" outcomes were agreed upon during the WSSD. The latter will outline
partnerships for sustainable development for on-the-ground action undertaken
cooperatively by a variety of stakeholders such as governments, businesses, public
interest groups, and others. The over-arching issue for the WSSD is now whether
greater success will result from the draft implementation plan than appeared to follow
from the completion of Agenda 21 in 1992. The process in 2002 produced a sense
of “deja vu” in many observers, who saw a replay of many of the issues and concerns
that were present in the 1992 UNCED process. There was a sense among many
participants that the WSSD negotiations had a goal of being more integrative of the
“three pillars” of sustainable development: the economic, social, and environmental
The predecessor to the WSSD, the U.N. Conference on Environment and
Development (known popularly as the Rio Earth Summit), was held June 3-14, 1992,
in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. That date was chosen to coincide with the 20th anniversary
of the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, which was the first
global environmental conference held by the United Nations. The 1992 conference
was a product of growing international concern over the global environment. It
provided an opportunity for national leaders to reach consensus on how to promote

“sustainable development”—integrating the linkages between environmental,
economic, social and development priorities. The broader focus reflected a
realization that environmental goals would be optimally achieved in the context of
appropriate social and economic development.
UNCED was the largest summit of national leaders ever held, attracting well
over 100 heads of state or government. In addition, more than 20,000 people from
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and various professional groups attended
the constellation of events surrounding the conference, including the very large
“Global Forum” organized by NGOs, with daily parallel events during the course of
the UNCED. The Conference produced wide agreement on the goal of
environmentally sustainable development, but there were few specifics or definitions
attached to the term in the statements and objectives in UNCED documents.
Defining sustainable development in operational terms has remained one of the major
challenges of UNCED follow-up activities.
The Rio Earth Summit produced three documents intended to provide
recommendations and guidance for sustainable development. They were not legally
binding, although they were negotiated word-for-word and adopted by a consensus
!The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, a relatively short
statement of 27 guiding principles that represent consensus on the basis for
sustainable development;
!A statement of forest principles, titled, “Authoritative, Non-legally Binding
Statement on the Sustainable Management of the World’s Forests.” This
non-binding statement of principles was agreed on in place of the treaty on
global forest management originally sought (but later opposed) by the United
!Agenda 21, the extensive “action plan” that provides guidance on actions
needed to bring about environmentally sustainable development into the 21st
century. The 40 chapters of Agenda 21 include recommended actions across
nearly the entire spectrum of environment and development issues:
technology transfer; science objectives; capacity building for management and
administration; integration of environment into decision making; consumption
and production patterns; population and demographic patterns; roles of major
groups such as non-governmental organizations, women, farmers and others;
trade and international economy; biodiversity; biotechnology; oceans and seas;
land resources, including desertification, soil loss, and sustainable agriculture;
freshwater resources; wastes, including hazardous and solid wastes; education
and training; health; atmosphere, including ozone depletion and energy
efficiency; legal instruments, and others.
It was agreed at the 1992 Earth Summit that a U.N. Commission on Sustainable
Development (CSD) would be established, and this body has met annually since then
to review progress on specific issues identified in Agenda 21. One product of the
deliberations of the CSD has been the establishment of an on-going U.N. Forum on
Forests that continues to negotiate forest-related issues.

