World Summit on Sustainable Development


Johannesburg, South Africa, 26 August - 4 September 2002


A report for individuals and communities interested in summit processes
with particular emphasis on ethical/spiritual issues and NGO collaboration
(some links may no longer work)

Intergovernmental Preparatory Process
Regional Preparations
NGO Involvement
References to ethical/spiritual issues
Useful Background Information


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 in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 26 August - 4 September 2002, with the high level segment on 2-4 September. Just as the Earth Summit provided an opportunity for many non-governmental organizations and other representatives of civil society to participate, so did the WSSD create openings for thousands of interested organizations to contribute to parallel events, the Global Peoples Forum, and "type 2" partnerships in support of sustainable development. The resources and links on this page provide access to information on major summit processes and outcomes. It was estimated that over 20,000 people participated in the Summit and surrounding events.


The intergovernmental preparatory process began with an organizational session 30 April-2 May 2001 in New York of the Commission for Sustainable Development-10, acting as the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The Baha'i International Community made a statement on the first day of that session (see press release). The intergovernmental preparatory meetings continued through mid-2002. Regional preparatory meetings took place during the later part of 2001. The second session of the Preparatory Committee for the Summit was held in New York, 28 January - 8 February 2002, to review and assess progress achieved in implementing Agenda 21 and other outcomes of the Rio Earth Summit. The third session took place in New York, 25 March-5 April 2002, to negotiate the main conference outcomes and to discuss new "type 2 outcomes" consisting of partnerships among governments, the private sector, international and non-govermental organizations. The fourth session and ministerial-level meeting was held in Bali, Indonesia, 27 May - 7 June 2002, with a focus on future priorities. Since many issues were still unresolved in Bali, informal negotiations among governments continued up to and through the whole summit process. Even so, many felt that the outcomes of the intergovernmental process were less than had been hoped.

The UN Secretary-General released his report to the second preparatory session on Implementing Agenda 21 on 20 December 2001. The report has served as the factual underpinning of the negotiations for the World Summit. It is based on the thematic reports on the implementation of different parts of Agenda 21 that were submitted to the first preparatory meeting in May 2001 (E/CN.17/2001/PC/2 to PC/21). The UN Secretary-General identified water, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity as the key areas where concrete results must be achieved in Johannesburg (speech in New York, 14 May 2002).

Wide stakeholder involvement was sought at the national, regional and global levels throughout the preparatory process. The Bureau for the Summit emphasized the need for active involvement of major groups at all stages of the process leading to the Summit, in the hope that new partnerships would be identified to implement sustainable development involving governments and various stakeholders, as well as partnerships among various stakeholders' groups. Multi-stakeholder dialogues were organized during the second and fourth Preparatory Committee meetings, and at the end of the high-level segment of the Summit.

The South African Government urged the Summit to emphasize the eradication of poverty as the key to sustainable development, and this is repeatedly referred to in the Summit outcomes. Poverty is the single most important threat to sustainable development globally. The instability, conflict, diseases and environmental degradation associated with it threaten the overall socio-economic status of the planet.


In the European Union, the European Council meeting in Göteburg, 15-16 June 2001, adopted a Sustainable Development Strategy as part of the Union's preparations for WSSD. The Union sought to achieve a "global deal" at the Summit. Four environmental priorities were targetted for sustainability in Europe: combating climate change, ensuring sustainable transport, addressing threats to public health, and managing natural resources more responsibly. Under the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), issues highlighted in the preparatory process included the linkages between poverty eradication and unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, decoupling of economic growth from environmental pressures, linking science with decision-making, financing and better governance.

In Asia-Pacific, the High-level Regional Meeting for WSSD was held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 27-29 November 2001. The meeting produced the Phnom Penh Regional Platform on Sustainable Development for Asia and the Pacific. Similar meetings were held in other regions.

