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SUMMARY OF THE NINETEENTH UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY SPECIAL SESSION TO REVIEW IMPLEMENTATION OF AGENDA 21: : 23-27 JUNE 1997

The Nineteenth United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) to Review the Implementation of Agenda 21 was held at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 23-27 July 1997, five years after the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro. Agenda 21 is the Programme of Action for Sustainable Development agreed at UNCED. 53 Heads of State and Government, along with ministers and other high-level officials, addressed the Assembly during the week-long meeting. Negotiations held in a Committee of the Whole, as well as several Ministerial groups, produced a Statement of Commitment and a Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21.

The “Earth Summit +5” proved to be a sobering reminder that little progress has been made over the past five years in implementing key components of Agenda 21 and moving toward sustainable development. When the Special Session came to a close at 1:15 on Saturday morning, delegates, NGOs and other observers left UN Headquarters with mixed feelings. Some felt that the meeting had been a failure because governments had shown a lack of political will to force more than convoluted compromises. Others, including United Nations General Assembly President Razali Ismail (Malaysia), felt that the meeting proved to be an “honest attempt to try and make an appraisal of the results, and of how far we have gone from Rio. There was little attempt to try to sweep things under the carpet or put a gloss over something that’s not there.”