Brazil: Earth Summit’s National Sustainable Development Strategy

In 1992 Brazil hosted the world’s first Earth Summit where Brazil developed a National Sustainable Development Strategy.  In Rio de Janeiro Brazil, world leaders and advisors put together a global action to protect the environment. With help from the United Nation and other South American governments, a plan was formed that was to be used as a development tool for current and future approach to cultivating, maintaining, and increasing the quality of the environment and ecosystems. This first Earth Summit became the foundation of what is now known as Agenda 21. The name it’s self refers to ‘the’ agenda to have in place for the 21st century. Now that the 21st century is here, what has the National Sustainable Development Strategy done to cultivate a green society, to help maintain a stable and healthy habitat, or to stabilize the largest tropical rain forest in the world. This is not asked of for environmentalist sake, this is for future generations to come. Has this so called Agenda helped Brazil or is Brazil simply running the race with no attempts to win? Be it as it may, the only thing present is the facts, which will be addressed and reviewed throughout this paper. Although Brazil has taken the steps and initiative to create a healthier environment for its citizens, Brazil has done little to put this mighty Agenda into action.

To understand why the world’s first Earth Summit took place in Brazil, one should know and understand the country of Brazil. Currently, Brazil contains a population of over 200 million people in an area of 3.2 million miles. The largest populated areas in Brazil include Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Salvador of which Sao Paulo is populated by 10 million people alone. Sao Paulo is known as Brazil’s most “mightiest city” (Page, 1997). With Brazil being home of the Earth Summit, it is important to know that Sao Paulo grew in size due to its agriculture advantages. Sao Paulo is home of the coffee bean; and during one point in history provided “it’s coffee to reach over 78% of the world” (Page, 1997). Ironically enough, it was in the city of Sao Paulo where legislations and powers began to play a large hand in saving and maintaining its rich eco system. This began with the control of sanitation and water pollution established in 1973. A company known as CETESB was later “granted legal authority to establish sanitation standards for the public water supply and to set emissions standards governing air pollution”, (Page, 1997). However, Sao Paulo found it easy to enforce its policy to new plants and companies that developed in the area although it was difficult to enforce these new government sanctions to older industries already intact. Not wanting to lose an industry or break a strong economic structure, CETESB often left such industries to their own devices and concentrated on sanctions it could enforce on newer companies. This incident is important to note, as it relates directly to the actions of the Brazilian government, Agenda 21, and the National Sustainable Development Strategy. This continues to “show the effects of a long period of uncontrolled, explosive growth that …poses serious health hazards for all city residents.”, (Page, 1997)

`           An outcome of the United Nation’s Conference on Environmental development, Brazil’s Agenda 21 is a plan set forth to strategize and sustain development of its current rain forest and surrounding undeveloped lands.  The National Sustainable Development Strategy was first introduced and developed in June of 1992. This Development Strategy, although developed in Brazil, every nation across the globe has one in place in order to protect the environment from humanity. It ends in the world sector however begins in the local community. For Brazil in particular, the Agenda has maintained its focus on deforestation, air pollution, waste, and sewage disposal as it relates to the current economic and social status. The Brazilian Agenda 21 was signed and finalized in “July 2002 by former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso” (Stratos, 2004).

Agenda 21 is a comprehensive strategy that discusses the national development of Brazil as it relates to the environment. Reviewing Brazil’s current situation, it includes various objections, recommendations, and opinions to help the country, which, in turn will essentially benefit the world. Brazil is a strong target for this development strategy due to its high population of forestry, plant life, and over all large eco system. More than 40% of Brazil is reserved for the Amazon basin and tropical rain forest. What happens to the Amazon affects, not only the continent of South America, but the rest of the globe as well. The Amazon generates rain and cloud matter. Thus, what happens to the Amazon directly affects other areas of the world. In order to increase the Agenda’s objective to rejuvenate forest life and improve water and air quality, the Agenda is also directly related to the Pluriannual Plan. This plan is an initiative that encourages the Brazilian legislature to review their current environmental policies every year. Despite the United Nations involvement as well as other Latin American entities, Agenda 21 is not part of government policy, but is a “social pact” that is not enforceable by law.

With no laws in force to maintain the primary objectives of Agenda 21, there are several responsible agencies put in place to encourage the Agenda to meet its objectives. These including the Commission of Policies for Sustainable Development, various federal ministries, state and regional representatives, the civil society, private partners, and “more than 40,000 people participat[ing] in the development process”(Strotos, 2004). These entities make attempts at working together. They show strength through participation and activation of Agenda 21. Although all these participants show agreement in the Agenda, they continue to have problems implementing the Agenda into local and federal policies. Furthermore, these outside agencies have difficulties monitoring citizens, plants, and large corporations, and encouraging them to laws and policies must be intertwined into national law and state policy.

