The 1992 Earth Summit: An inside view

Maurice Strong talks to Philip Shabecoff about the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. Strong, who was Secretary General of the Earth Summit, provides an inside view of the conference proceedings and shares his thoughts about impact of the conference.

Read more: The 1992 Earth Summit: An inside view

Statement of Principles for the Sustainable Management of Forests

United Nations

A/CONF.151/26 (Vol. III)

General Assembly

14 August 1992



(Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 June 1992)

Annex III



(a) The subject of forests is related to the entire range of
environmental and development issues and opportunities, including the right
to socio-economic development on a sustainable basis.

(b) The guiding objective of these principles is to contribute to the
management, conservation and sustainable development of forests and to provide
for their multiple and complementary functions and uses.

(c) Forestry issues and opportunities should be examined in a holistic
and balanced manner within the overall context of environment and development,
taking into consideration the multiple functions and uses of forests,
including traditional uses, and the likely economic and social stress when
these uses are constrained or restricted, as well as the potential for
development that sustainable forest management can offer.

(d) These principles reflect a first global consensus on forests. In
committing themselves to the prompt implementation of these principles,
countries also decide to keep them under assessment for their adequacy with
regard to further international cooperation on forest issues.

(e) These principles should apply to all types of forests, both
natural and planted, in all geographical regions and climatic zones, including
austral, boreal, subtemperate, temperate, subtropical and tropical.

(f) All types of forests embody complex and unique ecological
processes which are the basis for their present and potential capacity to
provide resources to satisfy human needs as well as environmental values, and
as such their sound management and conservation is of concern to the
Governments of the countries to which they belong and are of value to local
communities and to the environment as a whole.

(g) Forests are essential to economic development and the maintenance
of all forms of life.

(h) Recognizing that the responsibility for forest management,
conservation and sustainable development is in many States allocated among
federal/national, state/provincial and local levels of government, each State,
in accordance with its constitution and/or national legislation, should pursue
these principles at the appropriate level of government.


1. (a) 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 have 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.

(b) The agreed full incremental cost of achieving benefits associated
with forest conservation and sustainable development requires increased
international cooperation and should be equitably shared by the international

2. (a) States have the sovereign and inalienable right to utilize, manage
and develop their forests in accordance with their development needs and level
of socio-economic development and on the basis of national policies consistent
with sustainable development and legislation, including the conversion of such
areas for other uses within the overall socio-economic development plan and
based on rational land-use policies.

(b) Forest resources and forest lands should be sustainably managed
to meet the social, economic, ecological, cultural and spiritual needs of
present and future generations. These needs are for forest products and
services, such as wood and wood products, water, food, fodder, medicine, fuel,
shelter, employment, recreation, habitats for wildlife, landscape diversity,
carbon sinks and reservoirs, and for other forest products. Appropriate
measures should be taken to protect forests against harmful effects of
pollution, including air-borne pollution, fires, pests and diseases, in order
to maintain their full multiple value.

(c) The provision of timely, reliable and accurate information on
forests and forest ecosystems is essential for public understanding and
informed decision-making and should be ensured.

(d) Governments should promote and provide opportunities for the
participation of interested parties, including local communities and
indigenous people, industries, labour, non-governmental organizations and
individuals, forest dwellers and women, in the development, implementation and
planning of national forest policies.

3. (a) National policies and strategies should provide a framework for
increased efforts, including the development and strengthening of institutions
and programmes for the management, conservation and sustainable development
of forests and forest lands.

(b) International institutional arrangements, building on those
organizations and mechanisms already in existence, as appropriate, should
facilitate international cooperation in the field of forests.

(c) All aspects of environmental protection and social and economic
development as they relate to forests and forest lands should be integrated
and comprehensive.

4. The vital role of all types of forests in maintaining the ecological
processes and balance at the local, national, regional and global levels
through, inter alia, their role in protecting fragile ecosystems, watersheds
and freshwater resources and as rich storehouses of biodiversity and
biological resources and sources of genetic material for biotechnology
products, as well as photosynthesis, should be recognized.

5. (a) National forest policies should recognize and duly support the
identity, culture and the rights of indigenous people, their communities and
other communities and forest dwellers. Appropriate conditions should be
promoted for these groups to enable them to have an economic stake in forest
use, perform economic activities, and achieve and maintain cultural identity
and social organization, as well as adequate levels of livelihood and
well-being, through, inter alia, those land tenure arrangements which serve
as incentives for the sustainable management of forests.

(b) The full participation of women in all aspects of the management,
conservation and sustainable development of forests should be actively

6. (a) All types of forests play an important role in meeting energy
requirements through the provision of a renewable source of bio-energy,
particularly in developing countries, and the demands for fuelwood for
household and industrial needs should be met through sustainable forest
management, afforestation and reforestation. To this end, the potential
contribution of plantations of both indigenous and introduced species for the
provision of both fuel and industrial wood should be recognized.

(b) National policies and programmes should take into account the
relationship, where it exists, between the conservation, management and
sustainable development of forests and all aspects related to the production,
consumption, recycling and/or final disposal of forest products.

