Agenda 21
An Easy Reference to
Specific Recommendations on Women

Gender and Agenda 21
[Part I ]
Chapters 1 to 9
[ Part II ]
Chapters 10 to 19
[ Part III ]
Chapters 20 to 40

Part 1: Chapters 1-9

Message from the UNIFEM Director

The Agenda 21 document is a tribute to the determination, goodwill and wisdom of the many men and women who have played a part in determining the prospects of future generations. It is also a tribute to the solidarity of a global women's caucus which has played a strong role in helping to define a document which promises a world of better opportunities for women.

The year 1995 marks the 50th anniversary of the United Nations and the World Conference on Women, and will therefore be a milestone in measuring our commitment to human development and the goals of Agenda 21. We must strive to celebrate that occasion on a healthier planet and on more equitable terms between nations, and between women and men.

UNIFEM is proud to co-sponsor this publication which contains specific references and recommendations from the UNCED Agenda 21 on how to achieve sustainable development with women. Its language reflects UNIFEM's commitment to join the international community in helping to build a world in which women and men share both the responsibilities and the rewards for their endeavours.

Sharon Capeling-Alakija, Director

Message from the UNCED Secretary-General

The endorsement of the Earth Summit of Agenda 21, which extensively incorporates activities for strengthening the role of women in sustainable development and includes a separate chapter on women, is one of the most encouraging features of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. The presentation of these activities in this very practical and easily accessible booklet will help to promote and expedite the implementation of Agenda 21.

The Earth Summit recognized that one important objective for ensuring sustainable development was to incorporate the participation of women into the programme areas of Agenda 21 and help to generate global awareness about the important role of women in promoting sustainable development. Explicit attention was therefore given to the practical implications of the special relationship between the position of women and the state of the natural environment. Evaluation of the contributions of women to sustainable development were made possible through the national reporting system and other review and appraisal activities as well as expert group meetings and recommendations from conferences, assemblies and congresses held by women delegates, NGOs and organizations within the UN system.

There is a pressing need to continue to centralize women's issues and to ensure the incorporation of their collective perspectives, experiences and contributions to sustainable development. The implementation of the programme areas of Agenda 21 which extensively incorporates the important role of women in sustainable development will help to meet this need.

Maurice Strong Secretary-General, United Nations Conference on Environment and Development

BY Filomina Chioma Steady Special Advisor on Women - UNCED

The comprehensive incorporation of women in Agenda 21 is a milestone for a major UN conference and is a tribute to the positive and constructive potential of multilateralism for promoting sustainable as well as equitable development for all people regardless of gender.

In reaffirming women's critical economic, social and environmental contributions to environmental management and sustainable development, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development endorsed activities promoting the incorporation of women in programme areas contained in the sectoral and cross sectoral chapters of Agenda 21 as well as in the sections on the role of major groups and on means of implementation. All of these programme areas contain activities to strengthen the role of women in environmentally sound management, decision making and sustainable development. In affirming that women's contributions were essential for the effective implementation of Agenda 21, the conference further endorsed chapter 24, a separate chapter on women entitled Global action for women towards sustainable and equitable development. This chapter is policy and management oriented and contains specific recommendations to strengthen the role of women in sustainable development and to eliminate all obstacles to their equal and beneficial participation particularly in decision making activities relating to promoting environmentally sound management and sustainable development.

Most of the activities endorsed are to be implemented at the national level, but several recommendations call for action at the international and regional levels. Other activities include the strengthening of the capacity of UN organizations for meeting environment and development activities of relevance to women, particularly organizations with specific focus on women, such as the Division for the Advancement of Women, UNIFEM and INSTRAW. Activities were also endorsed for facilitating greater international collaboration and cooperation and for expanding the role of donors.

The many programme areas of Agenda 21 which incorporate the role of women as well as the special chapter and programme area on women are complemented by principle 20 of the Rio Declaration which states that Women have a vital role in environmental management and development. Their full participation is therefore essential to achieving sustainable development.

This document will be a valuable reference as well as a practical tool for governments, inter-governmental organizations, NGOs and all peoples working for the advancement of women in the fields of environment and development.

Note to the Reader

The UNCED process provided an opportunity for broad-based participation of women's groups which succeeded, with the support of agencies such as UNIFEM, in integrating women's concerns in all UNCED documents. As a major advocate for women within the UN system, UNIFEM joined in international efforts to bring focus to the central role played by women in environmental issues. These efforts culminated in the inclusion of substantive recommendations on WED in all programme areas, and the preparation of Chapter 24 Global Action for Women Towards Sustainable and Equitable Development.