Nations have been reporting their activities on specific issues to the CSD. For
the WSSD, nations have submitted special reports that more broadly summarize their
sustainable development activities.1
Treaties Signed at UNCED: Climate Change and Biodiversity. In
addition, two legally binding treaties were opened for signature at UNCED, dealing
with two of the major issues that were driving much of the concern over the global
environment: the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). These treaties were
negotiated in processes that were separate from but parallel to UNCED preparations,
and they are currently being implemented by countries through continuous meetings
of the “conference of the parties” (COPs). While the completion of these treaties was
viewed by many as a keystone for the success of UNCED, they were—and they
remain—on parallel tracks that are not directly part of the Earth
Summit/UNCED/WSSD processes. The issues addressed by these treaties are widely
regarded as critical components in “sustainable development,” and are likely to be
addressed as part of the WSSD agenda, but the treaties themselves and their
requirements were not on the agenda per se (although the precise wording of how
nations were to be encouraged to ratify the Kyoto Protocol proved highly
controversial, ending with agreement on this language: “...States that have ratified the
Kyoto Protocol strongly urge States that have not already done so to ratify.”
The United States has signed and ratified the Climate Change Framework
Convention and is thus a party to it; the United States has signed but not ratified the
Convention on Biological Diversity and as a consequence is not a party. The major
environmental treaty in the spotlight since 1997 has been the Kyoto Protocol to the
UNFCCC, which provides for legally binding reductions by developed countries of
greenhouse gas emissions related to global warming concerns (see CRS Report
RL30692, Global Climate Change: The Kyoto Protocol). President Clinton signed
the Protocol in 1998, but did not submit it to the Senate for advice and consent;
President Bush has rejected the Protocol, but the other 37 nations with obligations
under the Protocol have declared it their goal to ratify the treaty, with enough
ratifications to bring it into force, even without U.S. participation.
Earth Summit + 5: a Review of Issues. At the five-year point after
UNCED, in mid-June, 1997, the United Nations General Assembly held a Special
Session on Environment and Development in New York, to review progress on
follow-up to the 1992 Earth Summit. Over 50 heads of state, including U.S.
President Clinton, attended and spoke at this session. A major underlying concern
at that meeting was assuring success in the parallel process of negotiations on the
protocol to the UNFCCC, which culminated in the December 1997 completion of the
Kyoto Protocol in Japan.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the “Earth Summit+5 Round-up Press
Release” from the United Nations noted that “....the final document adopted by
delegates from over 165 countries–while taking small steps forward on a number of

1The U.S. report and reports of other nations can be viewed at
[ esa/agenda21/natlinfo/cp2002.htm] .

issues, including preventing climate change, forest loss and freshwater
scarcity–disappointed many in that it contained few new concrete commitments on
action needed.”2 Delegates had wrestled with a number of agenda items, but found
that agreement was difficult, especially on longstanding points of North-South
contention, such as “new and additional financing” for developing countries to fund
the costs of implementing the recommendations in Agenda 21. The complexity and
difficulty of reaching consensus on concrete steps to achieve sustainable development
was very evident at this Earth Summit follow-up session.
WSSD: Key Issues
In December 2000, the United Nations General Assembly passed resolution
A/RES/55/199, “Ten-year review of progress achieved in the implementation of the
outcome of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development,” in
which it issued its decision to organize the WSSD and welcomed the opportunity to
hold the conference in South Africa in 2002. The decision, which has a lengthy set
of findings and statements welcoming the work of various organizations, also states,
“...that the Summit, including its preparatory process, should ensure a balance
between economic development, social development and environmental
protection, as these are interdependent and mutually reinforcing components of
sustainable development.”3 The decision further states, “...the review should
focus on the identification of accomplishments and areas where further efforts are
needed to implement Agenda 21 and other outcomes of [UNCED] and should
focus on action-oriented decisions in areas where further efforts are
challenges and opportunities, and result in renewed political commitment and
support for sustainable development consistent, inter alia, with the principle of
common but differentiated responsibilities;”
The negotiations preceding the WSSD proved to be problematic, which was not
unexpected for a major conference on such a broad array of issues. The second of four
preparatory “committee” meetings (PrepComs) was held January 28-February 8, 2002,4
followed by the third March 25-April 5, and the final Prepcom was held in Bali,
Indonesia, May 25-June 7. (In essence, all nations are invited to participate in the
preparatory committee meetings, and most send delegations). Despite extensive
discussion at these PrepComs, final agreement was not reached, as had been hoped, by
the end of the 4th PrepCom on text for a declaration or future action on sustainable
development. Many observers feared a “failure” in Johannesburg, but the negotiations
in the days just before the WSSD and during its course succeeded in resolving the major
issues and finalizing the two documents emerging from the Summit. Discussions and
issues covered at the three substantive PrepComs are summarized below, providing an
overview of the organization of negotiations and the run-up to the Johannesburg

2 []
3 [ h t t p : / / www.j oha nne s bur gs ummi t .or g]
4The first PrepCom was held in New York, April 30-May 2, 2001, and was primarily a
procedural and process-oriented session.

