The Rio Summit was held in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, between June 3 and 14, 1992. The Second Earth Summit on Development and the Environment was organized by the UN. Its general secretary was Maurice Strong. It was attended by 178 countries, represented mostly by their heads of state, in addition to some 400 representatives of non-governmental organizations. On the other hand, some 17,000 people attended the Forum of NGOs, held in parallel to the Summit.

It took 20 years since the Stockholm Conference, the First Earth Summit, to celebrate the second installment of these events. In fact, not much progress was made in these two decades in climate, despite the high hopes that were embodied in the 26 principles issued by the Stockholm Declaration (July 5-14, 1972).

The highlight of this period was the emission of the Montreal Protocol for the protection of the ozone layer. The agreement was negotiated in 1987 and entered into force on January 1, 1989. Already in 1985, 20 countries that included most producers of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), responsible for the widening of the so-called “ozone gaps”, they had signed the Vienna Convention, which established the framework for negotiating international regulations on ozone-depleting substances. The CFCs were replaced by HCFCs, whose effect is 20 times lower, although they continue to affect the ozone layer. Until a definitive product can be found, HCFCs will be used as transient replacements. The Montreal Protocol is considered as an example of international cooperation to solve problems that affect the environment.

Among the objectives of the Rio Declaration we can consider the creation of a new form of cooperation among States, sectors and individuals, on issues related to the protection of the environment and sustainable economic development in harmony with the environment and cooperation between the countries to protect, preserve and restore the conditions of the Earth.

Among the most notable achievements of the Rio Declaration, without a doubt the most important was the establishment of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in force since March 1994, with the premise of strengthening public awareness on a global scale on the problems related to Climate Change. Among the objectives of the UNFCCC is the need to stabilize the concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere to prevent risks in the climate system.

The creation of the COP, Conference of the Parties, was agreed as the supreme organ of the UNFCCC and the association of all the countries that are part of it. It would no longer be necessary to wait twenty years for the next climate meeting, since the annual implementation of the COPs was decided. They involved environmental experts, ministers, heads of state and non-governmental organizations. The first Conference, COP1, was held in Berlin, Germany, 1995. The following year the COP2, Geneva, 1996 was held, in which the need to establish “binding quantitative objectives” on the limitation of GHG emissions was adopted by consensus. by the industrialized countries. In 1997, the COP3, Kyoto, took place, from which emerged the celebrated Kyoto Protocol. After its creation there will be 18 tortuous years until the approval of the Paris Agreement, in 2015, whose entry into force is scheduled for 2020. The Kyoto Protocol had the merit of having managed to alert the public on issues such as the greenhouse effect, the global warming, climate change and other environmental problems.

Importance of the Rio Summit. In addition to the creation of the UNFCCC and the COPs, the Convention on Biological Diversity was established; the Declaration of Principles on the Management, Conservation and Sustainable Development of all Types of Forests; the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and finally Agenda 21, an initiative to build a model of sustainable development for the 21st century.

Critics to the Rio Summit

In a long article entitled “The discreet charm of the top of the earth. Impressionist evaluation of Rio92 “written by Roberto Guimaraes, Brazilian political scientist, researcher of the Social Development Division of the Economic Commission of the United Nations for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), indicates:

“In general terms, all the agreements adopted in the Rio-92 produced more frustration than satisfaction among the observers. The convention on climate change, for example, was the most anticipated document of the conference; and not without reason, since the convention had been originally formulated to eliminate, or at least stop, the processes that contribute to the increase of the average temperatures of the atmosphere and the increase of the level of the oceans, thus avoiding the negative impacts for agriculture and coastal areas. The high expectations regarding that convention are only comparable with the level of generalized frustration with which the final text has been received. It constitutes, in fact, the greatest failure of Rio. His text has been so “watery” in previous discussions, that the document finally approved lost much of its original strength and resembles more a simple statement of intent. Instead of adopting urgent measures in this area, the current text only “recommends” the stabilization of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions at the levels existing in 1990. Even so, it does not set deadlines for such stabilization to become effective. ”

Sandor Alejandro Gerendas-Kiss



In the Rio Declaration, 27 fundamental principles were proclaimed that all countries should comply with the objective of establishing a new and equitable global alliance by creating new levels of cooperation among States, key sectors of societies and individuals. .

