United Nations addresses the many issues which deal with by holding thematic conferences. Get information on past UN conferences, to help you better understand the theme (or issue) each conference covered and the actions that were taken subsequent to the conference.
Here you can learn about what the United Nations has accomplished and the action it has taken on subjects as varied as the environment and sustainable development.
Because United Nations conferences have often had follow-ups and reviews by the General Assembly in the form of Special Sessions, these Special Sessions are also listed here, along with other Special Sessions, High-level Meetings, Summits, and events.
Conference on human environment/Stockholm conference
The 1972 United Nations Conference on the Environment (also known as the Stockholm Conference) was held in Stockholm, Sweden from June 5-16, 1972.
When the United Nations General Assembly decided to convene the 1972 Stockholm Conference, taking up the offer of the Government of Sweden to host it, UN Secretary-General U Thant invited Maurice Strong to lead it as Secretary-General of the Conference, as the Canadian diplomat (under Pierre Trudeau) had initiated and already worked for over two years on the project.
The United Nations Environment Programme, or UNEP, was created as a result of this conference.
Sweden firstly suggested to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 1968 the idea of having a UN conference to focus on human interactions with the environment.
The preparations for the conference were extensive, lasting 4 years, including 114 governments, and costing over $30,000,000 (2,26,73,55,000 INR).
It was an international conference convened under the United Nations auspices and the world’s first conference to make the environment a major issue. It was also the UN’s first major conference on international environmental issues and marked a turning point in the development of international environmental politics.
The participants adopted a series of principles for sound management of the environment including the Stockholm Declaration and Action Plan for the Human Environment and several resolutions.
The Stockholm Declaration, which contained 26 principles, placed environmental issues at the forefront of international concerns and marked the start of a dialogue between industrialized and developing countries on the link between economic growth, the pollution of the air, water, and oceans, and the well-being of people around the world.
The action plan contained three major categories:
- Global Environmental Assessment Programme (watch plan)
- Environmental management activities
- International measures to support assessment and management activities are carried out at the national and international levels.
In addition, these categories were broken down into 109 recommendations.
One of the major results of the Stockholm conference was the creation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Recognizing the deleterious effects of ozone depletion, an international treaty, known as the Montreal Protocol was signed in 1987 in Montreal (Canada, North America). 27 industrialized countries signed the Montreal protocol to protect stratospheric ozone. It is effective in 1989. More than 175 countries have signed the Montreal protocol.
Kyoto protocol conference held in Kyoto (Japan) for climate change in 1997. This protocol requires countries to take appropriate measures to reduce their overall greenhouse gas emission to a level of 5% below the 1990 level by the commitment period 2008-2012.
UNCED or Earth summit
The United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC)— It is a yearly conference held in the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) was adopted in June 1992, become effective from 1994.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established an international environmental treaty to combat “dangerous human interference with the climate system”, in part by stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.
It was signed by 154 states at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), informally known as Earth Summit, was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (between June 3–14, 1992), to reconcile worldwide economic development with the protection of the environment.
The Earth Summit was the largest gathering of world leaders as of 1992, with 117 heads of state and representatives of 178 nations in all attending.
UNCED conference was done to reduce greenhouse gases and biodiversity conservation and make Agenda- 21 to protect the Earth’s environment and nonrenewable resources.
The COP is the supreme decision-making body of an international Convention (treaty, written agreement between actors in international law).
International law— also known as public international law and law of nations, is the set of rules, norms, and standards generally recognized as binding between nations. It establishes normative guidelines and a common conceptual framework for states across a broad range of domains, including war, diplomacy, trade, and human rights. International law aims to promote the practice of stable, consistent, and organized international relations.
All States that are Parties to the Convention are represented at the COP, at which they review the implementation of the Convention and any other related legal instruments that the COP adopts and take decisions necessary to promote the effective implementation of the Convention, including institutional and administrative arrangements.
The main documents signed upon at the Earth Summit are as follows:
The Convention on Biodiversity is a binding treaty requiring nations to take inventories of their plants and wild animals and protect their endangered species.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), or Global Warming Convention, is a binding treaty that requires nations to reduce their emission of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and other greenhouse gases, thought to be responsible for global warming; the treaty stopped short of setting binding targets for emission reductions, however.
Such targets were eventually established in an amendment to the UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol (1997), which was superseded by the Paris Agreement on climate change (2015).
The Declaration on Environment and Development, or Rio Declaration, laid down 27 broad, nonbinding principles for environmentally sound development.
Agenda 21 outlined global strategies for cleaning up the environment and encouraging environmentally sound development. The Statement of Principles on Forests, aimed at preserving the world’s rapidly vanishing tropical rainforests, is a nonbinding statement recommending that nations monitor and assess the impact of development on their forest resources and take steps to limit the damage done to them.
Conventions with COP
- Basel Convention
- Chemical Weapons Convention
- Convention on Biological Diversity
- 2012 Hyderabad Biodiversity Conference
- Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals
- Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
- Kyoto Protocol
- Minamata Convention on Mercury
- Ramsar Convention
- Rotterdam Convention
- Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants
- Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
- United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
- United Nations Convention against Corruption
- United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
- United Nations Climate Change conference
- WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
The key task of the Conference Of Parties (COP) is to review the national communications and emission inventories submitted by Parties. Based on this information, the COP assesses the effects of the measures taken by Parties and the progress made in achieving the ultimate objective of the Convention.
World summit/Johannesburg Summit 2002
World summit on sustainable development held in 2002 at Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August – 4 September.
Ten years after the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the Earth Summit) met in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the United Nations convened a World Summit on sustainable development.
The World Summit on Sustainable Development is also called Johannesburg Summit 2002. It brought together the tens of thousands of participants, including heads of States and Governments, national delegates and leaders from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), businesses, and other representatives of civil society and major groups. It was estimated that over 20,000 people participated in the Summit and surrounding events.
These participants organized to focus the world’s attention and direct action toward meeting difficult challenges, including improving people’s lives and conserving our natural resources in a world that is growing in population, with ever-increasing demands for food, water, air, shelter, sanitation, energy, health services, and economic security.
*The time difference between the world summit and the earth summit is of 10 years.
References: UN Official website