PrepCom 2. Reports were given at the second PrepCom in Jan.-Feb. 2002, on
a variety of meetings that had been held in different locations around the world,5
including five major regional preparatory meetings for the WSSD held in 2001. The
WSSD secretariat prepared a summary and compilation which identified a number of
common issues raised and priorities identified at these meetings. Nearly all identified
these five concerns: first, the WSSD represents a solution-finding phase, not problem
identification; second, integration of the “three pillars” of sustainable
development–social, economic and environmental– is key; third, new realities like
globalization must be addressed in order to promote equity and inclusion; fourth, the
WSSD should focus on key areas and deliverables that can “accelerate progress towards
the realization of the goals of sustainable development;” and fifth, there is a need to
strengthen international institutional arrangements for sustainable development.
In addition, some 16 issue areas were identified in the summary of the regional
meetings, many of which have been longstanding issues–often the subject of North-
South contention, not only during the Rio process, but ever since. These include
poverty eradication, sustainable consumption and production, financing of sustainable
development, transfer of technology and capacity building, improving
governance/institutional structures for sustainable development, trade and market
access, and human development generally. Less contentious but long-standing issues
include fresh water and sanitation, health, agriculture and food security, energy, and
management of natural resources. The first item on this list is “Implementation of the
Rio Principles: Reaffirmation of all the principles, particular emphasis on the
implementation of the polluter-pays principle, precautionary principle, and the principle
of common but differentiated responsibilities.” The latter refers to the different
responsibilities for dealing with development needs, especially regarding financing and
financial assistance, between developed/industrialized countries and less
developed/developing countries.
At the second PrepCom time was set aside for presentations by “major groups”
identified in Agenda 21. A “multi-stakeholder dialog” included presentations by non-
governmental organizations (NGOs) and “major groups” such as farmers, women,
workers, local governments, and others. This session, and similar sessions at the
subsequent PrepComs, continued the process begun at the 1992 Earth Summit to open
the U.N. process to participation by non-governmental parties and “stakeholders.”
At other sessions, governments and U.N. agencies made presentations and
identified issues that needed attention in a sustainable development context. These
proposals were wide-ranging, from narrow and specific concerns such as a lead-free
fuels initiative to broad issues such as ecological debt. The United States has raised
as a priority concerns about governance issues, including building capacity and
strengthening democracy and transparency, throughout the PrepComs. Poverty
eradication has remained a key priority, with broad support, but with few specifics on
how to attain it. Health concerns and energy proposals constituted other clusters of

5 European meeting in September, Geneva; African meeting in October, Nairobi; Latin
American in October, Rio de Janeiro; West Asia in October, Cairo; and Asia-Pacific, Phnom
Penh, in November. Full reports of these meetings are available at
[ www.j oha nne s bur gs ummi t .or g]

