The UN Conference on the Human Environment also known as the Stockholm Conference was held in Stockholm in 1972. It was the UN's first major conference on international environmental issues, and marked a turning point in the development of international environmental events and dialogues, and placed the issue of the environment high on the agenda of governments.

It was the first of a series of environmental conferences held every ten years - in Nairobi in 1982, in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and in Johannesburg in 2002.

On 24 December 2009, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a Resolution agreeing to hold the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), also referred to as Rio+20, in 2012. 

This conference entitled “The Future We Want” is planned to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 20 to 22 June 2012, and there will be other events preceding those dates.

The key themes will be: “a green economy within the context of sustainable development and poverty reduction” and “institutional framework for sustainable development”,

The Rio+20 conference marks the 40th anniversary of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972, the 25th anniversary of the Brundtland Commission report, and the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. 

That conference was held in Rio in 1992, and the outcome was Agenda 21.  Rio+20 also marks the 10th anniversary of the World Summit on Sustainable Development referred to as the Johannesburg Summit held in 2002.

The principal objectives of the Conference are to secure renewed political commitment to sustainable development, assess the progress and implementation gaps in meeting already agreed commitments, and to address current and emerging challenges. 

The Brundtland Commission established the term 'sustainable development'.  Sustainable development is defined as "development which meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". 

Rio 1992 compelled the world to face up to the environmental, social and economic crises of its own making.  It put the idea of sustainable development on the table and, to a certain degree, brought about a global shift in thinking – away from “progress at all costs” toward “inclusive growth.”  It backed up the talk with an agenda for action that, in many ways, defined international efforts for a generation.

Rio+20 is an opportunity to shift the thinking towards green and inclusive growth and to agree on a set of sustainable development goals for 2030.  These will build on the already-established millennium development goals (MDGs) for 2015 to help ensure global efforts are focused. In Rio 1992, government participation was made up largely of environment ministries.

Rio+20 is expected to see much broader participation from ministries of finance, development, and planning of various countries.


"For Africa and low income countries of the world, whose essential livelihood depends on nature, poverty and environment are two sides of the same coin."

Read more about what AfDB's President said at Rio+20