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Maurice Strong: a study in leadership - Action Plans

Level 2: Action plan for future work – producing an action plan and work programme for the years ahead was the centrepiece of the substance considered at the Stockholm Conference. The plan would contain those items that had sufficient consensus to enable agreement (i) on concrete recommendations for further action and (ii) on institutional arrangements for taking such action. This innovative concept would become the model for UN global conferences in the 1970s and the 1990s in various cross-sectorial areas.

Level 3: Issues for immediate action – consisted of specific issues that required immediate initiation of international action that could be completed, at least through an initial stage, by the time of the Conference. Governments had already made several suggestions including the early establishment of a global monitoring system, the establishment of an international registry of chemical compounds, and measures in the area of marine pollution. In the latter area, as in some others, the distinction between levels 2 and 3 became somewhat blurred.10/

This innovative and ambitious approach was generally endorsed by the Preparatory Committee at its second meeting in February 1971. The Committee further agreed on an agenda for the Conference and gave the Conference Secretariat wide latitude in preparing the draft action plan. The agenda followed the lines agreed at the first session with the addition of new items: development and environment – the most important politically, which articulated the interests of developing countries, following the developments in the UNGA the previous autumn international institutional implications of action proposals – reflected the growing realization that the substantive results of the Conference would have institutional implications that would require careful consideration.

Stockholm Conference Agenda
Agreed February 1971

1. Planning and management of human settlements for environmental quality
2. Environmental aspects of natural resources management
3. Identification and control of pollutants of broad international significance
4. Educational, informational, social and cultural aspects of environmental issues
5. Development and environment
6. International institutional implications of action proposals to be considered by the Conference

Five intergovernmental working groups were established for Level 3 action that dealt with marine pollution, monitoring, soils, conservation and the drafting of the declaration on the human environment. It should be noted that the points in the box represent the core of the Agenda, i.e. the Action Plan under Level 2. The results of the first four working groups were incorporated in the Action Plan, which in the end became a mix of Level 2 and Level 3 actions. In the end, the Declaration was presented as a separate outcome, placed before the Action Plan in the final document. Likewise, Point 6 on institutions received separate treatment via a resolution of its own.


10, Strong’s statement at the second session of the Preparatory Committee, 1971-02-08, Press Release HE/2.