Expanding Horizons of Forest Ecosystem

Posted September 15, 1994 | Categories : 118,400,Logging old-growth,Reports |

Forest at UNCED:

An Emerging Global Consensus

Toward Sustainability

Gary L. Larsen


second event was the publication in 1987 of “Our Common Future,” the report of the World

Commission on Environment and Development,1 which developed the most comprehensive

link to date between the environment and development and called for a global conference,

which became UNCED (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987).

The Earth Summit marked the conclusion of 2 years of extensive diplomatic negotiations

in preparation for UNCED. Three major agreements were adopted by the consensus of

nearly 180 countries: “Agenda 21”—an action plan of 40 chapters; “Rio Declaration on

Environment and Development”; and a statement of principles for forests. In addition, two

major conventions on climate change and biodiversity, negotiated outside of UNCED, were

opened for signature by heads of state at Rio de Janeiro.

UNCED was both a catalyst and an expression of deep-rooted changes taking place in the

world. It marked a turning point from an old world order dominated by national security

issues defined along an east-west axis to a new world order whereby the notion of national

security embraces issues of economic and environmental security, defined along a northsouth

axis with developed countries at one pole and developing countries at the other.

This new order is focused on economic and social development. UNCED linked these to

the stewardship of natural resources.

The intertwining themes of the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainability

were woven throughout the UNCED negotiations and agreements. While the Earth

Summit in Rio de Janeiro marked the end of 2 years of extensive diplomatic negotiations,

it also marked the emergence of a new era. The actual outputs are all starting points:

• lnitiation of action among signatories to deal with biodiversity and climate change through

signing and subsequent ratification of two legally binding conventions.

• A consensus among all countries declared in two sets of principles—one on environment

and development, the “Rio Declaration on Environment and Development,” and

the other on forests (forest principles) (United Nations 1992b, 1992c).

• An extensive global action plan, “Agenda 21,” adopted to put the world on the course of

sustainable development for the 21st century (United Nations 1992a).

• Agreement to establish within the United Nations a Commission on Sustainable Development

that will provide an intergovernmental forum for pursuing the agreements made


The “Rio Declaration on Environment and Development” is a proclamation of 27 principles

aimed at meeting the needs of present and future generations by integrating environment

and development (United Nations 1993c). The principles can be organized by subject

matter into four broad categories: (1) meeting the needs of present and future generations,

(2) international cooperation, (3) actions of national governments, and (4) transboundary

issues. Figure 1 shows the main topics of the principles and displays the wide range of

issues dealt with in this declaration.

1 Also known as the Brundtland Commission Report,


See the complete report here: FOREST ECOSYSTEMS: GTR336A