This publication is an extract of Agenda 21 and is designed to serve as an easy reference for those seeking to identify the recommendations in Agenda 21 that specifically mention women.

However, when interpreting the recommendations in the text of Agenda 21, the reader should note that all collective terminology, including references to communities, urban and rural dwellers, indigenous people, trade unions, professionals in business and industry and NGOs, is intended to apply equally to women and men. Indeed, in both rural and urban settings, women as heads of households, government officers, farmers, entrepreneurs and professionals (including scientists and technicians) form a critical and substantial part of all major groups.

It should also be noted that UNCED emphasized that all UN bodies involved in the implementation of Agenda 21 should ensure that gender considerations are fully integrated into all the policies, programmes and activities (Chapter 24.11). It is now time to begin monitoring how institutional structuring and programming will respond to the recommendations on WED contained throughout Agenda 21. We hope that this publication will assist in that process.


3.2 An effective strategy for tackling the problems of poverty, development and environment simultaneously should begin by focusing on resources, production and people and should cover demographic issues, enhanced health care and education, the rights of women, the role of youthi and of indigenous people and local communities with improved governance.

3.4. ... The objectives of this programme area are:

(d) To create a focus in national development plans and budgets on investment in human capital, with special policies and programmes directed at rural areas, the urban poor, women and children.

3.5 ... In general design programmes should:

(c) Contain a long-term strategy aimed at establishing the best possible conditions for sustainable local, regional and national development that would eliminate poverty and reduce the inequalities between various population groups. It should assist the most disadvantaged groups - in particular, women, children and youth within those groups - and refugees. The groups will include poor smallholders, pastoralists, artisans, fishing communities, landless people, indigenous communities, migrants and the urban informal sector.

3.6 The focus here is on specific cross-cutting measures - in particular, in the areas of basic education, primary/maternal health care, and the advancement of women.

3.7 Sustainable development must be achieved at every level of society. Peoples' organizations, women's groups and non- governmental organizations are important sources of innovation and action at the local level and have a strong interest and proven ability to promote sustainable livelihoods. Governments, in cooperation with appropriate international and non-governmental organizations, should support a community-driven approach to sustainability, which would include, inter alia:

a) Empowering women through full participation in decision- making.

3.8 Governments with the assistance of and in cooperation with appropriate international, non-governmental and local community organizations, should establish measures that will directly or indirectly:

(e) Set up an effective primary health care and maternal health care system accessible to all;

(f) Consider strengthening/developing legal frameworks for land management, access to land resources and land ownership - in particular, for women - and for the protection of tenants;

(i) Implement mechanisms of popular participation particularly by poor people, especially women - in local community groups, to promote sustainable development;

(j) Implement, as a matter of urgency, in accordance with country-specific conditions and legal systems, measures to ensure that women and men have the same right to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and have access to the information, education and means, as appropriate, to enable them to exercise this right in keeping with their freedom, dignity and personally held values, taking into account ethical and cultural considerations. Governments should take active steps to implement programmes to establish and strengthen preventive and curative health facilities, which include women-centred, women-managed, safe and effective reproductive health care and affordable, accessible services, as appropriate for the responsible planning of family size, in keeping with freedom, dignity and personally held values, taking into account ethical and cultural considerations. Programmes should focus on providing comprehensive health care, including pre-natal care, education and information on health and responsible parenthood and should provide the opportunity for all women to breast-feed fully, at least during the first four months of post-partum. Programmes should fully support women's productive and reproductive roles and well-being, with special attention to the need for providing equal and improved health care for all children and the need to reduce the risk of maternal and child mortality and sickness;

(n) Actively seek to recognize and integrate informal-sector activities into the economy by removing regulations and hindrances that discriminate against activities in those sectors;

(o) Consider making available lines of credit and other facilities for the informal sector and improved access to land for the landless poor so that they can acquire the means of production and reliable access to natural resources. In many instances special considerations for women are required.

3.9 Governments should improve the collection of information on target groups and target areas in order to facilitate the design of focused programmes and activities, consistent with the target-group needs and aspirations. Evaluation of such programmes should be gender-specific, since women are a particularly disadvantaged group.


4.27. This programme is concerned primarily with changes in unsustainable patterns of consumption and production and values that encourage sustainable consumptions patterns and lifestyles. It requires the combined efforts of Governments, consumers and producers. Particular attention should be paid to the significant role played by women and households as consumers and the potential impacts of their combined purchasing power on the economy.


5.12. Awareness should be increased of the fundamental linkages between improving the status of women and demographic dynamics, particularly through women's access to education, primary and reproductive health care programmes, economic independence and their effective, equitable participation in all levels of decision-making.

