Most people have never heard of a United Nations initiative called Agenda 21. The result of the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development that was held in Rio de Janeiro, the initiative was signed by 178 countries including the United States. Wikipedia calls it “an action agenda for the U.N., other multilateral organizations, and individual governments around the world that can be executed at local, national and global levels”.
Agenda 21 is not a treaty, rather it is a set of policies and planning initiatives promulgated by the U.N. on a global level to be implemented by governments and nongovernmental organizations.
You’ve seen the bumper sticker: “Think Globally, Act Locally.” While it is “nonbinding,” it was signed by President George H. W. Bush, thus committing the U.S. to act on it. Since it is not a treaty, it was never ratified by the Senate. In 1995, President Bill Clinton implemented it by issuing Executive Order 12858.
So what is Agenda 21? Agenda 21 is the U.N.’s global plan regarding sustainable development, a term coined in the 1980s by the U.N.’s Brundtland Commission, so named because it was headed by Gro Brundtland, Norway’s former premier and vice president of the World Socialist Party. However, it is rarely referred to in the U.S. as Agenda 21 by those working to implement it. The reason for this was explained early on by J. Gary Lawrence, advisor to President Clinton’s Council on Sustainable Development.
“Participating in a U.N.-advocated planning process would very likely bring out many of the conspiracy-fixated groups and individuals in our society … so we call our process something else, such as comprehensive planning, growth management or smart growth.”
The International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, or ICLEI, is an NGO that has been closely associated with the implementation of Agenda 21. Its membership is comprised of more than 1,000 local governments, around half of which are in the U.S. In West Virginia, the cities of Glenville and Fairmont are members.
In its Local Agenda 21 Planning Guide published in 1996, ICLEI states that “continued economic development as we know it cannot be sustained … sustainable development therefore is a program of action for local and global economic reform – a program that has yet to be fully defined.”
Today, on its website, it still hasn’t been defined, and the council appears to be on the defensive, complaining of “conspiracy theories circulated about ICLEI and Agenda 21.” The council presents a mixed message by saying that “ICLEI is not a United Nations agency or controlled by the U.N. in any way,” but then go on to say that “ICLEI is one of many NGOs recognized by the U.N. to provide input” and “that ICLEI acts as a bridge between local governments and UN processes.” Will the real ICLEI please stand up?
Sustainable development sounds like a great idea. However, after peaking a couple of years ago in terms of membership, significant opposition has emerged to both Agenda 21 and ICLEI. One of the first members to leave ICLEI was Carroll County, Md.
According to Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild, smart growth templates have the potential to either hurt economic development or to destroy the rural character of the county: “smart growth plans usurp property rights and constitutional rights. Local officials … revise zoning laws to fit into a ‘smart code’ zoning template. A massive reshuffling of property rights ensues.” He goes on to say that this can have an adverse effect on farmers, conservation land or low-density land in small towns that can be re-designated as growth areas to accommodate diverse housing including high-density apartments and condominiums.” It’s called “clustering.”
A survey conducted last June by the American Planning Association showed that 85 percent of all Americans had never heard of Agenda 21. In the past nine months that has clearly changed as opposition continues to mount and 2012 marked a watershed for opposition to Agenda 21. Kansas and Tennessee passed resolutions condemning it. Alabama passed a measure actually barring the state and its local governments from implementing any Agenda 21 policies. Thus far in 2013, 15 bills and resolutions in seven states have been filed or introduced that oppose Agenda 21. The Republican National Committee has adopted a resolution in opposition to Agenda 21 and California is home to an organization called Democrats Against U.N. Agenda 21.
Agenda 21 is an attempt to circumvent our Constitution, legislature, local governments and our sovereignty. There isn’t anyone at the U.N. that was elected to represent you or me. Nor is anyone at the U.N. concerned about our rights. Which begs the question— at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist — what is the real agenda here?
— Elliot Simon writes from Harpers Ferry