Regional Roundtables of Eminent Persons were organized by the WSSD Secretariat in Europe and North America (Vail, Colorado, 6-8 June 2001); Latin America and Caribbean (Barbados, 18-20 June 2001); Africa (Cairo, 25-27 June 2001); East Asia and Pacific (9-11 July, 2001); and Southern and Central Asia (Bishkek, late July 2001). These Roundtables brought together experts from various non-governmental constituencies, including science, the private sector, trade unions, NGOs, indigenous peoples and other major groups. Some of the key issues raised at the Roundtables that represented particular challenges for the 2002 Summit and its preparatory process included:
- finding practical ways and means for making sustainable development work, incorporating the economic, social and environmental dimensions;
- fostering stronger partnerships among governments and between governments and other stakeholders to promote sustainable development;
- taking into account new economic and technological developments since the Rio Summit;
- effectively addressing the issue of resources and means of implementation for sustainable development; and
- achieving stronger institutions and better governance for sustainable development at all levels.


The WSSD Global Peoples Forum (of civil society organizations) was organized by the World Summit on Sustainable Development Civil Society Secretariat in Johannesburg on 19 August - 4 September 2002, including a pre-summit 19-23 August for activities by major groups the week before the summit, the Opening Ceremony in Johannesburg Stadium on 23 August, and the Global Forum from 26 August to 4 September. The Global Peoples Forum was held at the Johannesburg Expo Centre (NASREC) separate from the Summit site but linked by a transport system.


The UNEP Finance Initiative organized its Annual Global Roundtable Meeting on Finance and Sustainability on 14-15 March 2002 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on the topic "Financing a Sustainable Future: Strategies, Partnerships, and Opportunities on the way to Johannesburg 2002". Being the only meeting of its kind in its global outreach, the roundtable was a critical stepping stone in work on this topic towards the World Summit for Sustainable Development, building new partnerships for sustainability within the finance and insurance industries.


In June 2001, a regional workshop for African NGOs was organized in Cape Town, South Africa, on the theme of NGO preparations for the WSSD. After discussing regional preparations for the WSSD Summit as well as accreditation procedures for NGOs planning to attend the Summit, the workshop agreed to form a coalition of NGO/Civil Society Actors in Africa to prepare for the Summit. Themes of special interest included poverty eradication, multi-lateral environmental agreements and desertification. The South African NGO Coalition (SANGOCO) reached out to grass-root groups and the population at large to mobilize support for the activities preceeding and during the Summit.


The scientific community organized a Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development, led by the South African Department of Science and Technology, with the collaboration of the International Council for Science, the Third World Academy of Science, the World Federation of Engineering Organizations, and other partners. ( launched a special section on Science and Sustainability which is now no longer available.


The International Seminar on Environment, Religions and Cultures, which was held in Tehran, Iran from 18-20 June 2001, adopted the Tehran Declaration embodying common concerns and principles as embraced by the seven religious groups represented at the seminar.  Among other things, the Declaration invited the Executive Director of UNEP, in consultation with interested partners, to convene a world religious summit on environment as a contribution to the World Summit on Sustainable Development. UNEP held a high-level side event on Biodiversity, Cultural Diversity and Ethics during the Summit.


The Stakeholder Forum For Our Common Future (formerly UNED Forum) took an active role in preparing NGOs internationally for the WSSD, including a special Earth Summit 2002 web site:, in addition to their main site at They published a Stakeholder Toolkit: A Resource for Women and NGOs. In September 2001, they organized an Earth Summit 2002 online debate on the issues of cities, marginalized peoples, HIV/AIDS and multinational businesses. They held an Implementation Conference on Stakeholder Action For Our Common Future in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 24 - 26 August 2002, the weekend before WSSD.

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) launched a new series, The Future is Now, to prepare for WSSD.

WSSD Web Site of the Heinrich Böll Foundation:

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) Linkages Portal to the Johannesburg Summit 2002:

The Baha'i International Community presented a statement to the first session of the Preparatory Committee of the WSSD (New York, 30 April-2 May 2001) entitled Sustainable Development: The Spiritual Dimension. See also official press release of 30 April 2001. It also circulated comments on the chairman's paper at the third Preparatory Committee, and made text proposals at the Summit itself. A statement for the World Summit on Sustainable Development itself was released on 16 August: Religion and Development at the Crossroads: Convergence or Divergence? A study guide to this statement has been prepared. Other statements by the Baha'i International Community available on this site are also relevant. The BIC was active at the Summit with booths at both Ubuntu Village and the Global Peoples Forum at NASREC.