issues. Unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and natural resource
management are major clusters of issues, as well.
Chairman’s Paper. At the conclusion of PrepCom 2, the Chairman of the meeting,
Emil Salim of Indonesia, presented the “Chairman’s Paper,” which was accepted as the
basis for negotiations at PrepCom 3. This paper was drawn from outcomes of the
regional preparatory meetings noted above, plus the multi-stakeholder input and other
discussions during PrepCom 2.6 The nine sections and issue clusters in this paper
provided organization for negotiations at PrepCom 3: Introduction; Poverty
eradication; Changing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production;
Protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social
development; Sustainable development and globalization; Health and sustainable
development; Sustainable development of small island developing states (SIDS);
Sustainable development initiatives for Africa; Means of implementation (including
trade and financing issues); and Strengthening governance for sustainable development
at the national, regional and international levels (including issues relating to the
functions and processes of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD). This
outline of issue areas constituted the structure of negotiations and of the final Plan of
PrepCom 3. A word used often to describe the situation during PrepCom 3
(held March-April 2002 in New York City) and at its conclusion was “disarray.” As
it became obvious that there were serious obstacles to obtaining agreement on
negotiated text, hope for success in Johannesburg began to focus on a division of goals
into Type 1 outcomes, which would be the more conventional negotiated declarations
and action plans, and Type 2 outcomes, which would be the launching of a variety of
partnerships between governments and private sector parties, between private sector
entities, between NGOs and business, and other possible partnerships.
Type 1 Outcomes. While it had been expected that Prepcom 3 negotiations would
formulate agreed-upon text in decision documents that would go forward to the
Ministerial-level meeting in Bali at PrepCom 4, instead there was virtually no
negotiated text at the end of the meeting. The Chairman’s paper was discussed, and
then a very extensive “compilation” text was put together on the basis of commentary
in the first week. During the second week, discussions were held on the very lengthy
compilation text, but the result was additional commentary; for the most part,
agreement on specific language was not attained. It was widely noted that U.N.
budgetary restrictions contributed to the problems in reaching any agreement; these
restricted full negotiations to standard daytime hours, permitting just 6 hours of
discussion per day and limiting night-time negotiations.
The negotiations at PrepCom 3 took place in three “working groups” which
divided the issues of the Chairman’s paper among them. However, Working Group 3
had responsibility for just one issue, for which no text had been developed in the
Chairman’s paper – governance. This working group only met once for about two
hours in the second week of the PrepCom, and simply responded to a paper circulated

6For a summary of PrepCom 2 and the Chairman’s paper, see:

that week by the Chairman on governance – text was not agreed to, but reactions were
One frequently voiced concern during the 3rd PrepCom was that issues that had
been agreed upon in earlier forums such as Agenda 21, the Forum on Forests, and the
Commission on Sustainable Development were being re-negotiated, with many old
ideas once again being deliberated, often ending in new stalemates.
Type 2 Outcomes. Attention at PrepCom 3 began to focus with increasing interest
on hopes that the formulation and launching of partnerships that would carry out on-
the-ground sustainable development projects and activities would create a form of
progress that would enliven the Johannesburg conference and be a key to its success.
A first step in formulating expectations for what would constitute appropriate such
partnerships was taken by a guidance paper prepared at PrepCom 3.7 Two concerns
were raised by some NGOs: that governments will abdicate their responsibilities, and
that many of the partnerships will be in reality “greenwash” that repackages old, on-
going activities as Type 2 partnerships. The guidance paper notes that:
‘Type 2’partnerships/initiatives are complementary to the globally agreed ‘type 1’
outcomes: they are not intended to substitute commitments by government in the
‘type 1’ documents, rather they should contribute to translating those political
commitments into action.... ‘Type 2’ partnerships/initiatives are of a voluntary,
‘self-organizing’ nature: unlike ‘type 1’ outcomes, they are not subject to
negotiations within the Preparatory Committee for the Summit.
Links to other conferences and institutions. During 2002 a number of regional
and issues-focused meetings were held that were of importance to the WSSD process
and agenda. Policymakers gave particular attention to the March conference on
Financing for Development, held in Monterrey, Mexico. The announcement at that
meeting of additional financial assistance from the United States and other countries
for development was hailed as an outcome that would bode well for the success of
WSSD. Once again, as at UNCED and the Earth Summit + 5 conferences, the issues
surrounding developing countries’ attempts to secure commitments for financing their
development were a focus of discussion prior to and during the WSSD. The scope of
this discussion has broadened in the years since 1992 to encompass not only official
development assistance (ODA) but also trade, foreign direct investment (FDI), and
funding from the multilateral development banks (MDBs) and other international
financial institutions (IFIs) such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the
International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The United States had identified a wide range of WSSD priorities prior to the 3rd
PrepCom, with a continuing focus on improving governance, which it indicated
“contribute to economic growth, higher living standards, and social equality.” The six
factors it identified are: capacity building, which includes “a favorable, enabling
climate for investment”; institution building, which includes strengthening
governmental institutions and laws; public access to environmental and other
information that supports sustainable development; informed and science-based