(c) Decisions taken on the management, conservation and sustainable
development of forest resources should benefit, to the extent practicable,
from a comprehensive assessment of economic and non-economic values of forest
goods and services and of the environmental costs and benefits. The
development and improvement of methodologies for such evaluations should be

(d) The role of planted forests and permanent agricultural crops as
sustainable and environmentally sound sources of renewable energy and
industrial raw material should be recognized, enhanced and promoted. Their
contribution to the maintenance of ecological processes, to offsetting
pressure on primary/old-growth forest and to providing regional employment and
development with the adequate involvement of local inhabitants should be
recognized and enhanced.

(e) Natural forests also constitute a source of goods and services,
and their conservation, sustainable management and use should be promoted.

7. (a) Efforts should be made to promote a supportive international
economic climate conducive to sustained and environmentally sound development
of forests in all countries, which include, inter alia, the promotion of
sustainable patterns of production and consumption, the eradication of poverty
and the promotion of food security.

(b) Specific financial resources should be provided to developing
countries with significant forest areas which establish programmes for the
conservation of forests including protected natural forest areas. These
resources should be directed notably to economic sectors which would stimulate
economic and social substitution activities.

8. (a) Efforts should be undertaken towards the greening of the world.
All countries, notably developed countries, should take positive and
transparent action towards reforestation, afforestation and forest
conservation, as appropriate.

(b) Efforts to maintain and increase forest cover and forest
productivity should be undertaken in ecologically, economically and socially
sound ways through the rehabilitation, reforestation and re-establishment of
trees and forests on unproductive, degraded and deforested lands, as well as
through the management of existing forest resources.

(c) The implementation of national policies and programmes aimed at
forest management, conservation and sustainable development, particularly in
developing countries, should be supported by international financial and
technical cooperation, including through the private sector, where

(d) Sustainable forest management and use should be carried out in
accordance with national development policies and priorities and on the basis
of environmentally sound national guidelines. In the formulation of such
guidelines, account should be taken, as appropriate and if applicable, of
relevant internationally agreed methodologies and criteria.

(e) Forest management should be integrated with management of adjacent
areas so as to maintain ecological balance and sustainable productivity.

(f) National policies and/or legislation aimed at management,
conservation and sustainable development of forests should include the
protection of ecologically viable representative or unique examples of
forests, including primary/old-growth forests, cultural, spiritual,
historical, religious and other unique and valued forests of national

(g) Access to biological resources, including genetic material, shall
be with due regard to the sovereign rights of the countries where the forests
are located and to the sharing on mutually agreed terms of technology and
profits from biotechnology products that are derived from these resources.

(h) National policies should ensure that environmental impact
assessments should be carried out where actions are likely to have significant
adverse impacts on important forest resources, and where such actions are
subject to a decision of a competent national authority.

9. (a) The efforts of developing countries to strengthen the management,
conservation and sustainable development of their forest resources should be
supported by the international community, taking into account the importance
of redressing external indebtedness, particularly where aggravated by the net
transfer of resources to developed countries, as well as the problem of
achieving at least the replacement value of forests through improved market
access for forest products, especially processed products. In this respect,
special attention should also be given to the countries undergoing the process
of transition to market economies.

(b) The problems that hinder efforts to attain the conservation and
sustainable use of forest resources and that stem from the lack of alternative
options available to local communities, in particular the urban poor and poor
rural populations who are economically and socially dependent on forests and
forest resources, should be addressed by Governments and the international

(c) National policy formulation with respect to all types of forests
should take account of the pressures and demands imposed on forest ecosystems
and resources from influencing factors outside the forest sector, and
intersectoral means of dealing with these pressures and demands should be

10. New and additional financial resources should be provided to developing
countries to enable them to sustainably manage, conserve and develop their
forest resources, including through afforestation, reforestation and combating
deforestation and forest and land degradation.

11. In order to enable, in particular, developing countries to enhance their
endogenous capacity and to better manage, conserve and develop their forest
resources, the access to and transfer of environmentally sound technologies
and corresponding know-how on favourable terms, including on concessional and
preferential terms, as mutually agreed, in accordance with the relevant
provisions of Agenda 21, should be promoted, facilitated and financed, as

12. (a) Scientific research, forest inventories and assessments carried
out by national institutions which take into account, where relevant,
biological, physical, social and economic variables, as well as technological
development and its application in the field of sustainable forest management,
conservation and development, should be strengthened through effective
modalities, including international cooperation. In this context, attention
should also be given to research and development of sustainably harvested
non-wood products.

(b) National and, where appropriate, regional and international
institutional capabilities in education, training, science, technology,
economics, anthropology and social aspects of forests and forest management
are essential to the conservation and sustainable development of forests and
should be strengthened.

(c) International exchange of information on the results of forest and
forest management research and development should be enhanced and broadened,
as appropriate, making full use of education and training institutions,
including those in the private sector.

