Closing Statement by Maurice Strong to the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm

When this Conference convened two weeks ago, the tasks before it seemed almost impossible of achievement. But it has faced up to the challenge -- much of it controversial, all of it difficult, none of it with precedent for guidance -- with a determination to find solutions.

The result it that it has dealt with all issues on its agenda -- and it has dealt with them urgently, imaginatively and -- above all -- constructively.

Even in areas where agreements are lacking -- and I must emphasize that these are few indeed -- a major contribution has been made. For questions have been clarified, and a procedure has been started that, I am convinced, will ultimately lead to the agreement we seek.

But if we have reason for satisfaction -- we have none for over-confidence.

We have taken the first steps on a new journey of hope for the future of mankind. But the journey before us is long and difficult, and we have barely begun it.


What is most important of all, however, is that we leave Stockholm with a programme of action to cope with the critical relationships between the natural and man-made systems of Planet Earth.

Mr. President, this Conference was never conceived to be a once and for all definitive approach to the problems or our global environment. For an inherent characteristic of the environment issue is precisely that it will remain with us for an indefinite period.

And because it will, the fundamental task of the Stockholm Conference has been to take the political decisions that will enable the community of nations to act together in a manner consistent with the Earth's physical interdependence.

This was our mandate. This is what we did.


-- We have approved a Declaration on the Human Environment.

What many skeptics thought would only be a rhetorical statement has become a highly significant document reflecting a community of interest among nations regardless of politics, ideologies or economic status. Despite the difficulties and the differences that emerged -- the very fact that delegates laboured as they have testifies to the importance their Governments attach to the Declaration and -- to the very basic principle of our environment -- that of every nation's 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.

-- We have approved a wide-ranging Action Plan which, with its Earthwatch Programme of global assessment and monitoring, its Environmental Management Activities, and its Supporting Measures, constitutes a turning point in man's endeavours to preseve and protect his Planetary heritage.

-- We have approved both the establishment of continuing environmental machinery within the United Nations and the provision of necessary financing -- including a $100 million Environment Fund to give it life it must have if our actions here are to have any lasting meaning.

-- We have approved the substance of an Ocean Dumping Convention that will be finalized before November and opened for signature this year.

Action Plan

Mr. President, we have all done this -- and more. As part of the Action Plan, we have set into motion machinery that will:

-- dractically curtail emission into the atmosphere of chlorinated hydrocarbons and heavy metals;

-- provide information about possible harmful effects of various activities before these activities are initiated;

-- accelerate research to better assess the risk of climate modification and open up consultations among those concerned;

-- assist the developing countries to cope with the urban crisis and its related priority needs such as housing and water supply and waste disposal;

-- intensify the preparation of conventions on conservation for the protection of the world's natural and cultural heritage;

-- stress the priority of education and information to enable people to weigh the decision which shape their future and to create a wider sense of responsibility;

-- initiate steps to protect and manage common resources, considered of unique value to the world community;

-- initiate a global programme to ensure genetic resources for future generations;

-- create an International Referral Service that will enable nations to exchange enfvironmental information and knowledge;

-- incoporate environmental considerations into the review of the development strategies embodied in the Second Development Decade;

-- pursue regional co-operation for purposes of financial and technical assistance;

-- prevent environmental considerations from becoming pretexts to limit trade or impose barriers against developing country exports;

-- emphasize opportunities that environmental concerns open up for developing countries, including the possible relocation of industries to countries whose natural sytems have been less burdened;

-- study the financing of additional costs to developing countries arising from envornmental considerations.

These few examples are not all inclusive. They merely illustrate the rich variety and scope of the actions that were taken here. And, of course, they do not include the many vital proposals that were referred to governments for their consideration and attention as appropriate.


This Conference has pronounced itself -- and when the General Assembly meets again it will have before it concrete evidence that the Governments represented here fully mean what they have said: their unanimous recommendations for the establishment of the ongoing United Nations envornmental machinery and the necessary initial funding.

And it is my hope that, when the General Assembly takes action on this vital recommendation, all countries will play their full role, whether or not they have been here in Stockholm with us.

Mr. President, we have earned the right to a moment of self-congratulation, at the close of this historic Conference. But we must not allow this mood to delude us about the ability of established Governments and international agencies to bring about the changes that must take place or to carry through on our decisions without the active participation of many groups outside the official structures of governance.

Informed Public

An unprecented degree of public interest in our preparations and now in our present deliberation has been dominated by the 1500 representatives of the mass media amd more than 700 accreditations. These voluntary, professional and scientific organizations along with the press, radio and television have all served to alert governments and inform the public about the present and future environmental perils and in doing so they have focused the world spotlight on our work.

Non-governmental organizations in particular have stimulated a two-way exchange of ideas and information that have made major contributions to the success of our deliberations. I now look forward to their initiatives and co-operation in the future environmental work of the UN.


Mr. President, I believe we must now actively seek to broaden the base of decision-making in environmental affairs. We must add a new dimension to the discourse between governments and peoples, engaging the best technological and managerial abilities of the entire world. The global environment has a global constituency. The community of the concerned is now no less than the world community.

I believe we must leave here with an awakened sense of this new dynamic breaching the barriers betwen those who make the official decisions and those who are affected by such decisions. If we do that, it may well have more far-reaching impact on the affairs of Planet Earth than any of the more technical decisions we have reached in the course of the Conference.

But the need for technical solutions has not circumscribed our view. This Conference has emphasized both in word and in deed that deep and pervasive changes are needed in the way man looks at his world, and the role of man within nature, and at his relations with other men.

It has asserted its conviction that man cannot manage his relations with nature unless he learns to manage better relations between man and man -- that if he is to preserve Planet Earth for future generations, he must also make it a better home for present generations.

End to Poverty

The force of this conviction was imperative in our deliberations, and we can but hope observers from non-governmental organizations that out of it will come a new burst of political will to end , finally, the massive poverty which still exists in a world of unprecedented plenty, and which still comprises the greatest barrier dividing the tribes of man -- a barrier which must be bridged if we are to achieve the degree of co-operation needed to secure the future of mankind.

Mr. President, this Stockholm Conference has done more that recognize the urgent need for a change in man's priorities. It has achieved a heartening consensus to the effect that no fundamental conflict exists between the goal of environmental quality on the one hand and economic and social progress on the other.

Global Unity

So there is reason to hope in the work it has done -- in the programmes it has adopted -- in the awareness it has expressed of our global unity -- in the affirmation that the problems of the human environment can only be resolved if we place man at the center of our concerns -- and in the conviction that we must liberate ourselves from the outdated and outworn habit of the past.

Mr. President, I believe that, as we leave now, we must do so with determination to build on the foundations we have laid here in Stockholm. If we do not, then this Conference will have been a brief flash, a meteor burning its way through the blackness of space.

And I believe that we will build together -- that we will continue together to work for the achievement of the larger, richer future which the collective will and energies of mankind can shape -- that we will together continue our long journey towards a creative and dynamic harmony for all life on this Planet.

I believe we will because this Conference has demonstrated that the United Nations is at the heart of our turbulent and troubled world. It has demonstrated that, if Governments given it their support and co-operation, it can and will play a vital role in bringing harmony between man and the natural systems, which support this life.

And if it does, perhaps then it is not too much to hope that it can and will fulfill the hope of the Charter and inspire a peaceful and just world community in which diverse states and people co-operate for the common good of all mankind.