7This document and others related to the WSSD can be viewed at:
[] (To find recent documents, click on “what’s new.”)

decision-making; public participation, coordination and partnerships; and access to
justice in environmental matters and enforcement of environmental laws and
PrepCom 4. Delegations met in Bali, Indonesia, May 25 - June 7, for an
intensive two weeks of negotiations at which they attempted to agree on specific
language in a chairman’s compilation text for implementation of sustainable
development that reflected commentary during PrepCom 3. In addition, discussion
continued on possible guidelines or criteria for Type 2 outcomes–partnerships for
sustainable development activities that could be launched at the WSSD and
Press reports on the Bali meeting reflected a predominant sense that the meeting
had been “a failure” and that the talks had “stalled.” However, the situation was more
complex than that. Delegates worked hard, often long into the night-time hours, to
wrestle with the usual problems in reaching agreement on the text of the “Type 1”
document that is to express the actions needed to improve implementation of the Rio
decisions. They succeeded in reaching agreement on some 73% of the text in the
Chairman’s compilation.
However, the remaining 27% of the text dealt with such polarizing issues as
financing from developed countries to assist developing countries; “good governance”;
capacity building; whether there should be specified targets and timetables for
achievement of the specific sustainable development goals; and other issues such as the
precautionary principle (whether action should be taken on difficult issues even in the
absence of definitive scientific evidence). In particular, there was dissatisfaction
among the G-77 (the general term used for the loose collaborative group of the
developing countries) with the trade and financing issues. Some developed country
delegations reported that there was a wish to “reopen” the discussions on trade that
were concluded in the most recent World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial
meeting in Doha, Qatar, and the discussions on finance concluded in Monterrey,
Mexico, in March of this year. Better access to developed country markets and more
financial assistance with fewer conditions were the goals that developing countries
reportedly would like to establish.
Many of these issues were resolved at the Rio Earth Summit with highly nuanced
language, but the operational follow-through has remained problematic. The result is
that these issues have resurfaced during the WSSD preparations, with resulting
gridlock, primarily between developed and developing country delegations.
Summary of the WSSD Outcomes
Some 100 heads of state, including most of those from Europe, attended the
WSSD. President Bush declined to attend; the U.S. delegation was headed by
Secretary of State Colin Powell during the highest level segments of the conference.
The decisions of the participating nations largely reaffirmed the approaches and
decisions reflected in Agenda 21 of the 1992 Earth Summit, as well as those articulated
in recent decisions in other arenas such as the Doha Ministerial Trade meeting in 2001
and the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development in March 2002.

As was the case with the 1992 Agenda 21 of the Rio Earth Summit, neither the
WSSD Plan of Implementation nor the Political Declaration are legally binding or
mandatory; they are a collection of decisions that essentially outline desirable actions
that participants agree to encourage and promote. Thus, the goals and timetables
announced at the Summit are described as “commitments,” but in fact are not legally
The key outcomes of the Summit, as described by the official website of the
WSSD,8 included reaffirming sustainable development as a central element of the
international agenda, and new impetus to global action to fight poverty and protect the
environment. The linkage between poverty, the environment, and good management
of natural resources was highlighted in the WSSD Plan of Implementation, and
governments “agreed to and reaffirmed a wide range of concrete commitments and
targets for action to achieve more effective implementation of sustainable development
objectives.” Energy, water, and sanitation concerns were highlighted, as well.
Specifically, the Plan of Implementation outlines the goal of halving by 2015 the
proportion of the world’s people whose incomes are below $1 a day and who suffer
from hunger, reaffirming the Millennium Development goals agreed by the U.N.
General Assembly. Another of these goals is to halve by the year 2015 the proportion
of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. On energy,
renewable energy was a focus, with encouragement to nations to diversity energy
supply and increase the global share of renewable energy; to improve access to reliable,
affordable, and environmentally sound energy services and resources; to encourage
energy efficiency through domestic programs supported by the international
community; and to remove market distortions together with providing better
functioning and more transparent energy markets.
Other important areas in which initiatives and commitments were identified were
chemical management and safety; management of the natural resource base, including
a large number of goals for water, oceans and fisheries, the atmosphere, biodiversity,
and forests; health, including reduction of mortality rates for infants and children and
reducing HIV prevalence and other diseases; sustainable development for Africa and
for small island developing states; means of implementation, including reaffirming the
Doha agreement for trade and an emphasis on education; and the institutional
framework for sustainable development.
In addition, the concept of “Type 2" outcomes in the form of partnerships between
governments, business, and civil society was a major focus of attention at the Summit.
Over 220 partnerships (representing some $235 million in resources) were identified
in advance of the Summit, with an additional 60 partnerships announced during the
Summit by a number of countries. The U.S. State Department announced 5 initiatives
at Johannesburg to be undertaken in the form of partnerships with other governments9