(d) Appropriate indigenous capacity and local knowledge regarding the
conservation and sustainable development of forests should, through
institutional and financial support and in collaboration with the people in
the local communities concerned, be recognized, respected, recorded, developed
and, as appropriate, introduced in the implementation of programmes. Benefits
arising from the utilization of indigenous knowledge should therefore be
equitably shared with such people.

13. (a) Trade in forest products should be based on non-discriminatory and
multilaterally agreed rules and procedures consistent with international trade
law and practices. In this context, open and free international trade in
forest products should be facilitated.

(b) Reduction or removal of tariff barriers and impediments to the
provision of better market access and better prices for higher value-added
forest products and their local processing should be encouraged to enable
producer countries to better conserve and manage their renewable forest

(c) Incorporation of environmental costs and benefits into market
forces and mechanisms, in order to achieve forest conservation and sustainable
development, should be encouraged both domestically and internationally.

(d) Forest conservation and sustainable development policies should
be integrated with economic, trade and other relevant policies.

(e) Fiscal, trade, industrial, transportation and other policies and
practices that may lead to forest degradation should be avoided. Adequate
policies, aimed at management, conservation and sustainable development of
forests, including, where appropriate, incentives, should be encouraged.

14. Unilateral measures, incompatible with international obligations or
agreements, to restrict and/or ban international trade in timber or other
forest products should be removed or avoided, in order to attain long-term
sustainable forest management.

15. Pollutants, particularly air-borne pollutants, including those
responsible for acidic deposition, that are harmful to the health of forest
ecosystems at the local, national, regional and global levels should be


The Earth Summit: introduction

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), otherwise known as the Earth Summit, was held in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, 3 to 14 June 1992, attended by representatives from over 178 governments.

In terms of both its size and the scope of its concerns, it was an unprecedented event. Twenty years after the first global environment conference, the UN sought to help Governments rethink economic development and find ways to halt the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources and pollution of the planet. Hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life were drawn into the Rio process. They persuaded their leaders to go to Rio and join other nations in making the difficult decisions needed to ensure a healthy planet for generations to come.

The Secretary General of the Conference was Maurice Strong.

The Summit’s message — that nothing less than a transformation of our attitudes and behaviour would bring about the necessary changes — was transmitted by almost 10,000 on-site journalists and heard by millions around the world. The message reflected the complexity of the problems facing us: that poverty as well as excessive consumption by affluent populations place damaging stress on the environment.

Governments recognized the need to redirect international and national plans and policies to ensure that all economic decisions fully took into account any environmental impact. And the message has produced results, making eco-efficiency a guiding principle for business and governments alike.
The two-week Earth Summit was the climax of a process, begun in December 1989, of planning, education and negotiations among all Member States of the United Nations, leading to the adoption of Agenda 21, a wide-ranging blueprint for action to achieve sustainable development worldwide.

Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment.

In addtition to Agenda 21,  the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and the Statement of principles for the Sustainable Management of Forests were adopted.

At its close, Maurice Strong, the Conference Secretary-General, called the Summit a “historic moment for humanity”. Although Agenda 21 had been weakened by compromise and negotiation, he said, it was still the most comprehensive and, if implemented, effective programme of action ever sanctioned by the international community.

The Earth Summit influenced all subsequent UN conferences, which have examined the relationship between human rights, population, social development, women and human settlements — and the need for environmentally sustainable development. The World Conference on Human Rights, held in Vienna in 1993, for example, underscored the right of people to a healthy environment and the right to development, controversial demands that had met with resistance from some Member States until Rio.

The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was created in December 1992 to ensure effective follow-up of UNCED, to monitor and report on implementation of the agreements at the local, national, regional and international levels. It was agreed that a five year review of Earth Summit progress would be made in 1997 by the United Nations General Assembly meeting in special session.

The full implementation of Agenda 21, the Programme for Further Implementation of Agenda 21 and the Commitments to the Rio principles, were strongly reaffirmed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) held in Johannesburg, South Africa from 26 August to 4 September 2002.

Rio Declaration on Environment and Development

United Nations

A/CONF.151/26 (Vol. I)

General Assembly

12 August 1992



(Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 June 1992)

Annex I


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

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

Recognizing the integral and interdependent nature of the Earth, our

Proclaims that:

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

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 transboundary 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

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 transboundary 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

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

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

* * * * *
a/ Report of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment,
Stockholm, 5-16 June 1972 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.73.II.A.14
and corrigendum), chap. I.

Closing statement to the Rio Summit (14 June 1992)

The carrying capacity of our Earth can only sustain present and future generations if it is matched by the caring capacity of its people and its leaders. We must bring our species under control, for our own survival, for that of all life on our precious planet. We now have a unique opportunity to do this. We have a basis for doing it in the decisions you have taken. We have the responsibility to start this road now. Our experience in Rio has been as historic and exhilarating as the road that brought us here. The road from Rio will be long, exciting, challenging. It will open a whole new era of promise and opportunity for our species if we change direction; but only if we start now.

Read more: Closing statement to the Rio Summit (14 June 1992)