5.16. ...Policies should be designed to address the consequence of population growth built into population momentum, while at the same time incorporating measures to bring about demographic transition. They should combine environmental concerns and population issues within a holistic view of development whose primary goals include the alleviation of poverty; secure livelihoods; good health; quality of life; improvement of the status and income of women and their access to schooling and professional training, as well as fulfilment of their personal aspirations; and empowerment of individuals and communities. Recognizing that large increases in the size and number of cities will occur in developing countries under any likely population scenario, greater attention should be given to preparing for the needs, in particular of women and children, for improved municipal management and local government.

5.17. Full integration of population concerns into national planning, policy and decision-making processes should continue. Population policies and programmes should be considered, with full recognition of women's rights.

5.21. Vulnerable population groups (such as rural landless workers, ethnic minorities, refugees, migrants displaced people, women heads of household) whose changes in demographic structure may have specific impacts of sustainable development should be identified.

5.28. Populations data should be disaggregated by, inter alia, sex and age in order to take into account the implications of the gender division of labour for the use and management of natural resources.

5.33. Policies and programmes should be developed for handling the various types of migrations that result from or induce environmental disruptions, with special attention to women and vulnerable groups.

5.34. Demographic concerns, including concerns for environmental migrants and displaced people, should be incorporated in the programmes for sustainable development of relevant international and regional institutions.

5.37. ... Demographic and sustainable development education should be coordinated and integrated in both the formal and non-formal education population literacy programmes, notably for women. Special emphasis should be placed on the linkage between these programmes, primary environmental care and the provision of primary health care and services.

5.44. Governments and local communities, including community-based women's organizations and national non- governmental organizations, consistent with national plans, objectives, strategies and priorities, could inter alia, undertake the activities set out below with the assistance and cooperation of international organizations, as appropriate.

5.45. An effective consultative process should be established and implemented with concerned groups of society where the formulation and decision-making of all components of the programmes are based on a nationwide consultative process drawing on community meetings, regional workshops and national seminars, as appropriate. This process should ensure that views of women and men on needs, perspective and constraints are equally well reflected in the design of programmes, and that solutions are rooted in specific experience. The poor and underprivileged should be priority groups in this process.

5.46. Nationally determined policies for integrated and multifaceted programmes, with special attention to women, to the poorest people living in critical areas and to other vulnerable groups should be implemented, ensuring the involvement of groups with a special potential to act as agents for change and sustainable development. Special emphasis should be placed on those programmes that achieve multiple objectives, encouraging sustainable economic development, and mitigating adverse impacts of demographic trends and factors, and avoiding long-term environmental damage. Food security, access to secure tenure, basic shelter, and essential infrastructure, education, family welfare, women's reproductive health, family credit schemes, reforestation programmes, primary environmental care, women's employment should, as appropriate, be included among other factors.

5.48. Special attention should be given to the critical role of women in population/environment programmes and in achieving sustainable development. Projects should take advantage of opportunities to link social, economic and environmental gains for women and their families. Empowerment of women is essential and should be assured through education, training and policies to accord and improve women's right and access to assets, human and civil rights, labour-saving measures, job opportunities and participation in decision-making. Population/environment programmes must enable women to mobilize themselves to alleviate their burden and improve their capacity to participate in and benefit from socio-economic development. Specific measures should be undertaken to close the gap between female and male illiteracy rates.

5.49. Reproductive health programmes and services, should, as appropriate, be developed and enhanced to reduce maternal and infant mortality from all causes and enable women and men to fulfil their personal aspirations in terms of family size, in a way in keeping with their freedom and dignity and personally held values.

5.50. Governments should take active steps to implement as a matter of urgency, in accordance with country-specific conditions and legal systems, measures to ensure that women and men have the same right to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children, to have access to the information, education and means, as appropriate, to enable them to exercise this right in keeping with their freedom, dignity and personally held values taking into account ethical and cultural considerations.

5.51. Governments should take active steps to implement programmes to establish and strengthen preventive and curative health facilities that include women-centred, women- managed, safe and effective, reproductive health care and affordable, accessible services, as appropriate, for the responsible planning of family size, in keeping with freedom, dignity and personally held values and taking into account ethical and cultural considerations. Programmes should focus on providing comprehensive health care, including pre-natal care, education and information on health and responsible parenthood and should provide the opportunity for all women to breast-feed fully at least during the first four months of post-partum. Programmes should fully support women's productive and reproductive roles and well being, with special attention to the need for providing equal and improved health care for all children and the need to reduce the risk of maternal and child mortality and sickness.

5.52 Consistent with national priorities, culturally based information and education programmes that transmit reproductive health messages to men and women that are easily understood should be developed.