The country of Brazil has slowly begun to implement laws and policies that meet the objective of the Agenda. This includes the Law of Environmental Crimes and the Amazon Deforestation Control. The Law of Environmental Crimes has strict regulations against many negative environmental effects. It ranges from pouching to public graffiti. Although many of these laws are legitimate, including water pollution, air emissions, sanitation, and logging, they are hard to control and monitor over a large area. As a result many crimes have been ‘swept under the rug’ or simply ignored. When authorities do take action, most find it difficult to pass out fines and sanctions against their illegal actions, as most individuals and agencies simply ignore them. In addition, a lot of these incidents occur in rural areas. Even though these laws are justified, some have been removed from local law and policy or vetoed out from legislation. With such crimes not being monitored, enforced or controlled, having a “social pact” to enact Agenda 21 is not enough to maintain the current environmental status.

Law of Environmental Crimes maybe faulty at best, however the Amazon Deforestation Control is doing what it can to address logging and other crimes against the eco system. With recent technologies and satellite images, the forest is closely monitored by outside agencies that work closely with Brazil. One of these agencies is located in Asia. Asia and Brazil continue to work together as a strong force in trade and economy. Thus, Asia has placed satellites in orbit to benefit the country of Brazil. The Amazon Deforestation Control is able to monitor the current eco system through these images. Keeping close visual, laws are easily enforceable, as restrictions and regulations are set in place that will maintain the rain forest, encourage its eco system to prosper, and ensure pollutant and air quality around the Amazon, the Amazon Basin, and the undeveloped lands of Brazil.

“Objectives ranging in the Agenda range from natural resource management and conservation issues, to social inclusion and income distribution through economic mechanisms, governance, and international relations”, (Stratos, 2004). The social and economic dimensions of the Agenda is attentive to the social elements as it pertains to the environment. As one of the top ten largest economies of the world it is distracting to learn that “only 10% of the population has control over 50% of the income”, (Stratos, 2004). With a large poverty rate, issues in health, education, and land ownership, it makes it difficult for Brazil to focus on Agenda 21 when it has more pressing matters to attend to. Ironically, the Agenda has made a recommendation for an incident such as this: “21 seeks to establish a negotiated balance between its objectives, environmental policies, and the economic and social development strategies in order to consolidate them into the development process”, (Stratos, 2004). Despite this recommendation however, Brazil has continued to keep the Agenda on the back burner as it searches out other avenues and resources to combat its problem of economic poverty among citizens. If legislators would follow the Agenda, they can learn to help the economic status of the society by hiring them as a task force to work with Agenda 21. Following the outline of the Agenda, this would not only help the citizens of Brazil it would afford them the quality of life in economic stability and healthy living.

Part of Agenda 21 and the National Sustainable Development Strategy also includes the idea of strengthen the public role. Commoners, women, and children are included in this strategy. In addition, local business organizations, private agencies, authorities, blue and white collared workers are included as well. If all these individuals could work together to generate a large task force, the Agenda can be well underway. Education and media play key roles in this initiative as well. With these two elements in place, children would become intelligent partners with the large corporations to create and promote a better environment. Companies could create less plastic and Brazilian citizens can learn not to consume it. What is learned through Agenda 21 can then be passed on to the next generation. It may be second hand idea’s at the present moment, however decades from now it will be common habits learned from one generation to the next. This is also the case with clean air and water initiatives.  Despite this, it presents a difficult task for Brazil, which can take years to achieve. This is due to the statistics that “75 million have no sewage treatment, 20 million do not have running water and 60 million do not have their trash collected”, (Stratos, 2004). With the nation facing such problems, taking on Agenda 21 may prove to be easier said than done. However with patience, perseverance, and determination, Agenda 21 is not impossible it is obtainable.

Agenda 21 is a Sustainable Development Strategy that addresses many issues and components as it relates to Brazil. The Agenda discusses many issues that may arise including the parties involved and actions that need to be set forth in order for the Agenda to make an active and positive role in society.  The agenda makes an overview of conflict management and other areas that its implementation will make a substantial impact. Stratos makes it clear in his analysis that, “the time frame around which the actions and recommendations outlined in the Agenda are to be implemented in a ten year period”, (Stratos, 2004). Yet, it must be noted that the Agenda was first developed in 1992. Brazil has had twenty years to put into action this Agenda. Enforcing and implementing the recommendations outlined, it will not only help in maintaining one of the largest rain forest in the world, but would also develop and stabilize the economy. This will provide Brazilians with a healthier nation and cleaner society.

