The 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development: International Environmental Law Collides with Reality, Turning Jo'burg into "Joke'burg"

By Pring, George | Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

The 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development: International Environmental Law Collides with Reality, Turning Jo'burg into "Joke'burg"


Pring, George, Denver Journal of International Law and Policy


"Betrayal," (1) "disaster," (2) "shameful, disgraceful, and for American citizens ... an embarrassment" (3) are but some of the negative assessments of the recent United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD a.k.a. "Earth Summit" or "Rio+10"), held August 26-September 4, 2002, in Johannesburg, South Africa. (4) Even its UN promoters damn it with faint praise, for example UN Environment Programme Executive Director Klaus Toepfer's statement that "Johannesburg is less visionary and more workmanlike [than Rio] ...," (5) and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's apologetic (and historically inaccurate), "We have to be careful not to expect conferences like this to produce miracles.... This is just a beginning.... (6)

The more accurate assessment of the 2002 Earth Summit lies between these extremes of acid and apologetics. At Jo'burg, the expanding field of International Environmental Law (IEL) ran headlong into the hard reality of the world's existing economic order, and the economic order did not give ... much. What resulted was indeed a shamefully wasted opportunity for expanding IEL, but at least it avoided rolling back thirty years of progress, as at times it seemed it might. The US Government and some other nations worked against virtually all positive change at Jo'burg, sought rollbacks in existing law, and were very effective. (7) The best view of the Summit is, if it did not move IEL forward, at least it did not give up serious ground, did flush the nay-sayers out of the political backrooms and expose them to intense worldwide scrutiny, and did not foreclose possibilities for progress in IEL in the years to come.

It started out well-intentioned enough. The UN General Assembly resolution authorizing the Johannesburg Conference envisioned a "summit ... to reinvigorate the global commitment to sustainable development," to "focus on the identification of accomplishments and areas where further efforts are needed," to carry out the pledges made ten years earlier at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (UNCED or "Rio Conference"). (8) Thus, as originally envisioned, the Johannesburg Conference was to carry on the tradition of precedent-setting UN environment and development conferences begun with the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm Sweden (UNCHE or "Stockholm Conference") and the 1992 Rio Conference.

The now-legendary 1972 Stockholm Conference was the "dawn" of IEL, the largest and best-attended international conference on any topic to that point. (9) It produced a consensus declaration of twenty-six "principles" governing international environmental protection, (10) notably groundbreaking ones like the human "right" to a quality environment, (11) the "responsibility to protect and improve the environment," (12) and the famous no-harm rule against significant transboundary environmental pollution or damage. (13) A number of these Stockholm Principles have become accepted as legally binding over the years. (14)

The "North-South" environment-vs.-development split, which has become such a fixture of IEL today, first manifested itself in the leadup to this conference, as the developing nations (the "South") served notice that the environmental protection standards of the developed, industrialized world (the "North") should not be imposed so as to block needed economic development of the poorer nations. (15) The split was assuaged with a few references in the Stockholm Principles (such as "economic and social development is essential") (16), but the North kept Stockholm's overall focus on environmental protection.

When the LIN began planning a second global environmental conference, in recognition of the twentieth anniversary of Stockholm, it was clear the South would not to be so easily appeased. Diplomatic disaster was averted by the expedient of inventing a new legal paradigm--"sustainable development"--that promises to merge the twin aspirations of protecting the environment while pursuing the development of the South. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development: International Environmental Law Collides with Reality, Turning Jo'burg into "Joke'burg"
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.