Efforts were made to reach international agreements in which the interests of all were respected and the integrity of the environmental and global development system was protected, recognizing the integral and interdependent nature of the Earth. These Fundamental Principles proclaim that:

Declaration of principles of the Rio Summit


Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.


States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental and developmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.


The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.


In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it.


All States and all people shall co-operate in the essential task of eradicating poverty as an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, in order to decrease the disparities in standards of living and better meet the needs of the majority of the people of the world.


The special situation and needs of developing countries, particularly the least developed and those most environmentally vulnerable, shall be given special priority. International actions in the field of environment and development should also address the interests and needs of all countries.



States shall co-operate in a spirit of global partnership to conserve, protect and restore the health and integrity of the Earth’s ecosystem. In view of the different contributions to global environmental degradation, States have common but differentiated responsibilities. The developed countries acknowledge the responsibility that they bear in the international pursuit of sustainable development in view of the pressures their societies place on the global environment and of the technologies and financial resources they command.


To achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all people, States should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and promote appropriate demographic policies.


States should co-operate to strengthen endogenous capacity-building for sustainable development by improving scientific understanding through exchanges of scientific and technological knowledge, and by enhancing the development, adaptation, diffusion and transfer of technologies, including new and innovative technologies.


Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level. At the national level, each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in their communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. States shall facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely available. Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided.


States shall enact effective environmental legislation. Environmental standards, management objectives and priorities should reflect the environmental and developmental context to which they apply. Standards applied by some countries may be inappropriate and of unwarranted economic and social cost to other countries, in particular developing countries.


States should co-operate to promote a supportive and open international economic system that would lead to economic growth and sustainable development in all countries, to better address the problems of environmental degradation. Trade policy measures for environmental purposes should not constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade. Unilateral actions to deal with environmental challenges outside the jurisdiction of the importing country should be avoided. Environmental measures addressing transboundary or global environmental problems should, as far as possible, be based on an international consensus.


States shall develop national law regarding liability and compensation for the victims of pollution and other environmental damage. States shall also co-operate in an expeditious and more determined manner to develop further international law regarding liability and compensation for adverse effects of environmental damage caused by activities within their jurisdiction or control to areas beyond their jurisdiction.


States should effectively co-operate to discourage or prevent the relocation and transfer to other States of any activities and substances that cause severe environmental degradation or are found to be harmful to human health.


National authorities should endeavour to promote the internalization of environmental costs and the use of economic instruments, taking into account the approach that the polluter should, in principle, bear the cost of pollution, with due regard to the public interest and without distorting international trade and investment.


Environmental impact assessment, as a national instrument, shall be undertaken for proposed activities that are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment and are subject to a decision of a competent national authority.


States shall immediately notify other States of any natural disasters or other emergencies that are likely to produce sudden harmful effects on the environment of those States. Every effort shall be made by the international community to help States so afflicted.


States shall provide prior and timely notification and relevant information to potentially affected States on activities that may have a significant adverse transboundary environmental effect and shall consult with those States at an early stage and in good faith.


Women have a vital role in environmental management and development. Their full participation is therefore essential to achieve sustainable development.



The creativity, ideals and courage of the youth of the world should be mobilized to forge a global partnership in order to achieve sustainable development and ensure a better future for all.


Indigenous people and their communities, and other local communities, have a vital role in environmental management and development because of their knowledge and traditional practices. States should recognize and duly support their identity, culture and interests and enable their effective participation in the achievement of sustainable development.


The environment and natural resources of people under oppression, domination and occupation shall be protected.


Warfare is inherently destructive of sustainable development. States shall therefore respect international law providing protection for the environment in times of armed conflict and co-operate in its further development, as necessary.


Peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible.


States shall resolve all their environmental disputes peacefully and by appropriate means in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.


States and people shall co-operate in good faith and in a spirit of partnership in the fulfilment of the principles embodied in this Declaration and in the further development of international law in the field of sustainable development.