Were the UN-sponsored world conferences of the 1990s worth their quite considerable cost in human and material resources? Are UN-sponsored conferences a useful way to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century? Can the conference follow-up be sufficiently impressive to convince conference sceptics to fund another round of such conferences in the twenty-first century? The subtitle of the volume, Focus on impact and follow-up, is intended to emphasize not simply the focus of this particular book, but what is novel about it and what we believe is the necessary focus in order to begin to answer the aforementioned crucial research and contentious international public policy questions.
The authors of the chapters of this volume all believe that one of the best ways to respond to these sorts of pressing questions is to assess the accomplishments of some of the key UN-funded global conferences of the 1990s and the international legal and public policy processes of which they are a part. No single volume could hope to assess all of the UNsponsored conferences of the 1990s and none of the authors believes that enough time has lapsed since the conclusion of those conferences (and their so-called “plus 5” follow-up meetings) to provide a definitive assessment. But all of us believe that this preliminary analysis of a select but diverse set of conferences provides evidence that although opportunities have been missed and mistakes made, accomplishments can be documented and some noteworthy trends are evolving. Perhaps, as importantly, challenges and opportunities still exist for making more meaningful the UN-sponsored conferences of the 1990s.