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50 years since Stockholm conference

  • Published
    1st Jun, 2022

In 2022 it will be fifty years since the first United Nations conference on the human environment – the 1972 Stockholm Conference.


United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm Conference):

  • Stockholm Conference marked the first global effort to treat the environment as a worldwide policy issue and define the core principles for its management.
  • It was first worldwide convergence on planetary environment, with the theme ‘Only One Earth’.
  • Participating 122 countries essentially committed to 26 principles and an action plan that set in a multilateral environmental regime.
  • One of the overarching principles was that sovereignty should be subject to not causing harm to the environment of other countries as well.
  • The three dimensions of this conference were:
  • Countries agreeing not to “harm each other’s environment or the areas beyond national jurisdiction”;
  • an action plan to study the threat to Earth’s environment; and
  • establishment of an international body called the UN Environment programme (UNEP) to bring in cooperation among countries
  • The creation of U.N. Environment Program led to monitor the state of the environment and coordinate responses to the major environmental problems.
  • It also raised questions that continue to challenge international negotiations to this day, such as who is responsible for cleaning up environmental damage, and how much poorer countries can be expected to do.

Historic beginnings 

  • Until 1972, no country had an environment ministry. 
  • In 1968, when Sweden first proposed the idea of the Stockholm conference (this is why it was referred to as the Swedish Initiative).
  • The cases of environmental degradation and hints of a meltdown of the planet’s atmospheric system had started making news.
  • Rachel Carson’s now famous book Silent Springwas just six-years-old but attained biblical status in terms of readership and impact on public consciousness. 
  • Species extinction made headlines, like that of the humpback whales and Bengal tigers; the mercury poisoning caused by methylmercury release into the Minamata Bay in Japan entered public discourse.

Stockholm 2022:

  • Commemorating fifty years since the environment first took centre stage with the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, the Stockholm+50 meeting will drive action to achieve sustainable development for the well-being of current and future generations.
  • It is aptly themed as “Stockholm+50: A healthy planet for the prosperity of all — our responsibility, our opportunity.”
  • The aim is to contribute to accelerating a transformation that leads to sustainable and green economies, more jobs, and a healthy planet for all, where no one is left behind.
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