5.53. Constituencies and institutional conditions to facilitate the implementation of demographic activities should, as appropriate, be fostered. ... In developing these appropriate institutional conditions, countries should closely involve established national machinery for women.

5.62. The areas of human resources development and capacity-building, with particular attention to the education and training of women, are areas of critical importance and are a very high priority in the implementation of population programmes.


6.8. ... Intensive, short, practical training programmes with emphasis on skills in effective communication, community organization and facilitation of behaviour change should be developed in order to prepare the local personnel of all sectors involved in social development for carrying out their respective roles. In cooperation with the education sector, special health education programmes should be developed focusing on the role of women in the health-care system.

6.11. With HIV infection levels estimated to increase to 30-40 million by the year 2000, the socio-economic impact of the pandemic is expected to be devastating for all countries, and increasingly for women and children. while direct health costs will be substantial, they will be dwarfed by the indirect costs of the pandemic - mainly costs associated with the loss of income and decreased productivity of the workforce. The pandemic will inhibit growth of the service and industrial sectors and significantly increase the costs of human capacity- building and retraining. The agricultural sector is particularly affected where production is labour-intensive.

6.13. Each national Government ... should consider developing a national health action plan with ... the following components:

(e)(iii)Reduce the vulnerability to HIV infection of women and their offspring.

6.18. In addition to meeting basic health needs, specific emphasis has to be given to protecting and educating vulnerable groups, particularly infants, youth, women, indigenous people and the very poor as a prerequisite for sustainable development.

6.21. In developing countries, the health status of women remains relatively low, and during the 1980s poverty, malnutrition and general ill-health in women were even rising. Most women in developing countries still do not have adequate basic educational opportunities and they lack the means of promoting their health, responsibly controlling their reproductive life and improving their socio-economic status. Particular attention should be given to the provision of pre- natal care to ensure healthy babies.

6.23. The general objectives of protecting vulnerable groups are ... to allow women to perform their key role in society; and to support indigenous people through educational, economic and technical opportunities.

6.24. ... Sectoral goals cover women's health and education, nutrition, child health, water and sanitation, basic education and children in difficult circumstances.

6.27. National Governments, in cooperation with local and non-governmental organizations, should initiate or enhance programmes in the following areas:

(c)(i)Involve women's groups in decision-making at the national and community levels to identify health risks and incorporate health issues in national action programmes on women and development;

(ii)Provide concrete incentives to encourage and maintain attendance of women of all ages at school and adult education courses, including health education and training in primary, home and material care;

(iii)Carry out baseline surveys and knowledge, attitude and practice studies on the health and nutrition of women throughout their life and cycle, especially as related to the impact of environmental degradation and adequate resources.

6.29. ... Technical support should be provided to Governments, institutions and non-governmental organizations for youth, women, indigenous people in the health sector.

6.30. The development of human resources for the health of children, youth and women should include reinforcement of educational institutions, promotion of interactive methods of education for health and increased use of mass media in disseminating information to the target groups. This requires the training of more community health workers, nurses, midwives, physicians, social scientists and educators, the education of mothers, families and communities and the strengthening of ministries of education, health, population etc.

6.31. Governments should promote, where necessary: (i) the organization of national, intercountry and interregional symposia and other meetings for the exchange of information among agencies and groups concerned with the health of children, youth, women and indigenous people, and (ii) women's organizations to facilitate health and consult them on the creation, amendment and enforcement of legal frameworks to ensure a healthy environment for children, youth, women and indigenous peoples.

6.33. ... The global objective is to achieve a 10 to 40 percent improvement in health indicators by the year 2000. The same rate of improvement should be achieved for environmental, housing and health service indicators. These include the development of quantitative objectives for infant mortality, maternal mortality, percentage of low birth weight newborns and specific indicators (e.g. tuberculosis as an indicator of crowded housing, diarrhoeal diseases as indicators of inadequate water and sanitation, indicate possible opportunities for prevention of injury, and social problems such as drug abuse, violence and crime that indicate underlying social disorders).


7.4 The overall human settlement objective is to improve the social, economic and environmental quality of human settlements and the living and working environments of all people, in particular the urban and rural poor. Such improvement should be based on technical cooperation activities, partnerships among the public, private community sectors and participation in the decision making process from community groups and special interest groups such as women, indigenous people, the elderly and the disabled.

7.16. ... All countries should as appropriate, and in accordance with national plans, objectives and priorities and with the assistance of NGOs and representatives of local authorities, undertake the following...:

(b)(i)Generate employment for the urban poor, particularly women, through the provision, improvement and maintenance of urban infrastructure and services and the support of economic activities in the informal sector, such as repairs, recycling, services and small commerce.

