In 1992 the major UN conference on environment and development (UNCED) took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. All the world leaders attending the conference signed a declaration undertaking to achieve worldwide sustainable development. This is the declaration underlying Agenda 21: the action programme for the coming century.
The action programme includes proposals for monitoring and reducing chemical waste, the treatment and elimination of radio-active waste, the protection of forests and the development of sustainable farming and measures to combat soil degradation. Agenda 21 also includes proposals for regulating the transfer of clean technologies among countries. Moreover, the Agenda lists programmes in the fields of oceans, water and coastal management, combatting poverty, health care and price and trade policies linked to environmental objectives. Agenda 21 is a milestone in the relationship between poor and rich countries. Agenda 21 is a basis for new worldwide cooperation which goes much deeper than the traditional development aid provided by rich countries to poor ones. It represents cooperation based on common interests, mutual needs, shared responsibilities.
Agenda 21 is an action programme that is intended to be implemented by governments, UN agencies, local and regional administrators, organisations in the community and the public at large. Governments are required to promote the dialogue among these players. But local government, too, closest as it is the public at large, has a responsibility and has been allocated a major role in providing information, education and mobilising the general public to achieve sustainable development. One of the objectives of Agenda 21 is that every local government in 1996 should draw up its own Local Agenda 21 in close consultation with its citizens. The key principle is that of sustainable development.