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The Cocoyoc Symposium


In terms of demonstrable action, Stockholm apparently achieved much. While many of its 109 recommendations remain unfulfilled, they serve - now as then - as important targets.

Equally important, however, were the Conference's achievements in repairing rifts, and in narrowing the gap between the views of the developed and the developing nations. The first attempt at this had been made at a conference in Founex, Switzerland, in 1969, and the Founex Report of June 1971 identified development and environment as 'two sides of the same coin' (UNEP 1981). The Drafting and Planning Committee for the Stockholm conference noted in its report in April 1972 that 'environmental protection must not be an excuse for slowing down the economic progress of emerging countries'.
 
                       Barbara Ward

On 8 October 1974, a special symposiun of experts was convened in Cocoyoc, Mexico, chaired by the late Barbara Ward (Baroness Jackson) was held in Cocoyoc, Mexico. Organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The five-day UNEP/UNCTAD Symposium on Patterns of Resource Use, Environment and Development strategies was a landmark in the history of the environmental movement.

Cocoyoc identified the economic and social factors which lead to environmental deterioration.

The Cocoyoc Declaration - the formal statement issued by the symposium - was influential in changing environmental attitudes, thought and action. The Declaration calls on political leaders, governments, international organizations and the scientific community to use their imagination and resources to elaborate and implement programmes aimed at satisfying the basic needs of the poorest people throughout the world.

The following  statements in the Cocoyoc Declaration illustrate awareness of the difficulty of meeting human needs sustainably from an environment under pressure:

    * 'The problem today is not one primarily of absolute physical shortage but of economic and
      social maldistribution and usage.'
    * 'The task of statesmanship is to guide the nations towards a new system more capable of meeting
      the inner limits of basic human needs for all the world's people and of doing so without violating
      the outer limits of the planet's resources and environment.'
    * 'Human beings have basic needs: food, shelter, clothing, health, education. Any process of growth
      that does not lead to their fulfilment - or, even worse, disrupts them - is a travesty of the idea of
      development.'
    * 'We are all in need of a redefinition of our goals, or new development strategies, or new lifestyles,
      including more modest patterns of consumption among the rich.'
     

The Cocoyoc Declaration ends:

    "The road forward does not lie through the despair of doomwatching or through the easy optimism of successive technological fixes. It lies through a careful and dispassionate assessment of the 'outer limits', through cooperative search for ways to achieve the 'inner limits' of fundamental human rights, through the building of social structures to express those rights, and through all the patient work of devising techniques and styles of development which enhance and preserve our planetary inheritance."