A Primer on Agenda 21 and ICLEI

I was thrilled to join DaTechGuy on the radio last Saturday as one of the new guest bloggers for this site.  During our discussion, one of the questions that came up is Agenda 21.  We didn’t have time to go into the details for those who are unfamiliar with it, so I thought I would take this opportunity to provide an overview here.  You may already be familiar as this was a hot topic (at least for Newt Gingrich) during the GOP primary.  But, in case you are wondering what it is, here is a primer:

Officially, Agenda 21 is described as:  “a voluntary action plan developed by the United Nations and national governments at the “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. At the Summit, governmental leaders around the world agreed on the need to become more sustainable—to meet today’s needs without sacrificing our future. Agenda 21 presents a vision for how all levels of government—especially in the developing world—can take voluntary action to combat poverty and pollution, conserve natural resources and develop in a sustainable manner. One-hundred-seventy-eight nations adopted the agenda, including the United States under the Bush Administration.”

Agenda 21 is a comprehensive, UN-led, top-down approach to “sustainability.”  There are 4 major sections to the officially-adopted document, which basically cover every possible aspect of city and social planning.

Section I: Social and Economic Dimensions

Section II: Conservation and Management of Resources for Development

Section III: Strengthening the Role of Major Groups

Section IV: Means of Implementation

There are multiple subsections beneath each section covering all topics you can imagine from deforestation to protecting the ocean to disposing of toxic wastes to allocating the use of land.  Each section is extremely lengthy and goes into extensive detail about how each initiative should be implemented.  The whole document is 351 pages, you can read it here.

Agenda 21 is an environmentalist’s dream; its primary premise is that the UN’s central and global point of view is wiser than individual city planners and citizens at the local level.

If you don’t have the kind of time to read all 351 pages, here are a few highlights in its own words:

  • “Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment.”  Did you catch that?  “…in every area in which human impacts on the environment.”
  • Agenda 21 seeks for a “reorientation of existing production and consumption patterns that have developed in industrial societies and are in turn emulated in much of the world.”
  • “The primary need is to integrate environmental and developmental decision-making processes. To do this, Governments should conduct a national review and, where appropriate, improve the processes of decision-making so as to achieve the progressive integration of economic, social and environmental issues in the pursuit of development that is economically efficient, socially equitable and responsible and environmentally sound.”
  • “Governments, in cooperation, where appropriate, with international organizations, should strengthen national institutional capability and capacity to integrate social, economic, developmental and environmental issues at all levels of development decision-making and implementation. Attention should be given to moving away from narrow sectoral approaches, progressing towards full cross-sectoral coordination and cooperation.”
  • “The overall objective is to promote, in the light of country-specific conditions, the integration of environment and development policies through appropriate legal and regulatory policies, instruments and enforcement mechanisms at the national, state, provincial and local level.”
  • “The cost of inaction could outweigh the financial costs of implementing Agenda 21. Inaction will narrow the choices of future generations.”
  • “Develop and promote, as appropriate, cost-effective, more efficient, less polluting and safer transport systems, particularly integrated rural and urban mass transit, as well as environmentally sound road networks, taking into account the needs for sustainable social, economic and development priorities, particularly in developing countries…”

ICLEIUSA.org is the US-based organization responsible for rolling out Agenda 21 domestically. ICLEI has made it very clear that Agenda 21 is non-binding and goes to great lengths to state that this was adopted during a Republican administration and that it will not have the effect of compromising sovereignty:

Agenda 21 is a voluntary action plan developed by the United Nations and national governments… One-hundred-seventy-eight nations adopted the agenda, including the United States under the Bush Administration.

Agenda 21 is not a treaty or legally binding document and does not infringe upon the sovereignty of any nation, state, or local government. Agenda 21 does not advocate for abolishing private property or have any bearing on U.S. local and state land-use decisions. In other words, it isn’t being forced on anybody, anywhere, by any organization.”

However, keep in mind that the US did “adopt” the agenda and that the Federal government has spent millions funding them and recent headlines show that Obama wants to massively increase funding for these types of initiatives which means voluntary is likely not so voluntary in the near future, whether it be via ICLEI or some other initiative, nationalization of “sustainability” projects is real.  ICLEI also collects membership fees from the cities that participate in their program.

Here’s what people are saying about Agenda 21:

From The Foundry (Heritage Foundation blog):

As adopted, Agenda 21 was described as “a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment.” That includes hundreds of specific goals and strategies that national and local governments are encouraged to adopt. And that translates into restrictive zoning policies that are aimed at deterring suburban growth. Ultimately, they suppress housing supply and drive up home prices, in turn imposing unnecessary costs, especially on middle- and lower-income households. These policies contributed to and aggravate the real estate bubble by putting inflationary pressures on housing prices.

From a site called democratsagainst21.com:

“In a nutshell, the plan calls for governments to take control of all land use and not leave any of the decision making in the hands of private property owners.  It is assumed that people are not good stewards of their land and the government will do a better job if they are in control.  Individual rights in general are to give way to the needs of communities as determined by the governing body.  Moreover, people should be rounded up off the land and packed into human settlements, or islands of human habitation, close to employment centers and transportation.  Another program, called the Wildlands Project spells out how most of the land is to be set aside for non-humans.”

From Canadafreepress.com:

“America was founded on the idea that private property is sacred. Americans cannot conceive their country without the right to own property. As they go about their daily lives, the United Nations Agenda 21 is methodically chipping away at our country’s solid foundation.

Under the guise of protecting the environment, water conservation, resources, reducing carbon footprint, reducing the use of electricity, smart grid, smart meters, cutting down the use of fossil fuels, separating people from their cars in favor of mass transit, biking and walking within five minutes of residence, returning land to wilderness by moving large rural and urban populations into high rise tenements in green zones, and social justice, the UN is taking over our lives.”


You can also go to the American Policy Center’s page on Agenda 21 for additional quotes and information.

Obviously, individual cities are perfectly of capable of making local decisions based on the needs of the local residents in a way that respects the freedoms of individual land owners.  But, Agenda 21 was devised and accepted by member countries across the world who do not value individualism and private property rights the way Americans do.  I fully expect many of these countries to buy into the idea that the U.N. knows best and any sort of global planning must be right.  But, I didn’t expect the United States to fall for this.

As mentioned already, the United States has technically already adopted Agenda 21.  However, since city membership is voluntary for now, you can monitor your own city’s involvement.  Go to ICLEIUSA.org, click on “About us” and then you will see a map of member cities.  Click on “View the member list” below the map of the U.S.  Is your city there?  If so, you know what needs to be done.  Find out why your city is there and work to remove them.

Awhile ago I attended a training by Americans For Prosperity where Agenda 21 was discussed.  One of the speakers was a local Tea Party leader (from Garland, which neighbors Dallas) who had worked with her city leadership to quit the ICLEI.  So, it can be done. There is even an anti-ICLEI Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-UN-Agenda-21-Stop-ICLEI/284021125057 . If you search for “quit ICLEI” in a search engine, you will see that many cities have quit and that there is quite a movement out there.  But, there is more to do.  So, next time you wonder, how can I have an influence?  This is a great local way to make an impact.

The Heritage Foundation article cited earlier mentions that this is really a local fight and many of the ideas in Agenda 21 have already been out there for decades.  Agenda 21 just organizes them.  So, the battle is really what it has always been, not just Agenda 21, but the micro-implementation at each and every individual city across the country.  So far, there is no mandate to follow Agenda 21, so it is up to citizens to remove its hooks from our cities and keep fighting for our rights.

Lisa @ AmericaisConservative.org