The International Environment Forum focussed its 5th annual Conference, held in the Czech Republic on 19-21 October 2001, on Knowledge, Values and Education for Sustainable Development, in preparation for the WSSD, and held its 6th Conference in Johannesburg as a series of parallel events during WSSD. It was officially accredited to the WSSD as a scientific and technological organization. It created this web page to encourage more active involvement in the WSSD preparatory process by individuals and non-governmental organizations. It prepared a background document for WSSD PrepCom 2 based on its conference, and was actively represented at all the Preparatory Committee meetings in 2002. Before the summit, it organized an electronic forum on the issues.  The IEF organizing four parallel events in Johannesburg (see programme), shared a booth at the Global Peoples Forum with the European Bahá'í Business Forum, and released position papers on Globalization, Indicators, Local Science, and Education. A full report has been prepared on the IEF events in Johannesburg.

The European Bahá'í Business Forum ( was also accredited to the WSSD as a non-governmental organization and organized parallel events in Johannesburg.


The following references to the ethical and spiritual dimensions of sustainable development, and the importance of addressing these aspects at WSSD, illustrate the increasing attention being given to these issues.

Contributions of the United Nations Environment Programme to the Preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (December 2001)

Religion and Environment - Extract from UNEP discussion paper for the Global Ministerial Environmental Forum 2001

"We the Peoples": The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century, Kofi A. Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations (2000)


The following statements and materials, all prepared with collaboration from Bahá'ís but reflecting the combination of many points of view, provide useful perspectives relevant to the Summit process.

World Faiths Development Dialogue (no longer available)

Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders (no longer available)

Council for the Parliament of the World's Religions: Call to our Guiding Institutions (no longer available)

The Earth Charter:

Agenda 21 and Sustainable Development (Bahá'í project in United Kingdom):

Many of the Resources on this site also provide background information relevant to WSSD process.


The following publications can provide background information or ideas relevant to sustainable development and the World Summit process.

Bahá'í International Community. 1995. The Prosperity of Humankind. A Statement Prepared by the Bahá'í International Community's Office of Public Information.

Bahá'í International Community. 1998. Valuing Spirituality in Development: Initial Considerations Regarding the Creation of Spiritually Based Indicators for Development. A concept paper written for the World Faiths and Development Dialogue, Lambeth Palace, London, 18-19 February 1998. Bahá'í Publishing Trust, London. [français]

Bahá'í International Community. 2001. Sustainable Development: The Spiritual Dimension. Statement presented to the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, 30 April 2001.

Bahá'í International Community. 2002. Religion and Development at the Crossroads: Convergence or Divergence? Statement presented to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, 16 August 2002.

Brown, Noel J., and Pierre Quiblier (eds). 1994. Ethics and Agenda 21: Moral Implications of a Global Consensus. United Nations Environment Programme. United Nations Publications, New York. 187 p.

Dahl, Arthur Lyon. 1990. Unless and Until: a Bahá'í focus on the environment. Bahá'í Publishing Trust, London. 96 p.

Dahl, Arthur Lyon. 1996. The Eco Principle: Ecology and Economics in Symbiosis. Zed Books Ltd, London, and George Ronald, Oxford. 174 p.

Hemmati, Minu. 2002. Multistakeholder Processes for Governance and Sustainability: Beyond Deadlock and Conflict. With contributions from Felix Dodds, Jasmin Enayati and Jan McHarry. Earthscan Publications Ltd, London. 312 p.

Hemmati, Minu and Kerstin Seliger (eds.), 2001, The Stakeholder Toolkit: A Resource for Women and NGOs, UNED Forum, London, March 2001

IIED, 2001, The Future is Now: Johannesburg Earth Summit 2002, Vol. 1, April 2001. International Institute for Environment and Development, London.

IIED, 2001, The Future is Now: Equity for a Small Planet, Vol. 2, November 2001. International Institute for Environment and Development, London.

Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity, 2001, Science, Religion and Development: Some Initial Considerations. Bahá'í International Community.

United Nations, 1995, Ethical and Spiritual Dimensions of Social Progress. World Summit for Social Development, 6-12 March, 1995, Copenhagen. United Nations publication Sales No. E.95.IV.2 ST/ESA/242


Last updated 9 February 2022