In the publication, the World Bank and the Agenda 21, a comparison of the Agenda 21 and the Millennium Development Goals was made which concluded that the MDGs are a sort of follow-up or narrowing down of the Agenda 21 from the quote below:

Agenda 21 was a starting point the foundation for a 21st century global partnership, but it could not remain static. Programmes and activities must evolve in response to changing global needs, knowledge and circumstances. In the decade since the 1992 Earth Summit, the international agreement on the key components of sustainable development has deepened particularly, the international consensus to combat poverty- and concrete goals for measuring progress has been crafted. These goals were formulated during several pivot U.N. Summits and were initially called the International Development Goals. The Goals called for reduction in poverty, improvements in health and education, and protection of the environment. In September 2000, these objectives are expanded and endorsed by 149 heads of state and the U.N. General Assembly in the form of the Millennium declaration. The Millennium Declaration and the International development Goals were harmonised, and the eight Millennium Development Goals took form.[1]

The foregoing depicts the relationship between the Agenda 21 and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Agenda 21 and the MDGs alike treat the development challenges as interdependent, where any tangible solution should consider an holistic and pragmatic approach. Both also highlighted the concerns individually, starting from poverty reduction to climate change, population management, economic growth and environmental pollution control.

The Agenda 21 therefore sets the motion for pragmatic development practice while the MDGs, apart from being practical in terms of target and objectives, introduce a timeline approach to achieving the set goals. This means that as at the year 2000, eight years after the Rio de Janeiro conference, world leaders had realised the need to be even more pragmatic than they were in 1992. This was made clear in the MDGs which became the guiding principles for most development agencies for measuring achievements as well as basis of operations in dealing with problems in a multidisciplinary manner.

It is not surprising today that most United Nations agencies, NGOs and other organizations concerned with international development now have cross cutting themes and timeline management in their endeavour to contribute to sustainable development. UNESCO for example in the Dakar Framework on Education for All (EFA)[2] had set 2015 as date against which the goals of EFA and progress in all the principles slated in the agreement must be measured. In its medium term strategy documents, in which UNESCO plans its work on a biannual basis, it can now see the Interaction between all its fields of competencies, namely, education, the sciences, culture, communication and information, and it chooses a crosscutting theme of achievement slated for a particular biennium.


[1] The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/World Bank 2002), The World Bank and Agenda 21, World Bank, Washington DC, p 1
[2] Literacy target which matches the projections of the Millennium Development Goals

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