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Outcomes of Johannesburg

Assessing the World Summit on Sustainable Development

Analyzes the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), held in Johannesburg, South Africa from late August to early September 2002.

Executive Summary

This background paper was published in SAIS Review: A Journal of International Affairs as a part of their Winter-Spring 2003 Issue. (Volume XXIII, Number 1). SAIS Review is published by the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, The Johns Hopkins University.

This article analyzes the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), held in Johannesburg, South Africa from late August to early September 2002. Convened ten years after the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio, the WSSD was an attempt to move forward with sustainable development efforts by setting implementation strategies, answering questions of accountability, and forming partnerships that go beyond traditional boundaries. The Summit succeeded in achieving some of its goals, such as setting a time-bound sanitation target and recognizing the rights of communities in natural resource management. Yet it also had its share of failures, including the failure to address climate change and to reform global environmental governance. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, the extent and diversity of civil society engagement in the process set forth the challenge of overcoming divisions among governments, within civil society, and between governments and civil society to find a path to common solutions.

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