7.20 ... Individual cities should, as appropriate:

(a) Institutionalize a participatory approach to sustainable urban development, based on a continuous dialogue between the actors involved in urban development (public sector, private sector and communities), especially women and indigenous people;

(g) Empower community groups, non-governmental organizations and individuals to assume the authority and responsibility for managing and enhancing their immediate environment through participatory tools, techniques and approaches embodied in the concept of environmental care.

7.26 In addition, international efforts such as the Urban Management Programme, in cooperation with multilateral and bilateral agencies, should continue to assist the developing countries in their efforts to develop a participatory structure by mobilizing the human resources of the private sector, non-governmental organizations and the poor, particularly women and the disadvantaged.

7.28. The objective is to provide for the land requirements of human settlement development through environmentally sound physical planning and land use so as to ensure access to land to all households and where appropriate, the encouragement of communally and collectively owned and managed land. Particular attention should be paid to the needs of women, and indigenous people for economic and cultural reasons.

7.30 Subsequently, all countries should consider developing national land-resource management plans to guide land- resource development and utilization as follows:

(f) Establish appropriate forms of land tenure which provide security of tenure for all land-users, especially indigenous people, women, local communities, the low-income urban dwellers and the rural poor.

7.45 With the assistance and support of funding agencies, all countries should, as appropriate, undertake training and popular participation programmes aimed at:

(a) Raising awareness of the means, approaches and benefits of the provision of environmental infrastructure facilities, especially among indigenous people, women low-income groups and the poor.

7.51 A comprehensive approach to human settlements development should include the promotion of sustainable energy development in all countries, as follows:

(i)formulate national action programmes to promote and support reafforestation and national forest regeneration with a view to achieve sustained provision of the biomass energy needs of the low-income groups in urban areas and the rural poor, in particular women and children.

7.76 The objective is to improve human resource development and capacity-building in all countries by enhancing the personal and institutional capacity of all actors, particularly indigenous people and women, involved in human settlement development. In this regard, account should be taken of traditional cultural practices of indigenous people and their relationship to the environment.

7.77 ... All countries, as appropriate, should take the following action:

(d) Provide direct assistance for human settlement development at the community level inter alia, by:

(i)Strengthening an promoting programmes for social mobilization and awareness raising of the potential of women and youth in human settlements activities;

(ii)Facilitating coordination of the activities of women, youth, community groups, and non-governmental organizations in human settlements development;

(iii)Promoting research on women's programmes and other groups, and evaluate progress made with a view to identifying bottlenecks and needed assistance.


8.5 To support a more integrated approach to decision- making, the data systems and analytical methods used to support such decision-making processes may need to be improved. Governments, in collaboration, where appropriate, with national and international organizations, should review the status of the planning and management system and, where necessary, modify and strengthen procedures so as to facilitate the integrated consideration of social, economic and environmental issues. Countries will develop their own priorities in accordance with their national plans, policies and programmes for the following activities:

(d)Adopting integrated management systems, particularly for the management of natural resources; traditional or indigenous methods should be studied and considered wherever they have proved effective; women's traditional roles should not be marginalized as a result of the introduction of new management systems;

(g) Delegating planning and management responsibilities to the lowest level of public authority consistent with effective action; in particular the advantages of effective and equitable opportunities of participation by women should be discussed.

8.10. Countries, in cooperation, where appropriate, with national, regional or international organizations, should ensure that essential human resources exist, or be developed, to undertake the integration of environment and development at various stages of the decision-making and implementation process. To do this, they should improve education and technical training, particularly for women and girls, by including interdisciplinary approaches and other curricula.

8.25. Participation in training is expected to benefit practitioners from developing countries and to enhance training opportunities for women. Demand for this type of postgraduate and in-service training is known to be high. The seminars, workshops and conferences on review and enforcement that have been held to date have been very successful and well attended. The purpose of these efforts is to develop resources (both human and institutional) to design and implement effective programmes to continuously review and enforce national and local laws, regulations and standards on sustainable development.

8.45. ... Unpaid productive work such as domestic work and child care should be included where appropriate, in satellite national accounts and economic statistics.

8.49. ... Major efforts should be made to augment the capacity to collect and analyze environmental data and information and to integrate it with economic date, including gender disaggregated data...

9. [No reference to women's issues in Chapter 9]
Gender and Agenda 21
[ Part I ]
Chapters 1 to 9
[ Part II ]
Chapters 10 to 19
[ Part III ]
Chapters 20 to 40
Return to Gender and Environment
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