Brazil has not abandoned the notion of implementing Agenda 21 but has continued to do so at its own pace. Currently “Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Belo Horizontal have passed their own legislations towards the Environmental Impact Assessment that must follow policies in place and require permits to anything that my cause environmental degradation”, (Stratos, 2004). Although not all states have such policies in place, it is imperative that they are enacted in large populated areas where pollution and environmental safety prove to be more hazardous. With these large cities beginning to put these policies into its main legislature infrastructure, smaller cities and towns will take hold as well. Furthermore, these establishments are the threshold for not only other parts of Brazil, but for other nations that face the same issues. It is obvious that these procedures cannot take place and be enforce overnight. It is enlightening to know that Brazil has taken some initiative in enforcing an Agenda that has been sitting on its door step for nearly twenty years.

Brazil has also taken other steps to enact Agenda 21. A tax has been added called the ICMS Ecologico. It is in place to protect areas of interest and keep the land conserved and protected. This has caused a drastic improvement in its eco system and eco quality. This tax adds additional revenue towards the country which is taking measures to protect its tropical rain forest. Furthermore, it has incentives in place for commoners and landholders. With such entities as the IMS in place, it educates its citizens about the importance that Brazil is taking on maintaining its landscape as well as provides a reward system that helps all parties involved. Most importantly, “since it’s adaption 1 million acres have been placed under protection in Parana and Minas Gerais” (Statos, 2004).

Although the Agenda is a great outline to follow and maintain for any country facing such obstacles as that of Brazil, there has been several conflicts of interest involved between organizations and governmental agencies.  These obstacles include that of the government and its legislation. Although the Brazilian government is separated into three separate governmental influences like that of the United States, in the end, the President has the last say on policy and law. As outlined, “the Agenda asks that it be embodied in the decision making process”(Stratos, 2004). However, this has yet to occur. Although some governmental influences have tried to make this come to pass, it has yet to be established and written into law. In addition, “under Brazilian constitution the government multiyear plan or PPA must be prepared every year and approved by congress”. Despite the PPA being addressed annually along with Agenda 21, legislation has not enforced its “social pact” to its full potential and capabilities.  The only way this can take place is if it puts the recommendations of the Agenda and make them into governmental policies.

“The Brazilian Agenda 21 provides an overview of the development process of this strategy, acknowledging the challenges, lessons learned, and actors involved.”(Stratos, 2004) Brazil continues to be one of the largest countries in the world. It has a population that exceeds that of America but is below that of China. Furthermore, its land contains rich and fertile soil and a large economic system that revolves around its timber and forestry. Brazilian timber alone produces a lot more than timber, its wood is used to make rubber and gum, and its tropical forest is explored by scientist in search for a cure to the common cold. Yet, Brazil is still an economically under achieved country. Although it has a layout of recommendations and insight from outside governments, it is slow and hesitant to follow. However, one cannot be consider the why not, the better question is when. With a few policies in place in the city of Sao Paulo and others like it, makes a difference. However, Brazil holds an Agenda in its hands that can become legendary. Furthermore, Brazil can set the standard and reach the plateau and of that of rich nations like that of Europe, Canada, and the United States. Although America is not taking enough initiative on its own to preserve, save, and stabilize its own eco system and rich environment, Brazil has the ability to have other nations follow suit. Brazil is able to set the standard and set the example.  

As the saying goes: ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink’. In this case, Brazil is sipping slowly while the pool is running dry. As it was stated earlier, Brazil’s National Sustainable Development Strategy is not made to make drastic changes tomorrow, but to make slow and steady changes over time. Agenda 21 has sat in the parliament of government for nearly twenty years. The development strategy was introduced in 1992, signed and recognized by the president in 2002, and as 20 years has passed and 30 years now looms, it can only be guessed and assumed what will happen next to Agenda 21.





Page, Joseph A. The Brazilians. New York, NY: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company , 1995.

Scoones, Simon. “Focus on Brazil.” World Almanac Library. Milwauki, Wi: Pearson Publishing,

2007. Print.

“Brazil.” Encyclopedia Americana International Edition. 4. New York, Ny: Scholastic Library

Publishing Inc, 2004. Print.

Strategies to Sustainability, Stratos Inc. (2004). Brazil case study analysis of national strategies

for sustainable development. Retrieved from


About Russia Robinson

I use my writing talents, and skills I’ve learned through academics and experience, to benefit the greater good of society. Conducting research, writing articles, essays, and blogging, I give informative information on a variety of topics and issues that affect society. I also write creative works like children’s books, short stories, poems, and a novel in progress. I earned a BA in English creative writing and American literature from San Francisco State and graduate studies in Technical Writing at Kennesaw State University. Through my career in education and mental health I have spent more than 10 years’ helping young people succeed. I am a certifiable Language Arts teacher, working in education, social services, and mental health. Interested in my writing services? Feel free to contact me via email.
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