and/or the private sector:
8 (these outcomes are found under “What’s New” on
this website).
9Statement of Paula J. Dobriansky, Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs, at the World

!A “Water for the Poor” initiative to expand access to clean water and sanitation,
to which the United States will commit $970 million over 3 years, hoping to
leverage $1.6 billion in private resources.
!A “Clean Energy Initiative” to provide new access to energy services and
increase energy efficiency, to which the United States proposes to invest up to
$43 million in 2003, hoping to leverage another $400 million in investments
from other governments, the private sector, and development organizations.
!An “Initiative to Cut Hunger in Africa” to spur technology-sharing for small
farmers, fund education and strengthen agricultural policy development. The
United States plans to invest $90 million in 2003.
!A “Congo Basin Forest Partnership” to promote economic development,
alleviate poverty, improve governance, and conserve natural resources in six
central African countries, in which the United States will invest “up to $53
million over 4 years to support sustainable forest management and protected
areas, to be matched by contributions from other nations and entities plus the
private sector.
!A reaffirmation of the commitment to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and
malaria, with a budget request of $1.2 billion in 2003 to combat these diseases.
In the run-up to the WSSD and in Johannesburg, the United States was the subject
of criticism in the press and among some participants for objecting to targets and
timetables in several issue areas, for emphasizing “good governance” which seemed
to some to be an infringement on sovereignty, and for failing to make general
commitments on financing and trade in addition to those involved in the Doha Trade
meeting and the Monterrey Financing for Development meeting. On the other hand,
the United States fielded a large delegation of experts in a number of the environmental
and economic issues under discussion, and this delegation worked with other
participants–both governmental and non-governmental–to successfully fashion
initiatives and reach agreement on the more controversial issues.
In the end, despite fears that the Johannesburg meeting would be a “failure,”
agreement was reached, and success was declared. It is unclear to what extent the
follow-through for this meeting will differ or be more effective than that following the
Rio Earth Summit of 1992. The extremely broad range of issues in itself poses major
challenges to meaningful outcomes that go beyond rhetoric. However, as was
repeatedly pointed out, the concept of sustainable development has become widely
accepted, and though still poorly defined, clearly now includes extensive consideration
of how the many elements of economic activity interact and how they could avoid
some of the social and environmental problems of the past.

9 (...continued)
Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, South Africa, August 29, 2002. See
State Department website:

As follow-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development begins, the
WSSD Plan of Implementation represents the outcome of another major effort in the
on-going process of trying to find ways in which economic activity and development
in all countries – industrialized as well as less developed nations – can be made more
environmentally and socially sustainable. The underlying concept of sustainability
holds that economic growth and progress need to take into account the social,
environmental, financial and other factors that may produce side-effects that can
undermine the long-term viability of that growth and progress.
If the economic development process can successfully integrate the many – and
sometimes conflicting – goals of society without undermining, often unintentionally,
one or more of them, then that would result in “sustainable development.” The
experience of the past ten years has shown that attaining such a result is fraught with
complexities that so far have proven extremely difficult to resolve. These are the
challenges that, once again, the nations of the world will face in obtaining concrete
results from the decisions at the WSSD.